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The Real Unemployment Number is Much Higher

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted April 3, 2009




According to the Labor Department, the nation’s unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent, the highest since late 1983, as employers eliminated 663,000 jobs in March.

But the truth is the real unemployment figure is much higher.

Here’s the real story behind the numbers released today.

It’s in article by Catherine Holahan of MSN Money entitled: The real unemployment rate? Try 15.6%

An 8.5% unemployment rate is unmistakably bad. It’s the highest rate since 1983 — a year that saw double-digit unemployment, nearly 30 commercial bank failures and more than 15% of Americans living below the poverty line.

But the real national unemployment rate is far worse than the U.S. Department of Labor’s March figure, announced today, shows. That’s because the official rate doesn’t include the 3.7 million-plus people who are reluctantly working only part time because of the poor labor market. And it doesn’t include the workers who have given up scouring want ads for seemingly nonexistent jobs.

When those folks are added to the numbers, the unemployment rate rises to 15.6%. In March 2008, that number was 9.3%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this alternative measure (.pdf file) in 1995.

“The situation out there is very grim,” says Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “We have seen the mounting of job losses faster than any point since World War II. I have never seen anything escalate this bad.”

Even the Department of Labor’s expanded unemployment measure doesn’t fully capture how difficult the job market is for American workers. It doesn’t include self-employed workers whose incomes have shriveled. It doesn’t look at former full-time staff employees who have accepted short-term contracts, without benefits, and at a fraction of their former salaries. And it doesn’t count the many would-be workers who are going back to school, taking on more debt, in hopes that an advanced degree will improve their chances of landing a job.

Here’s another way to look at the unemployment figures: More than 5 million people have lost their jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. And more than 13 million people are unemployed. That’s the highest number the U.S. has seen since it began tracking unemployment after World War II. For every job out there, more than four people are competing for it, says Boushey.”


Any way you slice it, the jobs numbers are down right ugly and likely to worse.

Related Articles:

Warren Buffett on the economy: “It’s fallen off a cliff”

Rasmussen: 53% say 30’s style depression is “somewhat likely”

Nancy Pelosi: “500 Million American Jobs a Month” at Risk

Jim Rogers: “This is not going to solve the problem”

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