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12E.5.7 Additional Unemployment Data, July 2019

Bureau of Labor Statistics now collects data on those not included in the overall unemployment rate, including discouraged workers, marginally attached workers, and workers employed part time.

2019 July
Infographic

Table A-15, Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization, Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, July 1, 2019, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm.

“Additional Unemployment Data,” created using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Household Data: Table A-15, Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization,” as reported for July 2019, provides additional data on marginal and discouraged workers and those working part time who want a full-time job. These people are unemployed but not included in the unemployment rate. Questions 1. Who is not counted as unemployed? 2. What was the unemployment rate as of July 2019? 3. What is the unemployment rate with marginally attached, discouraged workers and part-time workers for economic reasons as of July 2019? 4. What additional information does this source provide on the limitations of who is counted as unemployed? 5. How does this source compare with the “Employment in Perspective” (1972) source?

Using this source, students can double check their interpretation of the current unemployment rate from the graph in Source 1. This source also adds to the definition of who is considered unemployed and employed, elaborates on who are considered the long-term unemployed and part-time workers, and discusses the limitations of the unemployment rate in terms of those who are not included in the unemployment rate, specifically marginally attached and discouraged workers.

The “Employment Situation” is released each month by the BLS. The full report includes the Monthly Household Survey Data, based on the Current Population Survey (CPS), and the Current Employment Statistics (CES), based on workers who are on payrolls. Together they form the “Employment Situation,” which is more commonly called the “Monthly Jobs Report.” According to the BLS, these reports “serve as the first economic indicator of current employment trends each month and are used to help gauge the overall health of the U.S. economy.” Although the CES dates to 1915, the CPS was conceived in 1940 as a Work Projects Administration program during the Great Depression. The Monthly Household Survey Data in the “Employment Situation in July 2019” uses this survey to report more than just the unemployment rate. The employment situation further defines employment and unemployment and addresses those who are not included in the unemployed category.

The key components of the source are defining who is counted as unemployed and who is not counted as unemployed and focusing on the element of “actively looking for work.” The long-term unemployed — those without a job for 27 weeks (9 months) or more who were still looking for work at the time of the survey — are counted as unemployed. Marginally attached workers are not counted as unemployed because,  although they were able to work and had looked for a job within the past year (12 months), they had not looked for a job in the four weeks prior to the survey. Discouraged workers, a subset of marginally attached workers, are those who want and are able to have a job and had been looking for a job for 12 months but are now no longer looking because they believe a job for them is not available. The key difference between the long-term unemployed and the marginally attached is whether the survey participants looked for a job in the four weeks prior to the CPS (long-term unemployed) or not (marginally attached workers). The key difference between marginally attached and discouraged workers is that discouraged workers have stopped looking for a job altogether, not just in the four weeks prior to the survey. It is also important to acknowledge the increase in the number of unemployed when the marginally attached, including discouraged workers, is added. In July 2019, 6.1 million people were unemployed. With the marginally attached of 1.5 million, the total unemployed would have been 7.6 million.

Note: Since the definitions and information are dense, it was decided not to address part-time workers in this lesson. 

Also note that this data is from July 2019. Current data is available here: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

   

NOTE: Persons marginally attached to the labor force are those who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work. Persons employed part time for economic reasons are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.