Underemployment also up, to 19.0%
PRINCETON, NJ — The U.S. unemployment rate, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, is 9.0% in mid-February, up from 8.6% for January. The mid-month reading normally reflects what the U.S. government reports for the entire month, and is up from 8.3% in mid-January.
Gallup’s mid-month unemployment reading, based on the 30 days ending Feb. 15, serves as a preliminary estimate of the U.S. government report, and suggests the Bureau of Labor Statistics will likely report on the first Friday of March that its seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased in February. Gallup found that unemployment decreased to 8.3% in its mid-January report, and suggested that the U.S. unemployment rate the BLS reported for January would decline.
Gallup also finds 10.0% of U.S. employees in mid-February are working part time but want full-time work, essentially the same as in January. The mid-February reading means the percentage of Americans who can only find part-time work remains close to its high since Gallup began measuring employment status in January 2010.
Underemployment, a measure that combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed with the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, is 19.0% in mid-February. This is higher than the 18.7% recorded for January, and is up significantly compared with January’s mid-month reading of 18.1%.
Looking Ahead to the Government’s Unemployment Report
The U.S. government in early March will report its February unemployment rate. That rate will be based on mid-month conditions. Therefore, Gallup’s mid-month unemployment reading, based on data collected through the 15th of the month, normally provides a good basis on which to estimate the direction of the government’s unemployment rate for the month. In mid-January, Gallup results suggested the unemployment rate would decline, consistent with the government’s positive January jobs report of Feb. 3.
Seasonal forces typically cause unadjusted unemployment rates to increase at this time of year. In this regard, some of the sharp increase Gallup finds in unemployment and underemployment may result from seasonal factors. Although the government seasonally adjusts the U.S. unemployment rate, and the workforce participation rate could decline — both of which could drive down its unemployment rate — it still seems likely that the BLS will report an increase in the seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate for February.
Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup’s unemployment and underemployment measures show a sharp deterioration in job market conditions since mid-January. This is consistent with a similar decline in Gallup’s Job Creation Index to +13 in the second week of February, from +16 for January. It is also consistent with an economy that continues to struggle with modest growth, particularly as gas prices surge. Further, it suggests that it is premature to assume the condition of the economy will not remain a major issue for Americans both financially and politically in 2012.
Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts: