Perspective on the Unemployment Numbers

It doesn’t feel like historically low unemployment, and one of the reasons why is that involuntary part-time work is also at an all time high, and the standard U-3 measure does not count them:

Britain just notched up yet another record-breaking low for unemployment, according to the government. Unemployment stayed at just 4%, while the number of people with jobs rose to 32.54 million, or 75.8%, “the highest since comparable estimates began in 1971,” according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics.

But once again, the monthly jobs tally eclipsed how that miracle was achieved. “Headline” unemployment is only at a record low because of a 42% increase in the number of people who are in “involuntary” part-time work.

“Involuntary” means they’re only working part-time because they cannot get a full-time job.  

In March 2006, at the peak of the economic boom that preceded the great financial crisis, involuntary part-time work was at a low of 620,000. It rose to a peak after the 2008 crisis. But today, after 10 years of economic growth, it has settled back to 881,000 — an increase of 42% over the period, according to the ONS.

This is not good news.

Four percent unemployment is technically “full employment.” Anyone who wants a job should be able to get one. But 881,000 workers need full-time jobs — the kind that get people out of poverty — and those jobs are not available.

I have a feeling that this is a feature, not a bug.

The politicians get to crow about success, and the captains of industry still don’t have to pay a fair wage.

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