Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Trends in unemployment and other labor market difficulties

By Vernon Brundage

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has for many years published various measures of unemployment and other labor market difficulties. There are six “alternative measures of labor underutilization” published each month in the Employment Situation news release.1 These measures provide insights into a broad range of problems encountered by workers in today's labor market.2 The official unemployment rate, also referred to in the list of alternative measures as U‑3, is defined as the total number of unemployed persons as a percentage of the labor force, while U‑1 and U‑2 are more narrowly defined and U‑4 through U‑6 are broader in scope. 

The following are brief definitions of each of the measures:

  • U‑1:  People who are unemployed for 15 weeks or longer as a percent of the civilian labor force.
  • U‑2:  Job losers, plus people who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force.
  • U‑3:  Total number of people who are unemployed as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate).
  • U‑4:  Total number of people who are unemployed, plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers.
  • U‑5:  Total number of people who are unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labor force, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.3
  • U‑6:  Total number of people who are unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons,4 as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

The original set of alternative measures was first introduced by the BLS in 1976.5 These measures were later revised following the 1994 redesign of the Current Population Survey (CPS) to account for changes in the definitions of certain labor force measures as well as the collection of new data.6 Since the redesign of the CPS in 1994, the economy has experienced two recessions—in 2001 and in 2007–2009—during which the entire range of alternative measures (U‑1 through U‑6) increased.7 This issue of Beyond the Numbers examines trends in the BLS alternative measures of labor underutilization over the period from 1994 to 2014.

Overall trends

Although the measures vary in scope, they generally follow trends that match that of U‑3, the official unemployment rate. (See chart 1.) Each of the six measures rose at the onset of the 2001 recession and continued to trend up before declining in mid-2003. All six measures began increasing again at or slightly before the onset of the 2007–2009 recession, the longest and deepest recession of the post-World War II era. The measures continued to rise sharply during the recession and steadily increased afterwards until beginning to trend down in 2010. None of the measures has returned to its prerecession level. Over the last two business cycles, each of the six measures has followed a similar pattern, until recently.

Chart 1

View Chart Data

Alternative measures of labor underutilization, seasonally adjusted, 1994–2014
Month U-1 U-2 U-3 U-4 U-5 U-6

