Unemployment at highest level since Great Depression

The official number is still slightly lower than the brutal winter of 1982-83. But the broad unemployment number says otherwise.

For all the pain caused by the Great Recession, the job market still was not in as bad shape as it had been during the depths of the early 1980s recession — until now.
With the release of the jobs report on Friday, the broadest measure of unemployment and underemployment tracked by the Labor Department has reached its highest level in decades. If statistics went back so far, the measure would almost certainly be at its highest level since the Great Depression.
In all, more than one out of every six workers — 17.5 percent — were unemployed or underemployed in October. The previous recorded high was 17.1 percent, in December 1982.
This includes the officially unemployed, who have looked for work in the last four weeks. It also includes discouraged workers, who have looked in the past year, as well as millions of part-time workers who want to be working full time.
Officially, the Labor Department’s broad measure of unemployment goes back only to 1994. But early this year, with the help of economists at the department, The New York Times created a version that estimates it going back to 1970. If such a measure were available for the Depression, it probably would have exceeded 30 percent.
Compared with the early 1980s, a smaller share of workers today are officially unemployed and a smaller share are considered discouraged workers.
But there are many more people who would like to be working full time and have been able to find only part-time work, according to the government’s monthly survey of workers.

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U6 17.5%

For those who don't recall, the post is referring to U6, a broader measure of the unemployment rate.

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 persons 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 recent past. Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not looking currently for a job. 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.

U6 includes people with part-time jobs, but only those who cannot get full-time.

I think the real story on U6 is how corporations, companies now routinely refuse to give workers full-time jobs to avoid a host of additional costs, such as benefits. We even have many local, state, federal jobs doing this trick.

So, one ends up working 2,3 jobs, all with no benefits to get full-time wages. But it's never really full-time wages because one is being denied a host of benefits, including unemployment insurance potentially.

Another trick to avoid having to pay benefits and esp. any unemployment insurance is to claim people are contractors and small businesses. That makes the individual responsible for all benefits, taxes and most importantly, they cannot claim unemployment insurance since they are self-employed.

Obviously someone with one client, working for one client for a year or longer, at low hourly rates or even worse, per project (a trick often used on tech. workers to squeeze them even further), is not exactly a small business.

And those 2, 3 jobs....

...are counted as 2 and 3 individually employed people, again incorrectly skewing the numbers. (Great points, BTW!)

Our real unemployment, when figuring up the growth numbers in both poverty and homelessness, is in the vicinity of 32% to 36% unemployment. They have gamed far too many statistical indicators and provide far too many variances to believe otherwise.

really? have a reference?

We also have the lovely manipulated birth/death population model.

But this is the first I've heard of part-time being double, triple counted. Do you have a reference?

I know the BLS counts foreign guest workers in the occupational stats, which hides the use of these Visas to displace U.S. workers and artificially deflates the real unemployment rate in some occupations. STEM being the most notorious.

This article says if compared to the Great Depression, their U6 would have been 30%. But yeah, comparing Apples to Apples is very tough with these stats.

As it was I stopped writing up weekly initial unemployment claims because it was so obviously manipulated. they would revise upward the previous week report so the new one made it look like initial claims had dropped....every week.

Obviously with a 10.2% unemployment rate we are not creating new jobs and while the initial unemployment rate has dropped....that's in comparison to a tsunami from Q1 2009. If you compare it to any other recessionary time period, the numbers are still in recession turf for new unemployment claims.

The view from different parameters

You outstanding blog points out a common error that has been bugging the Hell out of me, and many others, forever. And thanks for the marvelous blog -- too many fall to the error of the apparent: the way they were measuring unemployment back in the '80s is different from today, just as the way the measured it back during the Great Depression is far different than the present.

During the Great Depression, they actually reported all the numbers as closely as possible (i.e., they didn't exempt temporaries, contractors, self-employed, etc., etc.).

The metrics (hate using the popular biz vernacular) back in the '80s are even different from today, a bit more efficient even back then -- until Reagan changed it.

This unemployment problem is

This unemployment problem is very troubling. Why wasn't the stimulus money used to make more jobs?

Brandon Hansen
Just South of North


Brandon, the Republicans fought a broad based infras-structure investment of stimulus funds because they knew it would put people to work and they wanted to make sure that anything Obama tried would fail in that regard. The Republicans have used every tactic available to them to keep unemployment high for strictly political reasons...REPUBLICANS RUN TO WIN, NOT GOVERN. WHEN THEY DO TRY TO GOVERN, THEY GOVERN ON BEHALF OF THOSE WHO DON'T NEED GOVERNMENT--THE OLIGARCHS, PLUTOCRATS AND CORPORATISTS--AT THE EXPENSE OF THOSE WHO NEED GOVERNMENT--THE TOO OLD, THE TOO YOUNG, THE TOO SICK, THE TOO POOR, THE WORKING POOR, THE MIDDLE CLASS, THE AIR, WATER, FLORA AND FAUNA. THAT IS THEIR HISTORY, THEIR PRESENT, THEIR FUTURE!