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Data viz: Part-time work casts shadow over low unemployment rating

201406_AltURatesVermont’s official unemployment rate may be approaching pre-recessionary lows, but when part-time and other marginally attached workers are factored in, the rate has been slower to budge.

At 3.3 percent, the state’s official jobless rate remained second lowest in the nation in May, the most recent month for which estimates are available. The official rates from the Vermont Department of Labor only include jobseekers who have been looking for work for a four-week period. Averaged annually, the official rate in Vermont was 4.3 percent in 2013.

But discouraged and underemployed workers don’t show up in official rates. A more inclusive measure of “labor underutilization” averaged 9.3 percent last year.

Economist Tom Kavet of Kavet, Rockler & Associates, who consults for the Vermont Legislature, said in a normal economic recovery, he would expect the number to have come down more by now.

“Things are getting better, but we’re not back to anything near full employment,” Kavet said. “A lot of people would like to work more but are not able to.”

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6 Ways to slice unemployment

The federal government estimates unemployment six different ways to account for different segments of the workforce. Here’s a rundown, with more detail at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    U-1: unemployed 15 weeks or longer
    U-2: job losers + temporary workers
    U-3: official rate — jobless available to work who have looked in most recent four weeks
    U-4: unemployed + discouraged (potential workers who have dropped out of the labor force but looked for jobs in the last year)
    U-5: unemployed + discouraged + other marginally attached (available for work, but hadn’t looked in last four weeks)
    U-6: unemployed + discouraged + marginally attached + part-time workers who’d prefer full-time work

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