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Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment Holding at 8.5% in December

Gallup Finds U.S. Unemployment Holding at 8.5% in December

Underemployment is at 18.2%, with 9.7% working part time but seeking full-time jobs

by Dennis Jacobe

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup finds U.S. unemployment, not seasonally adjusted, at 8.5% in December -- the same as at the end of November, but down from 9.6% a year ago. Gallup's unemployment measure suggests the government is likely to report essentially no change for December 2011 in its seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, though this December is especially hard to predict.

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

The percentage of U.S. employees who are working part time but want full-time work is at 9.7% at the end of December, essentially the same as the 9.6% at the end of November. The December 2011 reading is higher than the 9.4% of December 2010.

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 18.2% in December, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment. This is virtually the same as the 18.1% at the end of November but down from 19.0% a year ago.

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

Growing Unemployment Optimism May Be Premature

The sharp drop in the government-reported unemployment rate for November has combined with slightly better economic data to create the perception that the job market may be improving. However, Gallup's mid-December tracking of the unemployment situation showed little improvement and the government's December unemployment rate is based on mid-month conditions. As such, it seems likely that Friday's Bureau of Labor Statistics announcement will show little or no change in the seasonally adjusted U.S. unemployment rate for December.

This prediction, however, assumes that the labor force doesn't continue to shrink, or change direction and grow at so rapid a pace that it produces another unexpected, major shift in the size of the workforce and in the government's unemployment rate, as it did in November. The BLS has announced that it will change its seasonal adjustments -- another factor that potentially complicates any projection of the December unemployment rate.

Looking ahead, Gallup's unemployment and underemployment measures for the end of the month tend to provide insight into the future direction of the unemployment situation. Although they will not be reflected in Friday's jobs report, Gallup's most recent measurements seem to imply that the unemployment situation is not deteriorating on an unadjusted basis, as is usually the case at this time of year.

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 15,000 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 Nov. 30 to Dec. 29, 2011, with a random sample of 15,832 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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