Jan 1994

2.3 3.3 6.6 7.0 8.1 11.8

Feb 1994

2.4 3.2 6.6 6.9 7.9 11.4

Mar 1994

2.3 3.1 6.5 6.8 7.7 11.4

Apr 1994

2.2 2.9 6.4 6.7 7.6 11.2

May 1994

2.2 2.7 6.1 6.3 7.2 10.8

Jun 1994

2.1 2.9 6.1 6.4 7.3 10.9

Jul 1994

2.2 2.9 6.1 6.4 7.3 10.7

Aug 1994

2.1 2.9 6.0 6.3 7.2 10.5

Sep 1994

2.1 2.8 5.9 6.2 7.1 10.4

Oct 1994

2.2 2.7 5.8 6.1 6.9 10.3

Nov 1994

2.0 2.7 5.6 5.9 6.7 10.1

Dec 1994

1.9 2.6 5.5 5.7 6.7 10.0

Jan 1995

1.8 2.7 5.6 5.8 6.8 10.2

Feb 1995

1.8 2.6 5.4 5.7 6.6 9.9

Mar 1995

1.7 2.6 5.4 5.7 6.6 9.9

Apr 1995

1.9 2.6 5.8 6.0 6.7 10.0

May 1995

2.0 2.7 5.6 5.9 6.6 10.0

Jun 1995

1.7 2.6 5.6 5.8 6.7 10.1

Jul 1995

1.7 2.6 5.7 6.0 6.7 10.1

Aug 1995

1.8 2.6 5.7 5.9 6.7 10.0

Sep 1995

1.7 2.6 5.6 5.8 6.7 10.1

Oct 1995

1.7 2.7 5.5 5.8 6.6 9.9

Nov 1995

1.8 2.7 5.6 5.8 6.6 10.0

Dec 1995

1.8 2.6 5.6 5.9 6.7 10.0

Jan 1996

1.8 2.7 5.6 5.9 6.8 9.8

Feb 1996

1.7 2.7 5.5 5.8 6.7 10.0

Mar 1996

1.8 2.6 5.5 5.8 6.6 9.8

Apr 1996

1.8 2.8 5.6 5.8 6.6 9.9

May 1996

1.8 2.6 5.6 5.8 6.5 9.7

Jun 1996

1.8 2.5 5.3 5.5 6.4 9.6

Jul 1996

1.7 2.5 5.5 5.7 6.5 9.7

Aug 1996

1.7 2.3 5.1 5.4 6.1 9.3

Sep 1996

1.7 2.4 5.2 5.4 6.2 9.4

Oct 1996

1.7 2.3 5.2 5.4 6.2 9.4

Nov 1996

1.6 2.5 5.4 5.6 6.4 9.3

Dec 1996

1.6 2.3 5.4 5.6 6.3 9.5

Jan 1997

1.6 2.4 5.3 5.5 6.4 9.4

Feb 1997

1.6 2.3 5.2 5.4 6.3 9.4

Mar 1997

1.6 2.3 5.2 5.3 6.1 9.1

Apr 1997

1.6 2.3 5.1 5.3 6.0 9.2

May 1997

1.6 2.2 4.9 5.1 5.8 8.8

Jun 1997

1.5 2.3 5.0 5.2 5.9 8.8

Jul 1997

1.6 2.1 4.9 5.0 5.7 8.6

Aug 1997

1.5 2.2 4.8 5.0 5.7 8.6

Sep 1997

1.5 2.2 4.9 5.0 5.8 8.7

Oct 1997

1.4 2.1 4.7 4.9 5.6 8.4

Nov 1997

1.3 2.1 4.6 4.8 5.5 8.3

Dec 1997

1.4 2.2 4.7 4.9 5.7 8.4

Jan 1998

1.3 2.1 4.6 4.9 5.6 8.4

Feb 1998

1.3 2.1 4.6 4.8 5.6 8.4

Mar 1998

1.3 2.2 4.7 4.9 5.6 8.4

Apr 1998

1.1 2.0 4.3 4.5 5.2 7.9

May 1998

1.1 2.1 4.4 4.5 5.2 7.9

Jun 1998

1.2 2.0 4.5 4.7 5.3 8.0

Jul 1998

1.1 2.0 4.5 4.8 5.4 8.1

Aug 1998

1.2 2.0 4.5 4.6 5.3 7.9

Sep 1998

1.2 2.1 4.6 4.7 5.4 7.9

Oct 1998

1.1 2.1 4.5 4.7 5.3 7.8

Nov 1998

1.1 2.0 4.4 4.6 5.2 7.6

Dec 1998

1.1 2.0 4.4 4.5 5.1 7.6

Jan 1999

1.1 2.0 4.3 4.5 5.2 7.7

Feb 1999

1.1 2.0 4.4 4.6 5.3 7.7

Mar 1999

1.1 1.9 4.2 4.4 5.0 7.6

Apr 1999

1.1 1.9 4.3 4.5 5.2 7.6

May 1999

1.1 1.9 4.2 4.3 5.0 7.4

Jun 1999

1.2 1.9 4.3 4.4 5.1 7.5

Jul 1999

1.1 1.9 4.3 4.5 5.1 7.5

Aug 1999

1.0 1.9 4.2 4.4 5.0 7.3

Sep 1999

1.0 1.8 4.2 4.4 5.0 7.4

Oct 1999

1.0 1.8 4.1 4.3 4.9 7.2

Nov 1999

1.0 1.8 4.1 4.3 4.8 7.1

Dec 1999

1.0 1.7 4.0 4.2 4.8 7.1

Jan 2000

1.0 1.8 4.0 4.2 4.8 7.1

Feb 2000

0.9 1.9 4.1 4.3 5.0 7.2

Mar 2000

0.9 1.8 4.0 4.2 4.8 7.1

Apr 2000

0.9 1.6 3.8 4.1 4.7 6.9

May 2000

0.9 1.7 4.0 4.2 4.8 7.1

Jun 2000

0.9 1.7 4.0 4.2 4.7 7.0

Jul 2000

0.9 1.7 4.0 4.2 4.8 7.0

Aug 2000

1.0 1.9 4.1 4.2 4.8 7.1

Sep 2000

0.9 1.8 3.9 4.1 4.7 7.0

Oct 2000

0.9 1.7 3.9 4.0 4.6 6.8

Nov 2000

0.9 1.8 3.9 4.1 4.7 7.1

Dec 2000

0.9 1.8 3.9 4.1 4.7 6.9

Jan 2001

1.0 1.9 4.2 4.4 5.0 7.3

Feb 2001

1.0 2.0 4.2 4.4 5.1 7.4

Mar 2001

1.1 2.1 4.3 4.5 5.0 7.3

Apr 2001

1.0 2.1 4.4 4.6 5.1 7.4

May 2001

1.0 2.2 4.3 4.6 5.1 7.5

Jun 2001

1.1 2.3 4.5 4.7 5.3 7.9

Jul 2001

1.2 2.3 4.6 4.8 5.4 7.8

Aug 2001

1.3 2.4 4.9 5.1 5.8 8.1

Sep 2001

1.4 2.5 5.0 5.1 5.8 8.7

Oct 2001

1.4 3.0 5.3 5.6 6.2 9.3

Nov 2001

1.6 3.1 5.5 5.8 6.4 9.4

Dec 2001

1.7 3.1 5.7 5.9 6.6 9.6

