There is an official definition for unemployment that everyone can find at the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS.gov). However, because unemployment, and employment calculations do not count all peoples, and have a limited view of the labor force for reporting numbers, they inadequately capture our potential problems.
We should consider the additional indicators when assessing our Labor Market problems, and the BLS does have some addition stats they consider, but the system as a whole does not recognize these factors. Secondly, we also need to consider the real people, and real problems they are facing when we seek a true sense of the market. The uncounted in todays labor force rates as defined are those institutionalized, under 16, not continuosly employed, homeless or underemployed ...the list goes on and on. However, to highlight why its so important to count the uncounted in efforts to understand the potential depth of our labor market problems, I've listed some real stories, or real people.
This market has caused many to disappear from the ranks of unemployment into what I would characterize as underemployed. Today I went to buy a paper and noticed a former finance manager I once had the honor of working with distributing the papers at the counter. She was unemployed for almost a year, lost her unemployment benefit and has picked up two part time retail positions to make ends meet. She is working a combination of 35 hours a week for less than 13/hour. She never went above her means and paid her mortgage on time. However, when she lost her 80K job, she was unable to renegotiate a mortage or refinance. The bank told her, her husband didn't make enough, and her home had lost value. When she said "what should I do?", the bank told her if she missed three payments she would qualify for help. SHE didn't skip the payments, she is paying her bills like she always did. She is employed, her husband is employed, and they have lived within their means....but does it really count? Afterall she is not counted as unemployed in our statistics today.
Another trend that is popular for folks looking for work, but not counted is the population that had contested job changes, or had left an employer. The best recruiter I ever had the pleasure of working with, left a lucrative contract work on the West Coast to start a business. Unfortunately the day the market turned, so did his investors, and clients. He is now beating the pavement looking for work but does not qualify for unemployment or count as unemployed for he did not work for more than 4 weeks prior to his new career, nor did he leave as a job elimination. I should mention that he has a need for insurance that costs him over 400 dollars a month. He doesn't count, and his wife of over 10 years is seeking employment doesn't count because she was his home office manager of a staffing firm. Recruitment is going to be a slow if ever recovering industry they recognize that. Therefore, they have sold their house , and are now in job transition , location transition, and with minimum resources, but a whole lot of HOPE.
There are many other stories, such as the trends and opportunities for those under 16 (not counted in the labor force stats), such as paper routes, or your local institutionalized employees that help in our kitchens and nursing centers aren't even counted. The bottom line is be aware that numbers are great in evaluating a sense of the market, but the people and the stories tell more than numbers can reveal.
Stories of the REAL Economy.