Economy

Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment Rate at 10.0% in March

by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist

Underemployment falls to 19.3% from 19.9% at the end of February

PRINCETON, NJ -- Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, was 10.0% in March -- down from 10.2% in mid-March and 10.3% at the end of February, but above the 9.8% at the end of January. U.S. unemployment was 10.4% at the end of March a year ago.

Gallup's U.S. Unemployment Rate, January 2010-March 2011

The percentage of part-time workers who want full-time work was 9.3% at the end of March -- down from 9.7% in mid-March and 9.6% in both February measurements. The current percentage remains higher than the 9.1% at the end of January but lower than the 10.0% of a year ago.

Percentage of Americans Working Part Time and Wanting Full-Time Work, January 2010-March 2011 Trend

Underemployment Declines in March

Underemployment combines part-time workers wanting full-time work with those who are unemployed. Both groups' readings fell in March; consequently, underemployment also fell, to 19.3% from 19.9% in mid-March and at the end of February. Underemployment was more than a full percentage point higher one year ago.

U.S. Underemployment, January 2010-March 2011 Trend

Implications

ADP on Wednesday reported that U.S. private-sector jobs increased by 201,000 in March -- the third consecutive month at this level of job growth. At the same time, Challenger, Gray & Christmas showed a sharp decline in March U.S. layoffs compared with last year. All of this is consistent with Gallup's Job Creation Index, which has shown slightly more jobs being created and comparatively low layoffs during the first quarter of 2011.

However, contrary to the federal government's recent job reports, Gallup's unemployment and underemployment measures suggest that recent job increases have not been sufficient to significantly improve the jobs situation so far in 2011. Although both of Gallup's measures were marginally better in March, they remain higher now than they were in January.

The March improvement in the jobs situation compared with February may be partly the result of seasonal hiring patterns, with companies increasing their hiring at this time of year. However, the 2010 jobs situation didn't show substantial improvement until the second half of April. Regardless, the decline in the underemployment rate year-over-year is consistent with a cautious hiring approach in which employers avoid layoffs while taking on more part-time workers and limiting their hiring of full-time employees.

Despite the March uptick, Gallup's view of the U.S. jobs situation remains substantially less optimistic than the government's recent unemployment report might suggest. Added to this, late March Gallup Daily tracking results show a continuing decline in economic optimism, a pullback in consumer spending, and a drop in Gallup's Job Creation Index. This suggests that recent behavior on Main Street does not reflect the government's rosier assessment. It also implies that the recent marginal improvement Gallup finds may be more temporary than one might hope.

Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:

Daily: Employment, Economic Confidence and Job Creation, Consumer Spending
Weekly: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending

Read more about Gallup's economic measures.

View our economic release schedule.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from Feb. 28-March 29, 2011, with a random sample of 17,811 adults in the workforce, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling. Results are reported in 30-day rolling averages.

Gallup classifies American workers as underemployed if they are either unemployed or working part time but wanting full-time work. Gallup's results are not seasonally adjusted and are ahead of government reports by approximately two weeks.

For results based on the total sample of workers, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 200 cell phone respondents and 800 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

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.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.

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