If you’re out of work, you’re unemployed, right? You should be counted among the 14.9 million Americans reported to be unemployed in August by the Department of Labor, right? Well, maybe not, according to how the Labor Department really defines “unemployed.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of “unemployed persons” increased by 466,000 to 14.9 million, and the unemployment rate rose 9.7 percent in August. But later in BLS’ The Employment Situation – 2009, we learn that another 2.3 million out-of-work Americans were not counted as “unemployed.”
On the Margin: Instead, BLS considers those 2.3 million people to be “marginally attached to the labor force,” meaning that while they were out-of-work, they wanted to work and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. However, BLS did not count them as “unemployed” because they had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding their August report.
A Discouraging Word: Among the 2.3 million out-of-work, but not technically “unemployed” people counted as marginally attached to the labor force, BLS considers 758,000 of them to be “discouraged workers,” since they are not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The other 1.5 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in August had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities, according to the BLS.
Confused Now? What does all this unemployment government-speak mean? About Guide to the U.S. Economy Kimberly Amadeo has the straight-speak in her article on What the Unemployment Rate Really Measures.