Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment Up to 10.0% in Mid-February

Underemployment surged to 19.6% in mid-February from 18.9% at the end of January
Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist
February 17, 2011

Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, hit 10.0% in mid-February -- up from 9.8% at the end of January.

The percentage of part-time workers who want full-time work worsened considerably in mid-February, increasing to 9.6% of the workforce from 9.1% in January.

Underemployment Surges in Mid-February

Underemployment, in which Gallup combines part-time workers wanting full-time work with the U.S. unemployment rate, surged in mid-February to 19.6% -- mostly as a result of the sharp increase in those working part time but wanting full-time work. Underemployment now stands at basically the same place as it did a year ago (19.8%).

The Jobs Situation Now Versus a Year Ago

The unemployment rate in mid-February is 0.8 percentage points lower than it was at this time a year ago, compared with a 1.1-point improvement at the end of January. This suggests that jobs are less available now than they were in January.

More troubling, however, is the surge in underemployment. On this broader basis, current job conditions are barely improved from what they were at this time last year. Essentially, what has happened over the past year is that some people who were unemployed got part-time jobs but are still looking for full-time work. This is not much to show for a year in which many macro-economic indicators showed improvement.

This is likely why Gallup's self-reported spending remains stuck in "new normal" even as consumer optimism continues to hit new highs. Jobs remain the key to getting the U.S. economy moving, and mid-February underemployment results suggest little or no progress is being made in that regard.

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