Economy

Underemployment 19.8% in February, on Par With January

by Jenny Marlar

A majority of the underemployed are not hopeful about finding work

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Gallup Daily tracking finds that 19.8% of the U.S. workforce was underemployed in February, on par with January's 19.9% reading.

Employment and Underemployment, January and February 2010

"Hope for finding a job remained flat in February: 40% of the underemployed were hopeful that they would find a job in the next four weeks, compared to 39% in January."

These results are based on February interviews with more than 19,000 adults in the U.S. workforce, aged 18 and older. Gallup classifies respondents as "employed" if they are employed full time or are employed part time but do not want to work full time. Gallup classifies respondents as "underemployed" if they are employed part time but want to work full time or are unemployed. Unemployed respondents are not employed, looking for work, and available for work. February's 19.8% underemployed estimate includes 10.6% who are unemployed and 9.2% who are working part time but wanting full-time employment (neither estimate is seasonally adjusted, and both are based on adults 18 and older). Both figures are similar to January's estimates.

Underemployment, January and February 2010, Unemployed and Part-Timers Wanting Full-Time Employment

Although Gallup's data trend closely with figures put out by the U.S. government's Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are important methodological differences between how Gallup calculates and how the government calculates its estimates. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the U.S. workforce aged 16 and older. Gallup data are not seasonally adjusted and are based on respondents aged 18 and older.

No Burst of Hope, or Loss of Hope

Hope for finding a job remained flat in February: 40% of the underemployed were hopeful that they would find a job in the next four weeks, compared to 39% in January. Gallup asks the unemployed whether they think they will have a job in the next four weeks, and asks those who are employed part time but want to work full time whether they think they will have a job in the next four weeks that requires them to work 30 hours or more per week. Hope among both the unemployed (47%) and part-timers wanting to work full time (32%) remained unchanged from January to February.

Hope Among Underemployed for Finding a Job in the Next Four Weeks, 2010

Spending

Underemployed respondents reported spending 35% less than fully employed respondents in February, almost identical to the 36% gap found in January. Employed respondents reported average daily spending of $71 in February, compared to $75 in January. Underemployed respondents' February average daily reported spending was $46, compared to $48 in January.

Average Daily Reported Spending Among Employed and Underemployed, January and February 2010

Bottom Line

Despite indications that the U.S. economy may be recovering, underemployment remains high. Gallup estimates that nearly 30 million Americans continue to work less than their desired capacity, and the majority of these remain unhopeful that they will find work in the next four weeks. The underemployed also continue to spend significantly less than their employed counterparts, potentially costing the economy hundreds of millions of dollars each month.

Learn more about Gallup's economic measures.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews with 19,173 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 1-28, 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

For results based on the sample of 3,799 adults who are underemployed, the maximum margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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