Jan 2002

1.8 3.1 5.7 5.9 6.7 9.5

Feb 2002

1.8 3.1 5.7 5.9 6.6 9.5

Mar 2002

1.9 3.1 5.7 6.0 6.6 9.4

Apr 2002

2.0 3.2 5.9 6.1 6.8 9.7

May 2002

2.0 3.2 5.8 6.1 6.7 9.5

Jun 2002

2.1 3.2 5.8 6.0 6.7 9.5

Jul 2002

2.0 3.2 5.8 6.1 6.8 9.6

Aug 2002

2.0 3.2 5.7 6.0 6.7 9.6

Sep 2002

2.0 3.1 5.7 5.9 6.6 9.6

Oct 2002

2.1 3.2 5.7 5.9 6.6 9.6

Nov 2002

2.1 3.3 5.9 6.1 6.8 9.7

Dec 2002

2.3 3.3 6.0 6.2 6.9 9.8

Jan 2003

2.2 3.2 5.8 6.1 6.9 10.0

Feb 2003

2.2 3.3 5.9 6.2 6.9 10.2

Mar 2003

2.2 3.3 5.9 6.2 6.9 10.0

Apr 2003

2.3 3.3 6.0 6.3 6.9 10.2

May 2003

2.3 3.5 6.1 6.4 7.0 10.1

Jun 2003

2.4 3.4 6.3 6.6 7.2 10.3

Jul 2003

2.5 3.4 6.2 6.5 7.1 10.3

Aug 2003

2.4 3.4 6.1 6.4 7.1 10.1

Sep 2003

2.4 3.4 6.1 6.3 7.1 10.4

Oct 2003

2.4 3.3 6.0 6.2 7.0 10.2

Nov 2003

2.3 3.2 5.8 6.1 6.8 10.0

Dec 2003

2.3 3.1 5.7 5.9 6.6 9.8

Jan 2004

2.3 3.0 5.7 6.0 6.8 9.9

Feb 2004

2.2 2.9 5.6 5.9 6.6 9.7

Mar 2004

2.3 3.1 5.8 6.1 6.8 10.0

Apr 2004

2.0 3.0 5.6 5.9 6.5 9.6

May 2004

2.1 2.9 5.6 5.9 6.6 9.6

Jun 2004

2.1 2.8 5.6 5.9 6.6 9.5

Jul 2004

2.0 2.9 5.5 5.8 6.5 9.5

Aug 2004

1.9 2.7 5.4 5.8 6.4 9.4

Sep 2004

2.0 2.7 5.4 5.6 6.4 9.4

Oct 2004

2.1 2.8 5.5 5.7 6.5 9.7

Nov 2004

2.0 2.7 5.4 5.6 6.3 9.4

Dec 2004

2.0 2.7 5.4 5.6 6.3 9.2

Jan 2005

1.9 2.7 5.3 5.6 6.4 9.3

Feb 2005

2.0 2.6 5.4 5.7 6.4 9.3

Mar 2005

1.9 2.5 5.2 5.5 6.2 9.1

Apr 2005

1.8 2.4 5.2 5.4 6.1 8.9

May 2005

1.8 2.4 5.1 5.4 6.0 8.9

Jun 2005

1.6 2.4 5.0 5.3 6.0 9.0

Jul 2005

1.6 2.4 5.0 5.3 5.9 8.8

Aug 2005

1.7 2.3 4.9 5.1 5.9 8.9

Sep 2005

1.7 2.5 5.0 5.3 5.9 9.0

Oct 2005

1.7 2.4 5.0 5.2 5.9 8.7

Nov 2005

1.7 2.3 5.0 5.3 5.9 8.7

Dec 2005

1.6 2.3 4.9 5.1 5.8 8.6

Jan 2006

1.5 2.2 4.7 5.0 5.7 8.4

Feb 2006

1.7 2.2 4.8 5.0 5.7 8.4

Mar 2006

1.6 2.3 4.7 5.0 5.6 8.2

Apr 2006

1.6 2.3 4.7 5.0 5.5 8.1

May 2006

1.5 2.3 4.6 4.8 5.5 8.2

Jun 2006

1.4 2.2 4.6 4.9 5.6 8.4

Jul 2006

1.5 2.2 4.7 5.0 5.7 8.5

Aug 2006

1.5 2.2 4.7 5.0 5.7 8.4

Sep 2006

1.5 2.1 4.5 4.7 5.3 8.0

Oct 2006

1.4 2.1 4.4 4.6 5.3 8.2

Nov 2006

1.4 2.1 4.5 4.7 5.4 8.1

Dec 2006

1.4 2.1 4.4 4.6 5.2 7.9

Jan 2007

1.4 2.2 4.6 4.9 5.6 8.4

Feb 2007

1.4 2.2 4.5 4.8 5.4 8.2

Mar 2007

1.5 2.1 4.4 4.6 5.3 8.0

Apr 2007

1.5 2.2 4.5 4.7 5.4 8.2

May 2007

1.5 2.2 4.4 4.7 5.3 8.2

Jun 2007

1.5 2.2 4.6 4.8 5.5 8.3

Jul 2007

1.5 2.4 4.7 4.9 5.5 8.4

Aug 2007

1.5 2.4 4.6 4.9 5.5 8.4

Sep 2007

1.5 2.3 4.7 4.8 5.5 8.4

Oct 2007

1.5 2.4 4.7 4.9 5.6 8.4

Nov 2007

1.5 2.4 4.7 4.9 5.5 8.4

Dec 2007

1.6 2.5 5.0 5.2 5.8 8.8

Jan 2008

1.6 2.5 5.0 5.3 6.0 9.2

Feb 2008

1.6 2.5 4.9 5.1 5.9 9.0

Mar 2008

1.6 2.7 5.1 5.3 5.9 9.1

Apr 2008

1.7 2.6 5.0 5.2 5.8 9.2

May 2008

1.8 2.8 5.4 5.7 6.3 9.7

Jun 2008

1.9 2.8 5.6 5.8 6.5 10.1

Jul 2008

2.0 2.9 5.8 6.1 6.7 10.5

Aug 2008

2.2 3.2 6.1 6.3 7.1 10.8

Sep 2008

2.3 3.4 6.1 6.4 7.1 11.0

Oct 2008

2.6 3.7 6.5 6.8 7.5 11.8

Nov 2008

2.5 4.0 6.8 7.2 8.0 12.6

Dec 2008

2.9 4.3 7.3 7.7 8.4 13.6

Jan 2009

3.1 4.8 7.8 8.3 9.1 14.2

Feb 2009

3.5 5.2 8.3 8.8 9.5 15.2

Mar 2009

3.8 5.5 8.7 9.1 9.9 15.8

Apr 2009

4.1 5.8 9.0 9.4 10.2 15.9

May 2009

4.5 6.1 9.4 9.8 10.6 16.5

Jun 2009

5.1 6.2 9.5 10.0 10.8 16.5

Jul 2009

5.1 6.1 9.5 9.9 10.8 16.4

Aug 2009

5.1 6.2 9.6 10.0 10.9 16.7

Sep 2009

5.5 6.5 9.8 10.2 11.0 16.7

Oct 2009

5.6 6.5 10.0 10.5 11.4 17.1

Nov 2009

5.7 6.3 9.9 10.4 11.2 17.1

