Unemployment Actually 10.2 Percent, 1 in 5 Workers Can’t Find Full-Time Job, Says Gallup

March 17, 2011 - 12:50 PM

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

(CNSNews.com) - One out of five American workers who wants a full-time job cannot find one, according to a Gallup survey released today.

This news comes 25 months after President Barack Obama signed a stimulus law designed to keep the U.S. unemployment rate under 8 percent.

Gallup derives what it calls the “underemployment” rate by combining the percentage of unemployed workers with the percentage of workers who are employed only part-time but want a full-time job.

As of mid-March, Gallup reported in its new survey, 10.2 percent of American workers were unemployed and 9.7 percent were working part-time but wanted a full-time job. That equals an underemployment rate of 19.9 percent—or approximately one out of every five workers.

According to Gallup, the employment picture in the United States is virtually unchanged from a year ago.

In mid-March 2010, 10.3 percent of American workers were unemployed and 9.7 percent were working part-time but wanted a full-time job--yielding an underemployment rate of 20.0 percent. That compares to today’s 19.9 percent underemployment rate.

On Feb. 17, 2009, Obama signed an economic stimulus law that the Congressional Budget Office then-estimated would cost $787 billion. In Jan. 2009, Obama’s then-top economic adviser Christina Romer had reported that this stimulus, if enacted, would keep the U.S. unemployment rate under 8 percent.

Last month, the Congressional Budget Office published an analysis of the economic impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), otherwise known as the stimulus. CBO now said it estimated the jobs bill had cost $821 billion, not $787 billion. It also said it believed the positive effect of the stimulus on economic output had peaked in the first half of calendar year 2010 and that the stimulus' positive effect on jobs had peaked in the third quarter of calendar year 2010.

“The effects of ARRA on output peaked in the first half of 2010 and are now diminishing, CBO estimates,” said the report. “The effects of ARRA on employment and unemployment are estimated to lag slightly behind the effects on output; CBO estimates that they began to wane in the fourth quarter.”

According to the report, CBO estimated that the stimulus had reduced the national unemployment rate between 0.9 points and 2.0 points from what it otherwise would have been in the third quarter of calendar 2010—when it was at its maximum impact.

In the first quarter of calendar 2011 (the current quarter), the stimulus would only reduce the unemployment rate by between 0.7 points and 1.8, CBO estimated.

In an analysis it released with its unemployment numbers, Gallup explained why its estimate of 10.2 percent unemployment for mid-March is higher than the federal government’s report that the unemployment rate was down to 8.9 percent in February. Among the factors causing the government’s official unemployment rate to be lower than Gallup's, Gallup said, was that the government applied “seasonal adjustments” to its unemployment rate that Gallup did not, that Gallup’s mid-March figures were more up to date than the government’s February figures, and that the government had reduced its estimated “participation” rate in the workforce to the lowest level in 27 years—assuming that discouraged former job seekers have now simply dropped out of the workforce.

“In part, the difference between Gallup's and the government's current job market assessments may be due to the government's seasonal adjustments,” said Gallup.

“Gallup's U.S. unemployment rate is also more up-to-date -- its mid-March data include jobless figures for much of March, whereas the government's latest unemployment rate is based on the jobs situation in mid-February,” said Gallup.

“Most importantly, a key reason the government's unemployment rate is dropping apparently has to do with the so-called participation rate: the percentage of Americans who are counted as being in the workforce,” said Gallup. “The government's participation rate in February was at its lowest level since 1984. In essence, this tends to suggest that the government's unemployment rate may be declining because many people are becoming discouraged and leaving the workforce--not because they are getting new jobs.”