Thursday, October 18, 2012

U.S. unemployment officially fell to 7.8% in September 2012 - but that doesn't mean the other 92.2% of adults are working

The unemployment rate only measures people who have searched for jobs in the last four weeks, while millions of other out-of-work Americans aren't included. But some economists think there's a better way to measure the health of the job market. Along with the official unemployment rate, the Department of Labor also calculates something called the employment-population ratio, which measures the percent of the U.S. adult population that has a job. The rate currently stands at 58.7%. While it jumps around slightly from month to month, it has essentially been stuck there for three years - close to the lowest level since the 1980s. That paints a much bleaker picture of the job market than the unemployment rate, which has fallen considerably in the last year. "The employment-to-population ratio is the best measure of labor market conditions and it currently shows that there has been almost no improvement whatsoever over the past three years," Paul Ashworth, chief North American economist for Capital Economics said in a note to clients. The ratio is also telling because it means that 41% of working-age Americans are out of a job for one reason or another.

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