Right now, we're hearing much celebrating from the media, the White House and Wall Street about how unemployment is "down" to 5.6%. The cheerleading for this number is deafening. The media loves a comeback story, the White House wants to score political points and Wall Street would like you to stay in the market.The official unemployment rate, called the U3, measures the number of people out of work but still looking for full-time employment. The actual unemployment rate is measured by something called the U6. The U6 includes discouraged workers who've stopped looking for work plus all other marginally attached workers as well as those workers who are working part-time purely for economic reasons.
None of them will tell you this: If you, a family member or anyone is unemployed and has subsequently given up on finding a job -- if you are so hopelessly out of work that you've stopped looking over the past four weeks -- the Department of Labor doesn't count you as unemployed. That's right. While you are as unemployed as one can possibly be, and tragically may never find work again, you are not counted in the figure we see relentlessly in the news -- currently 5.6%.
There's another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you're an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager: If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 -- maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn -- you're not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
Yet another figure of importance that doesn't get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find -- in other words, you are severely underemployed -- the government doesn't count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.
There's no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.
The U6 takes into account everyone of working age who is not working, not merely those who are out of work and still looking for a job. According to the U6 the actual unemployment rate is about 11.5%. Right now, as many as 30 million working age Americans are either out of work or severely underemployed. Neither the administration nor its media groupies will tell you that either. It's better from their point of view to let you think that things aren't nearly as bad as they really are.