An 8.5% unemployment rate is unmistakably bad. It’s the highest rate since 1983 — a year that saw double-digit unemployment, nearly 30 commercial bank failures and more than 15% of Americans living below the poverty line.

But the real national unemployment rate is far worse than the U.S. Department of Labor’s March figure, announced today, shows. That’s because the official rate doesn’t include the 3.7 million-plus people who are reluctantly working only part time because of the poor labor market. And it doesn’t include the workers who have given up scouring want ads for seemingly nonexistent jobs.

When those folks are added to the numbers, the unemployment rate rises to 15.6%. In March 2008, that number was 9.3%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking this alternative measure (.pdf file) in 1995.

“The situation out there is very grim,” says Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “We have seen the mounting of job losses faster than any point since World War II. I have never seen anything escalate this bad.” Here’s another way to look at the unemployment figures: More than 5 million people have lost their jobs since the start of the recession in December 2007. And more than 13 million people are unemployed. That’s the highest number the U.S. has seen since it began tracking unemployment after World War II. For every job out there, more than four people are competing for it, says Boushey. Some unemployed workers have become so frustrated by the difficulty of landing a job that they’re exiting the labor market altogether. Prior recessions saw a spike in the number of women choosing to be stay-at-home moms rather than continue to compete for work. This recession has seen a large spike in the number of laid-off men opting to become stay-at-home dads — or at least stay at home.

Once people stop looking for work, they’re no longer entitled to unemployment benefits.

This is not news to those who are paying attention.

  1. AC_in_Mich says:

    And None of those rates figure in all of the self employed who are underemployed right now.

    The Carpenter doing odd jobs rather than building homes.

    The plumber who has one or two jobs a week, rather than 6 a day.

    The lawn cutter who has 20 contracts rather than 60 or eighty.

  2. Paddy-O says:

    Did you add in the same categories for ’83?

  3. The0ne says:


    points and laughs…hahaha

  4. MikeN says:

    I thought the stimulus package was going to create millions of jobs? Or was it that it would save millions, so without it, there would be 4 million more unemployed?

    Here’s an idea, open up the off-shore drilling, and the drilling on federal land that Obama blocked, and open up ANWR. Those projects are shovel ready.

    And build the fence at the Mexican border.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Let me just tell you about my experience at the car wash. This is a car wash where you vacuum your own cars and then drive through the machine that washes your ride. There is a guy at the end of the line who dries your car off and puts your antenna back on. I pointed out that the machine didn’t get some gunk that was on my back window. He goes back there and inspects. He comes back and tells me, “I ain’t even trying to be funny… but that ain’t my job”. He informs that his job is to dry off the cars and that is it. Wow. Welcome to America, home of the LAZY! Wonder why we suck as a nation? I bet that I wouldn’t of got that kind of flak in India!

    End of rant.

    It just makes me wonder if our country hasn’t set the expectation that people deserve jobs rather than working hard to do a good job.

  6. James Hill - Dvorak.org All Time Leader says:

    All charges dropped against Stevens. One more win against the editors of this blog… not that I’ve ever lost or anything.

    [Um, try to stay on topic Hill – ed.]

  7. GregA says:


    Interesting Kung Fu, but not good enough. The case was dropped By Eric Holder, an Obama apointee on a mission to restore civil rights in America.

    /Femur snap

    Stevens is no longer senator, and never will be again. He was still declared, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, by a jury.

    /Spleen rupture

    Ultimately this is they type of justice that Democrats have supported, and Republicans have been against.

    /Neck snap

    THATS THE FIGHT! You are beaten!


  8. faxon says:

    Every day, it’s getting better. Every day, more great news. Pretty soon, we will all have to start looking for that mountain cabin, or what kind of sailboat we want. Or who to elect President in 4 years….

  9. Arous says:

    Does that mean that the unemployment rate in 1930 was 33%?

  10. Mr Diesel says:

    #7 Stephanie

    We just got back from a week at the Sea Pines Resort on Hilton Head Island.

    One day we decided to have the car washed so we go to the closest full service wash. One of our friends had purchased the $14 wash but I decided to get the $30 wash and wax.

    We watched as a man and a woman worked their butts off on our car. It looked almost as good as it did when it was new. Hand waxed the wheels and polished everything. In the old days it would be called a light detailing job.

    Who did all this? Two Spanish speaking people who I could assume were Mexican.

    I tipped them $10 each and thanked them profusely.

    They deserve the job, the tip and the thanks for doing good work.

    Too many Americans think they are entitled to a job, health care, a home they can’t afford and everything else that too many in today’s society have said they deserve.

  11. . says:

    This can’t be right. We have the stimulus bill. Obvious right-wing propaganda most likely put out by Glenn Beck.

  12. Phydeau says:

    Dang it! This is all Obama’s fault! I mean, come on — he’s had three whole months to fix 8 years of Bush f*ckups! And he hasn’t made everything better again! Obviously the worst president in history!

  13. Dallas says:

    The GOP proposes to do nothing faster to get out of this mess. These guys are workaholics!

  14. The0ne says:

    Oh gosh darnit, this breakdown just “suddenly” happened and it’s all the new administrations fault. And while at it, gosh darnit, that stimulus plan and everything said by the previous and current administration should have happenned “instantly.” By golly, this magic should have worked like it was meant to! Lets try again and instantly wish the big3 auto mfg are ok. Yep, that’s all that is require to get them out of trouble.

    /points and laughs AGAIN…hahaha

  15. Stephanie says:

    Mr. Diesel,

    I spoke to the manager after I got back from my lunch break. My mirror was also damaged in today’s wash. He assured me that the man had some attitude problems and that he had been arguing with him this morning… well the guy is about to be or was already fired.

    Hopefully someone who actually wants a job and understands that their paycheck is paid for by customers like me will have a chance at employment. Mr. Bad Attitude will probably collect some undeserved unemployment.

    I would love to get the same wonderful service and job well done for $30 like you did!

  16. Rick says:

    Blame it all on the “lazy” Americans, and Obama, that seems to be the party line for the Republicans these days. Lets not forget that it was the republicans in 1996 that started this entire deregulation of the market mess while opposing stricter auditing standards. Both of which lead directly to the 2001 recession. The Bush administrations tax breaks helped end that recession, but the deregulation led directly into this one.

  17. Tex says:

    #2 Quite astute, Paddy-O.

    The practice of tracking the under-employed (as well as those who no longer seek employment) started as a result of the early 80’s recession. After the ’83 recession was over. So, comparing the baseline unemployment number from 1983 to the expanded unemployment number now is like comparing apples to an entire fruit basket.

    As for anyone who disagrees with this basic concept, well, I’ll just say that “You’re like school in summer.”

  18. The0ne says:


    I like my explanation better. We just need more magic! 🙂

  19. Paddy-O says:

    McCullough stammered, “You WISH the Unemployment rate was 8.5%”

    Actually it is. They used the same definition in ’83…

    Did you have a point?


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