Worse Than It Looks

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December 5, 2008 1:52 p.m.

Kevin Philips has written persuasively about how the official unemployment rate understates the actual jobless numbers, and you get a glimpse of that in some of the employment numbers that came out today. From the NYT:

A mass departure from the labor force helped to hold down the unemployment rate in November, which was up only two-tenths of a percentage point from October’s 6.5 percent. The so-called underemployment rate, however, jumped to 12.5 percent, from 8 percent in October. Most of the underemployed are people working part time who want to work full time but cannot.

The 12.5 percent is the highest level of underemployment since the statistic was first compiled in 1994.

More than 420,000 men and women who had been working or seeking work in October left the labor force in November. Most presumably gave up looking for a job, the bureau’s report suggests. If they had continued that search, the unemployment rate in November would have been closer to 7 percent.

Late Update: The NYT has revised its story since I first posted the above excerpt. It appears they got the October underemployment number wrong. It was 11.8 percent, not 8 percent. (Thanks to TPM Reader RC for the catch.)

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