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Recession or Not, U.S. Job Market Woes Persist

Recession or Not, U.S. Job Market Woes Persist

Unemployment rate as measured by Gallup is increasing

by Dennis Jacobe

PRINCETON, NJ -- Even as Wall Street rallies on the National Bureau of Economic Research announcement that the recession ended in June 2009, Gallup finds -- more than a year later -- that 88% of Americans believe now is a bad time to find a quality job.

January 2007-September 2010 Trend: Finding a Quality Job Nationwide (Percentage Who Say It's a Bad Time to Find a Quality Job)

The percentage of Americans holding these views about finding a quality job is as high now as it was a year ago, and higher than it was at this time in 2008, when the recession was fully underway. Three years ago, in September 2007 -- just prior to the official beginning of the recession that December -- 55% held this view of the job market.

Unemployment Rate Increasing

The unemployment rate component of Gallup's underemployment measure continues to rise, with the latest 30-day average hitting 9.7% (not seasonally adjusted) on Tuesday, Sept. 20 -- up from 9.4% last week, 9.3% in August, and 8.9% at the end of July.

January-Sept. 20, 2010, Trend: Gallup's U.S. Unemployment Rate

Underemployment was also up during this period, reaching 18.8% on Sept. 20 -- increasing from 18.6% readings last week and in August, and 18.4% at the end of July.

Addressing the Non-Recession

The National Bureau of Economic Research's announcement that the recession ended more than a year ago may simply feed into many Americans' feelings that traditional economic measurements do not reflect Main Street reality. Prior to the pronouncement, 82% of Americans saw the U.S. economy as still in a recession -- essentially the same percentage as a year ago.

Significantly, Gallup's behavioral economic data tend to support the perception that the recession continues. As already noted, Americans' views about the availability of quality jobs are worse now than they were at this time in 2008. The unemployment rate and underemployment, as measured by Gallup, are also increasing more than a year after the official end of the recession. Further, Gallup's modeling, updated for the most recent increase in underemployment, suggests that the government will announce on Oct. 8 that the unemployment rate increased further in September.

The Federal Open Market Committee's Tuesday statement seems to support this Main Street view by implying that the U.S. economy is expanding so slowly that unemployment will remain unacceptably high for years to come. Further, any marginal improvements in growth are likely to be largely imperceptible to Main Street unless something is done. Recession or not, this sets up an interesting situation for the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting in November, which happens to take place at the time of the midterm elections.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 13-16, 2010, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., 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 error is ±4 percentage points.

Underemployment and unemployment results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking Aug. 21 to Sept. 20, 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 this 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 (for respondents with a landline telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell phone-only). Each sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone-only 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, education, region, 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 continental 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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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