The Real Unemployment Rate.

The Real Unemployment Rate.

The U.S. Unemployment Rate is measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an arm of the U.S. Deparment of Labor, but BLS recognizes several joblessness measures. The one you read in the media is called U3, the percentage of unemployed civilian adults actively seeking fulltime nonfarm employment. Right now, the U3 rate is 7.9%. A broader measure, U6, includes those working part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs and people who want to work and have looked for jobs anytime in the past year. The latest U6 jobless rate is 12.8%.

But those aren’t the only — or most realistic — measures of unemployment. The Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity, founded by Gene Ludwig, former U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, has a yardstick for U.S. functional unemployment, and it’s unnerving:

“A person who is looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage — but who can’t find one — is unemployed. If you accept that definition, the true unemployment rate in the U.S. is a stunning 26.1% ….”

“If you measure the unemployed as anybody over 16 years old who isn’t earning a living wage, the rate rises even further, to 54.6%. For Black Americans, it’s 59.2%.”

“Only 46.1% of white Americans over the age of 16 — and a mere 40.8% of Black Americans — now have a full-time job paying more than $20,000 per year.”

— “America’s true unemployment rate,” Felix Salmon, Axios


Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP) website


“Unemployment is so bad that these economists are proposing a new way to measure it,” Catherine Rampell, Washington Post

“The jobs market is far bleaker than the headline stats show,” Clair Jones, Financial Times

Every number is the story of what’s counted, and what’s not,” Deborah Stone, Marketplace

Short link:

Image (from a WPA photo) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: