Economy

U.S. Unemployment Stagnant in May

by Jenny Marlar

Unemployment and underemployment little changed from a year ago

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, stood at 9.2% at the end of May -- unchanged from mid-May and down slightly from 9.4% at the end of April. It is also slightly lower than it was at the same time last year (9.5%).

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

The percentage of Americans employed part time but wanting to work full time was 10% at the end of May, unchanged from 9.9% at the end of April. This figure is up slightly from the end of May 2010, when 9.6% of the workforce was working part time but wanted full-time employment.

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

Underemployment -- which includes both part-time workers wanting full-time employment and the unemployed -- has remained flat since mid-March. Underemployment was 19.2% at the end of May, unchanged from 19.3% a month ago and 19.1% a year ago.

U.S. Underemployment, 2010-2011

Job Seekers No More Hopeful About Finding Work Compared With a Year Ago

Job seekers' attitudes mirror Gallup's stagnant employment data. In May, 46% of the underemployed reported being hopeful they would find work in the next four weeks. This number is identical to the 46% reporting hope in May 2010. Hope among the unemployed was 53% in both May 2010 and May 2011. Part-timers continue to be more pessimistic than the unemployed about the potential to find work in the next four weeks (40% in 2010 vs. 41% in 2011).

Hope for Finding a Job in the Next Four Weeks, May 2010 and May 2011

Implications

Gallup's measures of unemployment and underemployment are little changed in comparison with May 2010. Year-to-year comparisons provide the clearest picture of true changes in the rates because of seasonal variation in employment. Gallup data have seen some significant year-to-year declines in unemployment and underemployment in 2011, but not the consistent pattern of significant decline seen in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, in both unemployment and U-6.

Gallup's data seem to indicate that despite unemployment declines reported by the government, the American workforce has yet to feel a stable improvement in the jobs climate.

Survey Methods

Gallup classifies American workers as underemployed if they are either unemployed or working part time but wanting full-time work. The findings reflect more than 20,000 phone interviews with U.S. adults aged 18 and older in the workforce, collected over a 30-day period. Gallup's results are not seasonally adjusted and are ahead of government reports by approximately two weeks.

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from May 1-May 31, 2011, with a random sample of 30,242 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of adults in the workforce, 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 sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). 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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