Dec 2009

5.8 6.3 9.9 10.4 11.3 17.1

Jan 2010

5.8 6.1 9.7 10.4 11.2 16.7

Feb 2010

5.8 6.2 9.8 10.5 11.3 17.0

Mar 2010

5.9 6.2 9.9 10.5 11.2 17.1

Apr 2010

5.9 6.1 9.9 10.6 11.3 17.2

May 2010

5.8 6.0 9.6 10.3 10.9 16.6

Jun 2010

5.8 5.9 9.4 10.1 10.9 16.4

Jul 2010

5.7 5.9 9.5 10.1 11.0 16.4

Aug 2010

5.5 5.9 9.5 10.2 10.9 16.5

Sep 2010

5.5 5.9 9.5 10.2 10.9 16.8

Oct 2010

5.6 5.8 9.5 10.2 11.0 16.6

Nov 2010

5.7 6.2 9.8 10.5 11.3 16.9

Dec 2010

5.8 5.7 9.4 10.1 10.9 16.6

Jan 2011

5.5 5.5 9.1 9.7 10.7 16.1

Feb 2011

5.4 5.5 9.0 9.6 10.6 16.0

Mar 2011

5.3 5.4 9.0 9.5 10.4 15.9

Apr 2011

5.2 5.4 9.1 9.7 10.5 16.1

May 2011

5.3 5.4 9.0 9.5 10.3 15.8

Jun 2011

5.3 5.3 9.1 9.7 10.7 16.1

Jul 2011

5.3 5.3 9.0 9.7 10.6 16.0

Aug 2011

5.3 5.2 9.0 9.6 10.5 16.1

Sep 2011

5.4 5.2 9.0 9.6 10.5 16.3

Oct 2011

5.1 5.1 8.8 9.4 10.3 15.9

Nov 2011

5.0 5.0 8.6 9.3 10.2 15.6

Dec 2011

4.9 4.9 8.5 9.1 10.0 15.2

Jan 2012

4.8 4.7 8.2 8.8 9.8 15.1

Feb 2012

4.8 4.6 8.3 8.9 9.8 15.0

Mar 2012

4.7 4.6 8.2 8.7 9.6 14.5

Apr 2012

4.6 4.4 8.2 8.7 9.5 14.6

May 2012

4.6 4.5 8.2 8.7 9.6 14.8

Jun 2012

4.6 4.6 8.2 8.7 9.6 14.8

Jul 2012

4.5 4.6 8.2 8.7 9.7 14.9

Aug 2012

4.4 4.5 8.1 8.6 9.6 14.7

Sep 2012

4.3 4.2 7.8 8.3 9.3 14.7

Oct 2012

4.4 4.2 7.8 8.3 9.2 14.4

Nov 2012

4.2 4.1 7.8 8.3 9.2 14.4

Dec 2012

4.3 4.2 7.9 8.5 9.4 14.4

Jan 2013

4.2 4.3 7.9 8.4 9.3 14.4

Feb 2013

4.2 4.2 7.7 8.3 9.3 14.3

Mar 2013

4.1 4.1 7.5 8.0 8.9 13.8

Apr 2013

4.1 4.1 7.5 8.0 8.9 13.9

May 2013

4.0 3.9 7.5 8.0 8.8 13.8

Jun 2013

4.0 3.9 7.5 8.1 9.0 14.2

Jul 2013

3.9 3.8 7.3 7.9 8.7 13.9

Aug 2013

3.8 3.8 7.2 7.8 8.6 13.6

Sep 2013

3.8 3.7 7.2 7.7 8.6 13.6

Oct 2013

3.8 4.0 7.2 7.7 8.6 13.7

Nov 2013

3.7 3.7 7.0 7.4 8.2 13.1

Dec 2013

3.6 3.5 6.7 7.2 8.1 13.1

Jan 2014

3.4 3.5 6.6 7.1 8.1 12.7

Feb 2014

3.5 3.5 6.7 7.2 8.1 12.6

Mar 2014

3.5 3.5 6.7 7.1 8.0 12.7

Apr 2014

3.2 3.4 6.3 6.7 7.6 12.3

May 2014

3.1 3.2 6.3 6.7 7.6 12.2

Jun 2014

2.9 3.1 6.1 6.5 7.3 12.1

Jul 2014

2.9 3.1 6.2 6.6 7.5 12.2

Aug 2014

2.9 3.1 6.1 6.6 7.4 12.0

Sep 2014

2.8 2.9 5.9 6.4 7.3 11.8

Recent Trends

Two small differences from the historical pattern have appeared since the end of the 2007–2009 recession. First, U‑1 and U‑2 appear to have converged. For most of the history of these series,8 the number of persons unemployed for 15 weeks or longer (the numerator for U‑1) had been less than the number of people who had lost their jobs or completed temporary jobs (the numerator for U‑2), even during economic downturns. (See Chart 2.) However, the two series began to converge shortly after the end of the recession, largely reflecting a greater increase in the number of people who were unemployed for 15 weeks or longer during the downturn. In December 2007, the number of people who had been unemployed for 15 weeks or longer (2.5 million) was well below the number of job losers (3.9 million). In September 2014, 4.4 million people had been jobless for 15 weeks or longer and 4.5 million had lost their jobs; thus, the U‑1 and U‑2 rates were very similar, at 2.8 and 2.9 percent, respectively.

Chart 2

View Chart Data

Unemployed persons by duration and reason, selected characteristics, seasonally adjusted, 1967–2014
Month Unemployed for 15 weeks or longer Job losers and people who completed temporary jobs

