Americans Feel 15.6% Unemployment as Underemployment Surges


Matthew Benjamin
Bloomberg
April 6, 2009

Joseph Ramelo gave up searching for work in January to return to school, two months after he was laid off as a San Francisco election clerk. Antonio Poe is struggling to get by doing part-time landscaping in Greensboro, North Carolina, after losing his job as an electrician.

[efoods]While such workers are feeling real pain from the recession that began in December 2007, they’re not represented in the 8.5 percent unemployment rate the Labor Department reported last week. They are part of a broader group that includes those who want a job but have stopped looking for work and those who want full-time positions but have to settle for part-time employment.

A measure of underemployment that counts those people has almost doubled over the past two years, to 15.6 percent, providing a more complete gauge of the labor market’s deterioration. Along with an historic drop in the percentage of the population who are working, and record numbers of long-term unemployed, the figures point to a permanent shift in employment patterns, said former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

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