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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?

Students will analyze BLS data that addresses the limitations identified in Sources 1 – 6 of how unemployment is defined and how and what data is collected. This data set focuses on marginally attached, discouraged, and part-time workers for economic reasons.

Criticisms about the limitations of the definition and calculation of unemployment have existed since the census began collecting information on employment in 1880 and the Bureau of Labor Statistics published its first unemployment numbers in 1940. While the census and eventually the monthly Current Population Survey asked more detailed questions about the underemployed and discouraged workers, the data was not included in defining the unemployed. It was not until 1976 that the Bureau of Labor Statistics established alternative measures of unemployment to include overlooked people in the definition of unemployment, including marginal and discouraged workers and those working part time who want a full-time job. This report is published monthly as an “Economic News Release” along with the monthly “Employment Situation Summary.” This source measures the “underutilization” of the civilian labor force, meaning there are people who can work but whose talents are not fully being used, if at all. It categorizes the underutilization into six categories and provides the corresponding share of the civilian labor force (percentage of the civilian labor force). The current six alternative measures of labor underutilization, shown in this table, have not changed since modifications made in 1994.

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.