Jan 1994

3,060,000 4,295,000

Feb 1994

3,118,000 4,209,000

Mar 1994

3,055,000 4,080,000

Apr 1994

2,921,000 3,839,000

May 1994

2,836,000 3,584,000

Jun 1994

2,735,000 3,727,000

Jul 1994

2,822,000 3,791,000

Aug 1994

2,750,000 3,743,000

Sep 1994

2,746,000 3,636,000

Oct 1994

2,955,000 3,604,000

Nov 1994

2,666,000 3,547,000

Dec 1994

2,488,000 3,454,000

Jan 1995

2,396,000 3,535,000

Feb 1995

2,345,000 3,382,000

Mar 1995

2,287,000 3,376,000

Apr 1995

2,473,000 3,497,000

May 1995

2,577,000 3,573,000

Jun 1995

2,266,000 3,413,000

Jul 1995

2,311,000 3,504,000

Aug 1995

2,391,000 3,477,000

Sep 1995

2,306,000 3,426,000

Oct 1995

2,272,000 3,541,000

Nov 1995

2,339,000 3,538,000

Dec 1995

2,331,000 3,479,000

Jan 1996

2,371,000 3,554,000

Feb 1996

2,307,000 3,547,000

Mar 1996

2,454,000 3,491,000

Apr 1996

2,455,000 3,680,000

May 1996

2,403,000 3,479,000

Jun 1996

2,355,000 3,360,000

Jul 1996

2,297,000 3,334,000

Aug 1996

2,267,000 3,047,000

Sep 1996

2,220,000 3,192,000

Oct 1996

2,268,000 3,166,000

Nov 1996

2,159,000 3,311,000

Dec 1996

2,124,000 3,157,000

Jan 1997

2,162,000 3,224,000

Feb 1997

2,140,000 3,169,000

Mar 1997

2,110,000 3,174,000

Apr 1997

2,176,000 3,062,000

May 1997

2,121,000 2,994,000

Jun 1997

2,085,000 3,095,000

Jul 1997

2,119,000 2,882,000

Aug 1997

2,004,000 2,965,000

Sep 1997

2,074,000 2,955,000

Oct 1997

1,950,000 2,918,000

Nov 1997

1,817,000 2,874,000

Dec 1997

1,901,000 3,031,000

Jan 1998

1,833,000 2,848,000

Feb 1998

1,809,000 2,820,000

Mar 1998

1,772,000 2,980,000

Apr 1998

1,476,000 2,675,000

May 1998

1,490,000 2,827,000

Jun 1998

1,613,000 2,807,000

Jul 1998

1,577,000 2,818,000

Aug 1998

1,626,000 2,811,000

Sep 1998

1,688,000 2,838,000

Oct 1998

1,582,000 2,835,000

Nov 1998

1,590,000 2,785,000

Dec 1998

1,559,000 2,812,000

Jan 1999

1,490,000 2,725,000

Feb 1999

1,551,000 2,725,000

Mar 1999

1,472,000 2,611,000

Apr 1999

1,480,000 2,677,000

May 1999

1,505,000 2,657,000

Jun 1999

1,624,000 2,654,000

Jul 1999

1,513,000 2,684,000

Aug 1999

1,455,000 2,631,000

Sep 1999

1,449,000 2,552,000

Oct 1999

1,438,000 2,535,000

Nov 1999

1,378,000 2,518,000

Dec 1999

1,375,000 2,433,000

Jan 2000

1,380,000 2,527,000

Feb 2000

1,300,000 2,655,000

Mar 2000

1,312,000 2,521,000

Apr 2000

1,261,000 2,298,000

May 2000

1,325,000 2,460,000

Jun 2000

1,242,000 2,442,000

Jul 2000

1,343,000 2,477,000

Aug 2000

1,394,000 2,641,000

Sep 2000

1,290,000 2,524,000

Oct 2000

1,337,000 2,462,000

Nov 2000

1,315,000 2,518,000

Dec 2000

1,329,000 2,612,000

Jan 2001

1,372,000 2,803,000

Feb 2001

1,491,000 2,902,000

Mar 2001

1,521,000 3,053,000

Apr 2001

1,499,000 3,084,000

May 2001

1,502,000 3,171,000

Jun 2001

1,532,000 3,300,000

Jul 2001

1,653,000 3,357,000

Aug 2001

1,861,000 3,485,000

Sep 2001

1,950,000 3,630,000

Oct 2001

2,082,000 4,328,000

Nov 2001

2,318,000 4,476,000

Dec 2001

2,444,000 4,455,000

Jan 2002

2,578,000 4,491,000

Feb 2002

2,608,000 4,449,000

Mar 2002

2,719,000 4,441,000

Apr 2002

2,852,000 4,624,000

May 2002

2,967,000 4,650,000

Jun 2002

3,023,000 4,639,000

Jul 2002

2,966,000 4,608,000

Aug 2002

2,887,000 4,591,000

Sep 2002

2,971,000 4,544,000

Oct 2002

3,042,000 4,698,000

Nov 2002

3,062,000 4,743,000

Dec 2002

3,271,000 4,775,000

Jan 2003

3,166,000 4,713,000

Feb 2003

3,161,000 4,786,000

Mar 2003

3,161,000 4,758,000

Apr 2003

3,348,000 4,807,000

May 2003

3,318,000 5,102,000

Jun 2003

3,552,000 4,983,000

Jul 2003

3,633,000 4,955,000

Aug 2003

3,557,000 4,994,000

Sep 2003

3,486,000 4,959,000

Oct 2003

3,451,000 4,827,000

Nov 2003

3,420,000 4,671,000

Dec 2003

3,366,000 4,510,000

Jan 2004

3,364,000 4,383,000

Feb 2004

3,248,000 4,276,000

Mar 2004

3,314,000 4,562,000

Apr 2004

2,971,000 4,334,000

May 2004

3,103,000 4,192,000

Jun 2004

3,130,000 4,105,000

Jul 2004

2,918,000 4,210,000

Aug 2004

2,846,000 4,003,000

Sep 2004

2,910,000 4,031,000

Oct 2004

3,041,000 4,069,000

Nov 2004

2,960,000 4,059,000

Dec 2004

2,927,000 4,026,000

Jan 2005

2,851,000 4,029,000

Feb 2005

2,896,000 3,904,000

Mar 2005

2,817,000 3,768,000

Apr 2005

2,678,000 3,637,000

May 2005

2,683,000 3,610,000

Jun 2005

2,405,000 3,642,000

Jul 2005

2,449,000 3,580,000

Aug 2005

2,569,000 3,454,000

Sep 2005

2,537,000 3,749,000

Oct 2005

2,492,000 3,539,000

Nov 2005

2,486,000 3,515,000

Dec 2005

2,429,000 3,483,000

Jan 2006

2,270,000 3,349,000

Feb 2006

2,546,000 3,366,000

Mar 2006

2,373,000 3,399,000

Apr 2006

2,353,000 3,505,000

May 2006

2,303,000 3,473,000

Jun 2006

2,127,000 3,369,000

Jul 2006

2,289,000 3,313,000

Aug 2006

2,293,000 3,283,000

Sep 2006

2,231,000 3,233,000

Oct 2006

2,062,000 3,125,000

Nov 2006

2,159,000 3,275,000

Dec 2006

2,083,000 3,243,000

Jan 2007

2,156,000 3,405,000

Feb 2007

2,211,000 3,395,000

Mar 2007

2,255,000 3,169,000

Apr 2007

2,281,000 3,354,000

May 2007

2,231,000 3,360,000

Jun 2007

2,281,000 3,383,000

Jul 2007

2,364,000 3,675,000

Aug 2007

2,333,000 3,625,000

Sep 2007

2,355,000 3,591,000

Oct 2007

2,300,000 3,706,000

Nov 2007

2,366,000 3,683,000

Dec 2007

2,501,000 3,871,000

Jan 2008

2,540,000 3,851,000

Feb 2008

2,446,000 3,894,000

Mar 2008

2,491,000 4,119,000

Apr 2008

2,687,000 4,067,000

May 2008

2,780,000 4,252,000

Jun 2008

2,913,000 4,390,000

Jul 2008

3,114,000 4,539,000

Aug 2008

3,420,000 4,942,000

Sep 2008

3,626,000 5,257,000

Oct 2008

3,990,000 5,706,000

Nov 2008

3,923,000 6,228,000

Dec 2008

4,547,000 6,653,000

Jan 2009

4,764,000 7,450,000

Feb 2009

5,455,000 8,079,000

Mar 2009

5,886,000 8,539,000

Apr 2009

6,385,000 8,960,000

May 2009

7,022,000 9,421,000

Jun 2009

7,837,000 9,529,000

Jul 2009

7,839,000 9,464,000

Aug 2009

7,828,000 9,641,000

Sep 2009

8,402,000 9,956,000

Oct 2009

8,648,000 9,931,000

Nov 2009

8,755,000 9,752,000

Dec 2009

8,835,000 9,591,000

Jan 2010

8,903,000 9,333,000

Feb 2010

8,933,000 9,602,000

Mar 2010

9,096,000 9,576,000

Apr 2010

9,133,000 9,418,000

May 2010

8,892,000 9,234,000

Jun 2010

8,898,000 9,038,000

Jul 2010

8,704,000 9,015,000

Aug 2010

8,405,000 9,137,000

Sep 2010

8,444,000 9,134,000

Oct 2010

8,617,000 8,876,000

Nov 2010

8,697,000 9,484,000

Dec 2010

8,549,000 8,807,000

Jan 2011

8,430,000 8,468,000

Feb 2011

8,213,000 8,370,000

Mar 2011

8,184,000 8,346,000

Apr 2011

8,007,000 8,299,000

May 2011

8,189,000 8,271,000

Jun 2011

8,107,000 8,157,000

Jul 2011

8,151,000 8,135,000

Aug 2011

8,214,000 8,024,000

Sep 2011

8,282,000 7,990,000

Oct 2011

7,808,000 7,866,000

Nov 2011

7,713,000 7,634,000

Dec 2011

7,555,000 7,531,000

Jan 2012

7,467,000 7,270,000

Feb 2012

7,373,000 7,167,000

Mar 2012

7,216,000 7,051,000

Apr 2012

7,056,000 6,859,000

May 2012

7,069,000 6,980,000

Jun 2012

7,170,000 7,106,000

Jul 2012

6,946,000 7,121,000

Aug 2012

6,848,000 6,885,000

Sep 2012

6,728,000 6,508,000

Oct 2012

6,795,000 6,511,000

Nov 2012

6,563,000 6,434,000

Dec 2012

6,634,000 6,475,000

Jan 2013

6,573,000 6,675,000

Feb 2013

6,485,000 6,495,000

Mar 2013

6,355,000 6,321,000

Apr 2013

6,329,000 6,367,000

May 2013

6,287,000 6,094,000

Jun 2013

6,218,000 6,089,000

Jul 2013

6,031,000 5,894,000

Aug 2013

5,973,000 5,887,000

Sep 2013

5,927,000 5,803,000

Oct 2013

5,824,000 6,162,000

Nov 2013

5,786,000 5,731,000

Dec 2013

5,530,000 5,366,000

Jan 2014

5,336,000 5,407,000

Feb 2014

5,464,000 5,448,000

Mar 2014

5,417,000 5,489,000

Apr 2014

4,985,000 5,236,000

May 2014

4,814,000 5,018,000

Jun 2014

4,553,000 4,862,000

Jul 2014

4,566,000 4,859,000

Aug 2014

4,450,000 4,836,000

Sep 2014

4,371,000 4,530,000

 

The second difference in the trends among the alternative measures that has emerged since the end of the 2007–2009 recession is that the ratio of U‑6 to U‑3 has inched up. The most inclusive measure of labor underutilization, U‑6, includes three different groups—unemployed workers, people who are marginally attached to the labor force, and those who are working part time for economic reasons—as a percentage of the labor force plus the marginally attached. (See Chart 3.)

