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U.S. Unemployment Down Sharply in Early October

U.S. Unemployment Down Sharply in Early October

by Dennis Jacobe

PRINCETON, NJ -- Unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, is 8.3% in mid-October -- down sharply from 8.7% at the end of September and 9.2% at the end of August. A year ago, Gallup's U.S. unemployment rate stood at 10.0%. While seasonal hiring patterns may explain some of this improvement, the drop suggests the government could report an October unemployment rate of less than 9.0%.

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

In addition to the drop in unemployment, Gallup also found a decline in the percentage of part-time workers who want full-time work, to 9.2% in mid-October from 9.6% at the end of September.

Percentage of U.S. Workers Working Part Time and Wanting Full-Time Work, 2010-2011

Underemployment, a measure that combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed with the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, is thus at 17.5% in mid-October, down sharply from 18.3% at the end of September -- and its lowest measurement of the year.

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

Looking Ahead to the Government's Next Unemployment Report

Gallup's mid-month U.S. unemployment report covers the same period the government uses to collect data for its October unemployment report, which will be released on the first Friday in November. As a result, Gallup's data lead the government's report by several weeks. Modeling based on statistical comparisons of Gallup's unemployment and job creation data to the government's seasonally adjusted data over time suggests that the Bureau of Labor Statistics could report an October unemployment rate of less than 9.0%.

The sharp drop in Gallup's unemployment and underemployment rates may partly result from seasonal factors. Halloween has become the third-largest sales season for many retailers, who are likely increasing their staffing accordingly. In addition, some stores may have been minimally staffed and are beginning early to add employees for the holidays. The surge on Wall Street during early October may also have provided some relief for business owners as they evaluate the prospects of the U.S. economy and their potential sales. Whatever the reasons, Gallup's Job Creation Index tends to confirm this improvement in the job market because it has been near its highs for the year in early October.

Of course, the precipitous and counterintuitive nature of this sharp improvement in the U.S. job market, as measured by Gallup over the past couple of weeks, means it could be something of an aberration that will dissipate during the weeks ahead. It might even have been missed if not for Gallup's Daily tracking. But for now, this job market improvement appears real -- and, in turn, that implies the Main Street economy may be somewhat stronger than Wall Street generally perceives.

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 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 are ahead of government reports by approximately two weeks.

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from Sept. 16-Oct. 15, 2011, with a random sample of 18,578 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 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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