November 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

From Gross at Slate

And the alternative labor underutilization measures show a lot of stress. The data on people not in the work force show the number of people not looking for work because they’re discouraged about finding jobs has risen from 276,000 in September 2007 to 467,000 in September 2008—up 70 percent. The percentage of people unemployed for more than 15 weeks stood at 2.3 percent in September 2008, up from 1.6 percent in September 2007, a rise of nearly 45 percent. But the most troublesome is the U6. The U6 is sort of the summa of job angst, a shorthand tally for the aggregate of job-related frustration. (Moneybox covered some of this terrain back in 2004.) To compile the U6, the BLS takes the number of unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus all of those employed part-time for economic reasons, and then calculates that total as a percentage of the sum of the entire civilian labor force plus marginally attached workers.

The U6 in September rose to 11 percent, its highest level since the data series started in 1994 and significantly higher than it was in the last recession, in 2001. The ratio between the U6 and the official unemployment rate has remained relatively steady over the last several years. But that means that as the unemployment rate has risen, so too has the portion of the population suffering from other types of work deficits. Three years ago, when the unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, an additional 3.9 percent of the labor force fell into one of those other underutilized categories. Last month, with the unemployment rate at 6.1 percent, an additional 4.9 percent of the labor force was underutilized. (See charts comparing the unemployment rate and the U6 rate.) Add it up, and more than 10 percent of American workers are essentially not contributing full-time to their families’ well-being and to that of the economy at large. The unemployment rate may still be historically low, but the underutilization is historically high.


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