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U.S. Underemployment Declines Slightly in September

U.S. Underemployment Declines Slightly in September

But fewer are working full time for employers and more part-timers are seeking full-time work

by Lymari Morales

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. underemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, improved to 18.3% at the end of September from 18.5% at the end of August, as a decline in unemployment more than offset a slight increase in part-time workers seeking full-time employment. At the same time, the percentage of workers working full time for an employer decreased slightly to 64.9% from 65.3% at the end of August.

Gallup Employment Measures, September 2011, Selected Trend

U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, fell to 8.7% at the end of September, significantly improved from 9.2% at the end of August. Unemployment is also significantly lower than the 10.1% rate recorded at the end of September of last year, and among the lowest 30-day averages Gallup has measured since January 2010.

Gallup's U.S. Unemployment Rate, 2010-2011

The improvement in unemployment more than offset an increase in the percentage of part-time workers seeking full-time work. This percentage was 9.6% at the end of September, up from 9.3% at the end of August and significantly higher than the 8.7% recorded at the end of September last year.

Percentage of U.S. Workers Working Part Time and Wanting Full-Time Work

The resulting September estimate of 18.3% of U.S. workers seeking more work than they have -- 8.7% unemployed plus 9.6% employed part time but seeking full-time work -- is one of the better readings of the year and improved from 18.8% a year ago.

Gallup's U.S. Underemployment Rate, 2010-2011

Fewer Are Employed Full Time for Employers

While fewer U.S. workers were underemployed and unemployed at the end of September compared with the end of August, fewer also had full-time jobs with employers. The 64.9% who reported having full-time jobs with employers is down from 65.3% at the end of August. This percentage is up slightly from 64.3% a year ago, but that was one of the lowest percentages of 2010.

Trend: Percentage of Americans Employed Full Time for an Employer, 2010-2011


Gallup's employment measures show some improvement in the U.S. employment situation in September, with a decrease in unemployment helping to lower the overall underemployment rate. The official U.S. unemployment rate reported by the government is based on a one-week reference period in the middle of the month, and is also seasonally adjusted. Taking these and other factors into account, Gallup's modeling suggests the government will report little change in its unemployment rate on Friday, with any change likely to be slightly lower rather than higher.

Even so, there are negative rumblings under the surface. Gallup now finds more part-time workers seeking full-time work, suggesting that some workers are finding jobs but not the full-time positions they seek. Gallup also finds fewer workers employed full-time for employers at the end of September than was true a month ago. Combined with declining job creation in recent months, the U.S. employment situation remains challenging for job seekers and for the economy in general.

*Editor's note: Figures for August included in this article reflect data through Aug. 31, and thus differ slightly from data through Aug. 30 reported in Gallup's Sept. 1 employment release.

How Gallup's Unemployment Measure Differs From the U.S. Government's Measure 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.

View our economic release schedule.

Survey Methods

Gallup classifies U.S. workers as underemployed if they are either unemployed or working part time but wanting full-time work. Findings are reported in 30-day rolling averages reflecting about 14,000 phone interviews with U.S. adults aged 18 and older in the workforce. Gallup's results are not seasonally adjusted and are ahead of government reports by approximately two weeks.

Results for September are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from Sept. 1-30, 2011, with a random sample of approximately 14,000 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 each monthly 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 sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. 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, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 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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