I’m generally more interested in the level of total employment than in the headline unemployment rate, which is highly dependent on the number of people in the labor force. When Americans give up looking for work, they’re not counted in the unemployment rate as it is typically reported.
But the Bureau of Labor Statistics actually publishes six different measures of employment:
- U-1, persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
- U-2, job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
- U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (this is the definition used for the official unemployment rate);
- U-4, total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers;
- U-5, total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; and
- U-6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.
“Marginally attached workers” are those who say they would like to have jobs, have looked for jobs in the recent past, but are not currently actively looking for work. Those workers are typically not counted in the U-3 rate — the one that the media typically reports and that Americans typically follow.
The U-6 rate will always be higher of course, but it might give a better overall picture of where we are. As discussed here in the WSJ, the current U-6 rate nationally is 16.2%, while the U-3 rate is 9.1%.
And there’s considerable volatility from state to state. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Georgia’s U-6 rate of 17.4% makes us 11th worst among the states. Georgia is 8th worst in the more traditional U-3 measure.