Economy

Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment Up in Mid-August

by Dennis Jacobe, Chief Economist

Underemployment is at 18.2%, with 9.2% working part time but seeking full-time jobs

PRINCETON, NJ -- Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, is 9.0% in mid-August -- compared with 8.8% at the end of July and 9.1% in mid-August 2010.

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

The percentage of part-time workers who want full-time work is 9.2% in mid-August -- the same as at the end of July and in mid-August 2010.

Percentage of Americans Working Full-Time but Wanting Part-Time Work, 2010-2011 Trend, January-August

Underemployment Shows Modest Improvement

Underemployment, a measure that combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed with the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, is 18.2% in mid-August -- compared with 18.0% at the end of July and 18.3% in mid-August 2010.

Gallup's U.S. Underemployment Rate, 2010-2011 Trend, January-August

Youngest and Oldest Workers, Less Educated Continue to Struggle

One worrisome aspect of the current situation is that the U.S. economy simply has not been growing fast enough -- as reflected in first half GDP -- to create the number of new jobs necessary to meet population growth, let alone significantly reduce the unemployment rate. This is consistent with Gallup's finding that unemployment now is essentially no better than it was at this time in 2010.

In particular, it appears Americans 65 or older who want to continue to work are having more of a problem finding a job than they did a year ago. Unemployment among this group increased to 8.2% this year from 6.7% a year ago. It may be that more baby boomers want to or need to keep working as they reach retirement age. Or, the losses on Wall Street over the past couple of years may be making many older Americans postpone retirement. Whatever the reasons, the job situation facing older Americans seems to be deteriorating.

At the other end of the age spectrum, unemployment hovers around the 12% level among those aged 18 to 29 (at 12.4% in mid-August, up from 11.9% a year ago) and among those with a high school education or less (11.9%, vs. 12.0%). Continued high unemployment among these two groups supports the notion that the prolonged and historically high unemployment rates of the past several years signify a serious structural unemployment problem in the U.S.

The job situation also seems to have deteriorated in the East compared with a year ago -- perhaps as financial firms respond to increased federal banking regulations and budget concerns -- and is unchanged in the South. Unemployment has declined in the Midwest and the West year-over-year -- possibly related to the increase in U.S. manufacturing and exports. For the unemployment data by demographic group, please see page 2 of this report.

Looking Ahead to the Government's Next Unemployment Report

Gallup's mid-August unemployment data provide a preliminary estimate of the August unemployment rate that the government will report on Friday, Sept. 2. Gallup's data suggest an increase in the U.S. unemployment rate for August from its most recent 9.1% for July.

However, there are some significant caveats. While Gallup's preliminary August unemployment measure includes the government's reference week -- the time the government's household survey uses to determine the U.S. unemployment rate for August -- Gallup's data are not seasonally adjusted. How the government adjusts its unemployment report for seasonal effects such as the back-to-school sales season will affect that report.

Similarly, last month the government reported a decline in the U.S. unemployment rate from 9.2% to 9.1%. However, if the number of Americans in the labor force had not declined by nearly 200,000 in July, the government's unemployment rate would likely have remained unchanged. If more Americans get discouraged and simply drop out of the job market, the government may be able to report a lower unemployment rate than Gallup's unemployment data suggest -- but that will not reflect a real improvement in the job situation on Main Street.

Regardless, Gallup's Daily tracking of the jobs situation and consumer confidence seems more aligned than not with the growing economic pessimism on Wall Street.

How Gallup's Unemployment Measure Differs From the U.S. Government's Measure

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


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 18,000 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 July 17 to Aug. 15, 2011, with a random sample of 18,621 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 national adults, 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 by 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.


Gallup's U.S. Unemployment Rate by Demographic Group, Mid-August, 2010 vs. 2011
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