Editorial: All measures of unemployment improving

Jan. 19, 2014 @ 05:33 AM

How high would the unemployment rate be if workers who have given up finding a job were counted in the official rate?

John Hood of the conservative John Locke Foundation reminds us that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics actually does have a figure keeping track of those discouraged workers. It’s called the U-4. It isn’t calculated monthly, and there isn’t a measure for just Caldwell County, but it’s a tool we can use to put the official unemployment rate in perspective.

For the most recent period it has been calculated, the U-4 for North Carolina was 9.1 percent, only a half percentage point higher than the official unemployment rate for the period, 8.6 percent.

There are several other measures, including the U-6, which counts the unemployed, the underemployed, the dropped-out, people who are getting retrained – pretty much everyone who says they have less than the job they want right now. North Carolina’s most recent U-6 rate was 14.9 percent. The U.S. rate was 14.1 percent.

And Hood reports that from over the past two years, North Carolina’s U-6 rate has dropped by 3 percentage points while the U.S. rate has dropped by 2.

Remember that all of these rates are calculated based on what individuals say in surveys about what their employment situation is versus what they want it to be.

As noted in an opinion column last week, any single statistic may or may not be accurate, but the trends the statistics show over time are pretty accurate.

The trend in employment, no matter how you measure it, is improving.