Chart 3

View Chart Data

Unemployed, part time for economic reasons, and marginally attached to the labor force, 1994-2014
Month Total unemployed Part time for economic reasons Marginally attached

Jan 1994

8,630,000 4,947,000 2,120,000

Feb 1994

8,583,000 4,677,000 1,951,000

Mar 1994

8,470,000 4,890,000 1,832,000

Apr 1994

8,331,000 4,752,000 1,770,000

May 1994

7,915,000 4,836,000 1,659,000

Jun 1994

7,927,000 4,816,000 1,777,000

Jul 1994

7,946,000 4,505,000 1,844,000

Aug 1994

7,933,000 4,359,000 1,726,000

Sep 1994

7,734,000 4,332,000 1,858,000

Oct 1994

7,632,000 4,472,000 1,663,000

Nov 1994

7,375,000 4,468,000 1,674,000

Dec 1994

7,230,000 4,440,000 1,810,000

Jan 1995

7,375,000 4,550,000 1,783,000

Feb 1995

7,187,000 4,397,000 1,721,000

Mar 1995

7,153,000 4,451,000 1,732,000

Apr 1995

7,645,000 4,428,000 1,390,000

May 1995

7,430,000 4,513,000 1,504,000

Jun 1995

7,427,000 4,489,000 1,574,000

Jul 1995

7,527,000 4,436,000 1,568,000

Aug 1995

7,484,000 4,513,000 1,510,000

Sep 1995

7,478,000 4,580,000 1,583,000

Oct 1995

7,328,000 4,462,000 1,587,000

Nov 1995

7,426,000 4,489,000 1,542,000

Dec 1995

7,423,000 4,434,000 1,619,000

Jan 1996

7,491,000 4,022,000 1,737,000

Feb 1996

7,313,000 4,420,000 1,838,000

Mar 1996

7,318,000 4,429,000 1,584,000

Apr 1996

7,415,000 4,464,000 1,516,000

May 1996

7,423,000 4,327,000 1,475,000

Jun 1996

7,095,000 4,312,000 1,684,000

Jul 1996

7,337,000 4,358,000 1,490,000

Aug 1996

6,882,000 4,391,000 1,436,000

Sep 1996

6,979,000 4,382,000 1,518,000

Oct 1996

7,031,000 4,372,000 1,447,000

Nov 1996

7,236,000 4,025,000 1,503,000

Dec 1996

7,253,000 4,365,000 1,463,000

Jan 1997

7,158,000 4,189,000 1,615,000

Feb 1997

7,102,000 4,242,000 1,546,000

Mar 1997

7,000,000 4,112,000 1,471,000

Apr 1997

6,873,000 4,396,000 1,480,000

May 1997

6,655,000 4,032,000 1,431,000

Jun 1997

6,799,000 3,998,000 1,428,000

Jul 1997

6,655,000 4,040,000 1,281,000

Aug 1997

6,608,000 4,049,000 1,298,000

Sep 1997

6,656,000 4,004,000 1,363,000

Oct 1997

6,454,000 3,973,000 1,284,000

Nov 1997

6,308,000 3,962,000 1,337,000

Dec 1997

6,476,000 3,848,000 1,453,000

Jan 1998

6,368,000 3,922,000 1,479,000

Feb 1998

6,306,000 3,866,000 1,478,000

Mar 1998

6,422,000 3,859,000 1,426,000

Apr 1998

5,941,000 3,775,000 1,278,000

May 1998

6,047,000 3,727,000 1,213,000

Jun 1998

6,212,000 3,766,000 1,213,000

Jul 1998

6,259,000 3,796,000 1,328,000

Aug 1998

6,179,000 3,537,000 1,251,000

Sep 1998

6,300,000 3,448,000 1,377,000

Oct 1998

6,280,000 3,433,000 1,242,000

Nov 1998

6,100,000 3,339,000 1,240,000

Dec 1998

6,032,000 3,420,000 1,196,000

Jan 1999

5,976,000 3,449,000 1,358,000

Feb 1999

6,111,000 3,425,000 1,279,000

Mar 1999

5,783,000 3,550,000 1,245,000

Apr 1999

6,004,000 3,443,000 1,257,000

May 1999

5,796,000 3,393,000 1,148,000

Jun 1999

5,951,000 3,411,000 1,228,000

Jul 1999

6,025,000 3,350,000 1,133,000

Aug 1999

5,838,000 3,286,000 1,134,000

Sep 1999

5,915,000 3,279,000 1,172,000

Oct 1999

5,778,000 3,153,000 1,184,000

Nov 1999

5,716,000 3,225,000 1,128,000

Dec 1999

5,653,000 3,283,000 1,142,000

Jan 2000

5,708,000 3,208,000 1,207,000

Feb 2000

5,858,000 3,167,000 1,281,000

Mar 2000

5,733,000 3,231,000 1,219,000

Apr 2000

5,481,000 3,186,000 1,216,000

May 2000

5,758,000 3,283,000 1,113,000

Jun 2000

5,651,000 3,209,000 1,142,000

Jul 2000

5,747,000 3,144,000 1,172,000

Aug 2000

5,853,000 3,211,000 1,097,000

Sep 2000

5,625,000 3,217,000 1,166,000

Oct 2000

5,534,000 3,179,000 1,044,000

Nov 2000

5,639,000 3,467,000 1,100,000

Dec 2000

5,634,000 3,243,000 1,125,000

Jan 2001

6,023,000 3,332,000 1,295,000

Feb 2001

6,089,000 3,296,000 1,337,000

Mar 2001

6,141,000 3,280,000 1,109,000

Apr 2001

6,271,000 3,289,000 1,131,000

May 2001

6,226,000 3,439,000 1,157,000

Jun 2001

6,484,000 3,792,000 1,170,000

Jul 2001

6,583,000 3,556,000 1,232,000

Aug 2001

7,042,000 3,380,000 1,364,000

Sep 2001

7,142,000 4,233,000 1,335,000

Oct 2001

7,694,000 4,437,000 1,398,000

Nov 2001

8,003,000 4,317,000 1,331,000

Dec 2001

8,258,000 4,393,000 1,330,000

Jan 2002

8,182,000 4,112,000 1,532,000

Feb 2002

8,215,000 4,289,000 1,423,000

Mar 2002

8,304,000 4,101,000 1,358,000

Apr 2002

8,599,000 4,199,000 1,397,000

May 2002

8,399,000 4,103,000 1,467,000

Jun 2002

8,393,000 4,048,000 1,380,000

Jul 2002

8,390,000 4,145,000 1,507,000

Aug 2002

8,304,000 4,301,000 1,456,000

Sep 2002

8,251,000 4,329,000 1,501,000

Oct 2002

8,307,000 4,314,000 1,416,000

Nov 2002

8,520,000 4,329,000 1,401,000

Dec 2002

8,640,000 4,321,000 1,432,000

Jan 2003

8,520,000 4,607,000 1,598,000

Feb 2003

8,618,000 4,844,000 1,590,000

Mar 2003

8,588,000 4,652,000 1,577,000

Apr 2003

8,842,000 4,798,000 1,399,000

May 2003

8,957,000 4,570,000 1,428,000

Jun 2003

9,266,000 4,592,000 1,468,000

Jul 2003

9,011,000 4,648,000 1,566,000

Aug 2003

8,896,000 4,419,000 1,665,000

Sep 2003

8,921,000 4,882,000 1,544,000

Oct 2003

8,732,000 4,813,000 1,586,000

Nov 2003

8,576,000 4,862,000 1,473,000

Dec 2003

8,317,000 4,750,000 1,483,000

Jan 2004

8,370,000 4,705,000 1,670,000

Feb 2004

8,167,000 4,549,000 1,691,000

Mar 2004

8,491,000 4,742,000 1,643,000

