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Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment at Highest Level Since May

Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment at Highest Level Since May

by Dennis Jacobe

PRINCETON, NJ -- Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, increased to 9.4% in mid-September from 9.3% in August and 8.9% at the end of July. This finding makes it far more unlikely that there will be a significant decline in the U.S. unemployment rate prior to the midterm elections.

Jan. 6-Sept. 15, 2010, Trend: Gallup's U.S. Unemployment Rate

The increase in the unemployment rate component of Gallup's underemployment measure is partially offset because fewer part-time workers, 9.2%, now want full-time work, down from 9.3% in August and 9.5% at the end of July.

Jan. 6-Sept. 15, 2010, Trend: Percentage of Americans Working Part Time and Wanting Full-Time Work

Underemployment thus remains unchanged at 18.6% so far in September compared with late August, though up from 18.4% at the end of July. Underemployment peaked at 20.4% in April and has yet to fall below 18.3% this year.

U.S. Underemployment, 30-Day Averages, Jan. 6-Sept. 15, 2010

Certain groups are faring worse than the national average. Thirty percent of Americans aged 18 to 29, 24% of those with no college education, and 22% of women are underemployed so far in September.

Gallup classifies American workers as underemployed if they are either unemployed or working part time but wanting full-time work. The findings reflect more than 18,000 phone interviews with U.S. adults aged 18 and older in the workforce, collected over a 30-day period. Gallup's results are not seasonally adjusted and tend to be a precursor of government reports by approximately two weeks.

Job Hopes Fall Back in Mid-September

As might be expected given declining consumer confidence and continuing negative news about the job market nationally, the percentage of underemployed Americans who are "hopeful" that they will be able to find a job in the next four weeks fell to 43% in mid-September from its 2010 high of 47% at the end of August.

Jan. 6-Sept. 15, 2010, Trend: Percentage Hopeful of Finding a Job in the Next Four Weeks

No Unemployment Rate "Hail Mary" Likely

With only three weeks left until the government's final unemployment report before the midterm elections, Gallup's underemployment measure suggests that an immediate, measurable improvement in the nation's job situation is unlikely. Further, Gallup modeling of the unemployment rate component implies that the government will report little to no change in the nation's 9.6% unemployment rate in September, or possibly even a slight increase to 9.7%.

Overall, Gallup's behavioral economic data suggest that former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was right when he noted early this summer that the U.S. economy seemed to hit a wall in June. Economic confidence and consumer spending have declined since the end of May. At the same time, unemployment and underemployment have stagnated at very high levels.

Whatever happens in the midterm elections, it seems clear that the nation's political leaders would be well-served to form a consensus that all policy decisions will be viewed through a "jobs lens." This will be hard to do, given the political disagreements over which policy actions promote domestic job growth and which do not. However, American politicians themselves will not have much job security if they allow underemployment to remain anywhere near its current 18.6% in the years ahead. reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:

Daily: Employment, Economic Confidence and Job Creation, Consumer Spending
Weekly: Employment, Economic Confidence, Job Creation, Consumer Spending

Read more about Gallup's economic measures.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Aug. 16-Sept. 15, 2010, with a random sample of 18,057 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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