Unemployment rate 5.0 percent in March 2016, U-6 at 9.8 percent

April 05, 2016

In March 2016, the unemployment rate was 5.0 percent. A year earlier, in March 2015, the rate was 5.5 percent. In addition to the official unemployment rate, BLS publishes five "alternative measures of labor underutilization," in each month's Employment Situation news release. Known as U-1 through U-6, they encompass concepts both narrower and broader than the official unemployment rate, also called U-3. U-1 and U-2 are more narrowly defined and always lower than the official rate. U-4, U-5, and U-6 are more broadly defined and always higher.

Alternative measures of labor underutilization, U-1 through U-6, March 2015 and March 2016, seasonally adjusted
Measure March 2015 March 2016

U-1: Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force

2.4% 2.1%

U-2: Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force

2.7 2.4

U-3: Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (unemployment rate)

5.5 5.0

U-4 :Total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers

5.9 5.3

U-5: Total 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

6.7 6.0

U-6: Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force

10.9 9.8

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.

The narrowest measures, U-1 and U-2, were 2.1 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively, in March 2016. A year earlier they were 2.4 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. U-1 includes only people who were unemployed for 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the labor force. U-2 includes only unemployed people who lost their jobs or completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the labor force.

The broadest measure, U-6, includes unemployed people, plus people who are "marginally attached" to the labor force, plus people who work part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the labor force plus all people marginally attached to the labor force. 

The marginally attached are neither working nor looking for work but want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months. They are not classified as unemployed because they did not search for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

People who work part time for economic reasons would have preferred full-time employment, but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job. 

The U-6 rate was 9.8 percent in March 2016, down from 10.9 percent a year earlier.

To be classified as unemployed, people must meet the following three conditions:

  • They had no employment during the survey reference week.
  • They were available to take a job, except for temporary illness.
  • They had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period including the survey reference week, although people waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off are excepted from this requirement.

The unemployment rate is calculated as the number of unemployed divided by the labor force (which is the sum of the employed and the unemployed).

These data are from the Current Population Survey and are seasonally adjusted. For more information about employment and unemployment in March, see The Employment Situation — March 2016 (HTML) (PDF). To learn more about the alternative measures of labor underutilization, see "Trends in unemployment and other labor market difficulties," published in November 2014 in Beyond the Numbers.

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Unemployment rate 5.0 percent in March 2016, U-6 at 9.8 percent on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2016/unemployment-rate-5-0-percent-in-march-2016-u-6-at-9-8-percent.htm (visited July 24, 2019).

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