Apr 2004

8,170,000 4,568,000 1,526,000

May 2004

8,212,000 4,588,000 1,533,000

Jun 2004

8,286,000 4,443,000 1,492,000

Jul 2004

8,136,000 4,449,000 1,557,000

Aug 2004

7,990,000 4,474,000 1,587,000

Sep 2004

7,927,000 4,487,000 1,561,000

Oct 2004

8,061,000 4,820,000 1,647,000

Nov 2004

7,932,000 4,547,000 1,517,000

Dec 2004

7,934,000 4,427,000 1,463,000

Jan 2005

7,784,000 4,389,000 1,804,000

Feb 2005

7,980,000 4,250,000 1,673,000

Mar 2005

7,737,000 4,388,000 1,588,000

Apr 2005

7,672,000 4,278,000 1,511,000

May 2005

7,651,000 4,315,000 1,428,000

Jun 2005

7,524,000 4,432,000 1,583,000

Jul 2005

7,406,000 4,400,000 1,516,000

Aug 2005

7,345,000 4,491,000 1,583,000

Sep 2005

7,553,000 4,675,000 1,438,000

Oct 2005

7,453,000 4,269,000 1,414,000

Nov 2005

7,566,000 4,219,000 1,415,000

Dec 2005

7,279,000 4,115,000 1,589,000

Jan 2006

7,064,000 4,123,000 1,644,000

Feb 2006

7,184,000 4,174,000 1,471,000

Mar 2006

7,072,000 3,972,000 1,468,000

Apr 2006

7,120,000 3,900,000 1,310,000

May 2006

6,980,000 4,111,000 1,388,000

Jun 2006

7,001,000 4,318,000 1,584,000

Jul 2006

7,175,000 4,303,000 1,522,000

Aug 2006

7,091,000 4,195,000 1,592,000

Sep 2006

6,847,000 4,115,000 1,299,000

Oct 2006

6,727,000 4,352,000 1,478,000

Nov 2006

6,872,000 4,190,000 1,366,000

Dec 2006

6,762,000 4,187,000 1,252,000

Jan 2007

7,116,000 4,279,000 1,577,000

Feb 2007

6,927,000 4,220,000 1,451,000

Mar 2007

6,731,000 4,253,000 1,385,000

Apr 2007

6,850,000 4,313,000 1,391,000

May 2007

6,766,000 4,473,000 1,406,000

Jun 2007

6,979,000 4,342,000 1,454,000

Jul 2007

7,149,000 4,410,000 1,376,000

Aug 2007

7,067,000 4,576,000 1,365,000

Sep 2007

7,170,000 4,521,000 1,268,000

Oct 2007

7,237,000 4,325,000 1,364,000

Nov 2007

7,240,000 4,494,000 1,363,000

Dec 2007

7,645,000 4,618,000 1,344,000

Jan 2008

7,685,000 4,846,000 1,729,000

Feb 2008

7,497,000 4,902,000 1,585,000

Mar 2008

7,822,000 4,904,000 1,352,000

Apr 2008

7,637,000 5,220,000 1,414,000

May 2008

8,395,000 5,286,000 1,416,000

Jun 2008

8,575,000 5,540,000 1,558,000

Jul 2008

8,937,000 5,930,000 1,573,000

Aug 2008

9,438,000 5,851,000 1,640,000

Sep 2008

9,494,000 6,148,000 1,604,000

Oct 2008

10,074,000 6,690,000 1,637,000

Nov 2008

10,538,000 7,311,000 1,947,000

Dec 2008

11,286,000 8,029,000 1,908,000

Jan 2009

12,058,000 8,046,000 2,130,000

Feb 2009

12,898,000 8,796,000 2,051,000

Mar 2009

13,426,000 9,145,000 2,106,000

Apr 2009

13,853,000 8,908,000 2,089,000

May 2009

14,499,000 9,113,000 2,210,000

Jun 2009

14,707,000 9,024,000 2,176,000

Jul 2009

14,601,000 8,891,000 2,282,000

Aug 2009

14,814,000 9,029,000 2,270,000

Sep 2009

15,009,000 8,847,000 2,219,000

Oct 2009

15,352,000 8,979,000 2,373,000

Nov 2009

15,219,000 9,114,000 2,323,000

Dec 2009

15,098,000 9,098,000 2,486,000

Jan 2010

14,953,000 8,500,000 2,539,000

Feb 2010

15,121,000 8,904,000 2,527,000

Mar 2010

15,212,000 9,216,000 2,255,000

Apr 2010

15,333,000 9,181,000 2,432,000

May 2010

14,858,000 8,833,000 2,223,000

Jun 2010

14,483,000 8,607,000 2,591,000

Jul 2010

14,527,000 8,547,000 2,622,000

Aug 2010

14,660,000 8,829,000 2,370,000

Sep 2010

14,578,000 9,199,000 2,548,000

Oct 2010

14,520,000 8,870,000 2,602,000

Nov 2010

15,097,000 8,880,000 2,531,000

Dec 2010

14,373,000 8,941,000 2,609,000

Jan 2011

13,910,000 8,440,000 2,800,000

Feb 2011

13,858,000 8,403,000 2,730,000

Mar 2011

13,748,000 8,635,000 2,434,000

Apr 2011

13,944,000 8,664,000 2,466,000

May 2011

13,873,000 8,583,000 2,206,000

Jun 2011

13,971,000 8,486,000 2,680,000

Jul 2011

13,785,000 8,342,000 2,785,000

Aug 2011

13,820,000 8,820,000 2,575,000

Sep 2011

13,905,000 9,068,000 2,511,000

Oct 2011

13,604,000 8,675,000 2,555,000

Nov 2011

13,326,000 8,457,000 2,591,000

Dec 2011

13,090,000 8,177,000 2,540,000

Jan 2012

12,650,000 8,228,000 2,809,000

Feb 2012

12,883,000 8,133,000 2,608,000

Mar 2012

12,732,000 7,780,000 2,352,000

Apr 2012

12,603,000 7,913,000 2,363,000

May 2012

12,689,000 8,138,000 2,423,000

Jun 2012

12,702,000 8,154,000 2,483,000

Jul 2012

12,698,000 8,163,000 2,529,000

Aug 2012

12,464,000 8,045,000 2,561,000

Sep 2012

12,070,000 8,572,000 2,517,000

Oct 2012

12,138,000 8,231,000 2,433,000

Nov 2012

12,045,000 8,164,000 2,505,000

Dec 2012

12,273,000 7,929,000 2,614,000

Jan 2013

12,315,000 7,983,000 2,443,000

Feb 2013

12,047,000 7,991,000 2,588,000

Mar 2013

11,706,000 7,663,000 2,326,000

Apr 2013

11,683,000 7,929,000 2,347,000

May 2013

11,690,000 7,917,000 2,164,000

Jun 2013

11,747,000 8,194,000 2,582,000

Jul 2013

11,408,000 8,180,000 2,414,000

Aug 2013

11,256,000 7,898,000 2,342,000

Sep 2013

11,203,000 7,914,000 2,302,000

Oct 2013

11,140,000 8,016,000 2,283,000

Nov 2013

10,841,000 7,723,000 2,096,000

Dec 2013

10,351,000 7,771,000 2,427,000

Jan 2014

10,236,000 7,257,000 2,592,000

Feb 2014

10,459,000 7,186,000 2,303,000

Mar 2014

10,486,000 7,411,000 2,168,000

Apr 2014

9,753,000 7,465,000 2,160,000

May 2014

9,799,000 7,269,000 2,130,000

Jun 2014

9,474,000 7,544,000 2,028,000

Jul 2014

9,671,000 7,511,000 2,178,000

Aug 2014

9,591,000 7,277,000 2,141,000

Sep 2014

9,262,000 7,103,000 2,226,000

 

