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"Real" jobless figure is twice as bad: 13.3%

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Thursday, January 01, 2009
STATEWIDE The growing unemployment rate in Oregon is distressing, but the “real” unemployment rate is actually nearly twice as bleak.

Officially, the state unemployment rate in October was 7.3%. Unofficially, the rate was 13.3% if you count other groups usually not included in the Oregon Employment Department’s monthly calculation.

“It’s a little bit of another perspective on the labor force,” says state labor economist Art Ayre.

The conventional definition of the “unemployment rate” only counts those out of work but actively searching for a job. The 13.3% rate includes people who want work but have given up looking, those who want work but haven’t searched for a job in the past four weeks, and people who have a part-time job but want to work full-time.

The figure is what some labor economists call the “real” unemployment rate, an alternative, and controversial, number that sometimes finds its way into the national dialogue on the most accurate indicators of unemployment and economic health.

Nationally, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles and categorizes the rate as “labor underutilization,” economic jargon for describing people who don’t fall under the technical definition of unemployment.

Oregon’s official employment spiked to 8.1% in November, and the “real” rate will increase accordingly.  

“During certain periods when people are looking for a job, this number can increase rapidly,” Ayre says. “It’s another perspective to get a complete picture.”


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