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TitleFAQ: Is there a measure of underemployment?
AuthorKarl Zandi

Is there a measure of underemployment?


Regarding underemployment, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) writes (http://www.bls.gov/cps/faq.htm#Ques12):

Because of the difficulty of developing an objective set of criteria which could be readily used in a monthly household survey, no official government statistics are available on the total number of persons who might be viewed as underemployed. Even if many or most could be identified, it would still be difficult to quantify the loss to the economy of such underemployment.

However, the BLS does publish a hierarchy of unemployment categories, U1 through U6, all of which we provide through Data Buffet:

Measure Mnemonic Description
    Unemployment rate, (%, NSA)
XLBFK15G%.US Out of work for 15 weeks or more.
U2 XLBRZL.US Have lost jobs or have found only temporary positions.
U3 XLBR.US Those without jobs who are available for work and actively seeking it. This is the official definition of unemployment, from the headlines.
U4 XLBRU4.US U3 + “discouraged workers,” those who have looked but feel they cannot find employment because of economic conditions.
U5 XLBRU5.US U4 + “marginally attached workers,”  those who would like to find jobs but have not looked recently.
U6 XLBRU6.US U5 + part-time workers who cannot find full-time jobs for economic reasons. This is the widest definition of unemployment and gives the broadest picture of the total number of underemployed persons.

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