The traditional unemployment numbers come with so many asterisks that we’re accustomed to ignore them. While the official US unemployment number is 11.1%, the percentage of people who could be working but aren’t is 45.4% (100%-54.6%). The 54.6% represents the ’employment-population’ ratio. Even that measure has asterisks (e.g. military, retired, et al.) but is more representative of the population that is actually working, rather than 88.9% (100%-11.1%). The employment-population ratio peaked circa 1999 at approximately 65%. The minimum was approximately 52% in the spring. The consequence is that there are millions more potential workers out of work who aren’t being counted. Regardless of the economic news, that’s a large untapped potential as well as a larger than expected drain in resources, and a large population of disaffected citizens.

3 thoughts on “Truly Unemployed US Citizens

  1. This feels like an oversimplification to me. Saying “the percentage of people who could be working but aren’t is 45.4% (100%-54.6%)” ignores that a hefty percentage of those people (between 1/4 and 1/3) are retired. Many more are not looking for work, but are caring for family members too young, old or disabled to care for themselves entirely, or they are students. The goal is not 100%, but the percentage that allows those who can and want to work the opportunity, while also having the contributions of the unpaid, stay-home workforce enable the productivity of those who do work. According to the graph in the article, the highest employment-population ration was in the late 1990s, when labor shortages made many jobs difficult to fill. That percentage? Just under 65%. Today’s 54% is about 11% below that — gosh, could it be a coincidence that the unemployment rate is listed at 11%?


  2. Pingback: Data That Matters July 2020 | Pretending Not To Panic

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