The unemployed are defined in the CPS as people who are without work, are available for work, and have actively searched for work in the previous 4 weeks. The unemployed represent the largest component of the U‑6 numerator, at about 50 percent. At the onset of the most recent recession, there were 7.6 million people who were unemployed. When the recession officially ended in June 2009, the number of unemployed had nearly doubled to 14.7 million, and it continued to rise well into 2010, before beginning to recover. In September 2014, the unemployment level had fallen to 9.3 million, as it continued to trend down in the direction of its prerecession level.

People who are marginally attached to the labor force are those who want a job, are available to work, and have searched for a job in the past year, but who currently are not actively looking for work—that is, they are not unemployed. This group accounts for the smallest share of the three components that make up the U‑6 numerator (about 12 percent in September 2014). In December 2007, there were 1.3 million marginally attached workers. By June 2009, that number had increased substantially, to 2.2 million. The number of marginally attached also continued to increase after the official end of the recession; it finally started to improve early in 2011. In September 2014, there were 2.2 million marginally attached workers. The number of marginally attached workers remains higher than its prerecession level, but it has had limited impact on the U‑6 measure because of its relatively small contribution to the numerator.

People working part time for economic reasons—also referred to as involuntary part-time workers—are those who worked 1 to 34 hours for reasons such as slack work or an inability to find full-time work (full-time employment is defined as 35 hours or more per week).9 These workers are classified as employed because they have jobs. The number of involuntary part-time workers accounts for the second-largest share of the components that make up the U‑6 numerator (about 38 percent in September 2014). During the 2007–2009 recession, the number of people working part time for economic reasons rose to historically high levels—from 4.6 million in December 2007 to more than twice that, 9.2 million, in March 2010. The number of people working part time for economic reasons has trended down a bit more slowly than the number of unemployed and remains at historically high levels (7.1 million in September 2014).

During the 2007–2009 recession, increases in the number of unemployed and persons working part time for economic reasons were the primary drivers of the increase in U‑6. While unemployment has been decreasing fairly steadily since early 2010, the other two components that make up U‑6 have shown comparatively less improvement. Even so, the U‑6 measure has been trending downward, generally consistent with the movement of U‑3 and the other alternative measures of labor underutilization.

Since 2013, the ratio of U‑6 to U‑3 (or, alternatively, the gap between the two series) has risen to a slightly higher level than had prevailed throughout most of the history of the measures. In September 2014, the U‑6 rate was 11.8 percent, double (2.0) that of U‑3, the official unemployment rate, at 5.9 percent. During the recovery that followed the 2001 recession, the ratio was somewhat lower, averaging 1.7. This appears to be largely the result of a relatively larger drop in the number of people who are unemployed compared with the decline in the number working part time for economic reasons during the recent recovery. From December 2012 to September 2014, for example, the number of unemployed declined from 12.3 million to 9.3 million, a drop of about 24 percent, while the number of involuntary part-time workers fell from about 7.9 million to 7.1 million, or about 10 percent. These two numbers have traditionally tracked similarly, rising during economic downturns and falling during expansions at roughly similar rates, but that pattern has changed recently.

Summary

The six alternative measures of labor underutilization discussed in this article provide a variety of perspectives on how the labor market was affected during and after the 2001 and 2007–2009 recessions. The alternative measures showed similar movements across the two business cycles, although two differences have appeared since the end of the last recession: the two narrowest measures, U‑1 and U‑2, have converged, and the broadest measure, U‑6, has declined somewhat more slowly than U‑3, the official unemployment rate. This largely reflects the fact that the number of involuntary part-time workers has recovered more slowly than the number of unemployed in the wake of the recent recession.

This Beyond the Numbers summary was prepared by Vernon Brundage, economist in the Division of Labor Force Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Email: brundage.vernon@bls.gov. Telephone: 202-691-5456.

Information in this article will be made available upon request to individuals with sensory impairments. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200. Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339. This article is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.

Notes

1 The most recent Employment Situation news release can be viewed at https://www.bls.gov/cps/#news; see table A–15, "Alternative measures of labor underutilization."

2 For more information on the background of the alternative measures, see Steven E. Haugen, “Measures of Labor Underutilization from the Current Population Survey,” BLS Working Papers, March 2009, Working Paper 424, Measures of labor underutilization from the Current Population Survey.

3 People who are 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.

4 People who are 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.

5 In a 1976 article introducing the new measures, Commissioner of Labor Statistics Julius Shiskin noted that because “no single way of measuring unemployment can satisfy all analytical or ideological interests,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics would begin publishing a “range of unemployment indicators,” which were then known as U‑1 through U‑7 (U‑5 was the official unemployment rate at that time). See Shiskin, “Employment and unemployment: the doughnut or the hole?” Monthly Labor Review, February 1976, pp 3–10, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1976/article/employment_and_unemployment_the_doughnut.htm.

6 Following the 1994 CPS redesign, the alternative measures were revised and are currently known as U‑1 through U‑6 (U‑3 is the official rate). See John E. Bregger and Steven E. Haugen, “BLS introduces new range of alternate unemployment indicators,” Monthly Labor Review, October 1995, pp. 19–26, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1995/10/art3full.pdf.

7 According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the dates for the two recessions of the 2000–2010 decade are as follows: March 2001 to November 2001, and December 2007 to June 2009. For more information on the NBER-designated business cycles, see the NBER website at http://www.nber.org/cycles/cyclesmain.html.

8 The U‑1 and U‑3 measures are available from 1948; U‑2 is available from 1967; U‑4 through U‑6 are available from 1994.

9 A very small number are in the involuntary part-time employment category because of a seasonal decline in demand or because their job started or ended during the week.

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Publish Date: Thursday, November 6, 2014

Suggested citation:

Vernon Brundage,   “Trends in unemployment and other labor market difficulties,” Beyond the Numbers, vol. 3, no. 25 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nov 2014), https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-3/trends-in-unemployment-and-other-labor-market-difficulties.htm (visited August 05, 2021).

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