PRINCETON, NJ -- U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, increased to 9.1% in February from 8.6% in January and 8.5% in December.
The 0.5-percentage-point increase in February compared with January is the largest such month-to-month change Gallup has recorded in its not-seasonally adjusted measure since December 2010, when the rate rose 0.8 points to 9.6% from 8.8% in November. A year ago, Gallup recorded a February increase of 0.4 percentage points, to 10.3% from 9.9% in January 2011.
In addition to the 9.1% of U.S. workers who are unemployed, 10.0% are working part time but want full-time work. This percentage is similar to the 10.1% in January, but is higher than the 9.6% of February 2011.
As a result, Gallup's U.S. underemployment measure, which combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed and the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, increased to 19.1% in February from 18.7% in January. This is an improvement from the 19.9% of February 2011.
Looking Ahead to the Government's Unemployment Report
The February unemployment rate the U.S. government reports on Friday morning will be based largely on mid-month conditions. In mid-February, Gallup reported that its U.S. unemployment rate had increased to 9.0% from 8.3% in mid-January. The mid-month reading normally provides a relatively good estimate of the government's unadjusted unemployment rate for the month.
Assuming the government's unadjusted rate increases -- from its 8.8% in January -- to at least match Gallup's mid-month measurement for February, then the government should also report an increase in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February. If the government's unadjusted unemployment rate increases to the degree that Gallup's has from mid-month to mid-month, then the government's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate could show an even larger increase.
However, the extent of the seasonal adjustment also makes a difference. Last February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics applied a seasonal adjustment factor of 0.5 points to its unadjusted unemployment rate for the month. If that same seasonal adjustment is applied to Gallup's mid-month unemployment rate of 9.0%, it would produce a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.5%. Alternatively, if it was applied to Gallup's full-month unemployment rate of 9.1%, it would produce a seasonally adjusted rate of 8.6%. Gallup therefore forecasts an increase in the unemployment rate.
Gallup in February also found a decline in its Job Creation Index, which tends to support an increase in the February unemployment rate.
The consensus forecast, however, is for no change in the government's unemployment rate. February jobless claims were running at roughly 350,000 during the month, implying a relatively stable unemployment rate. Additionally, Wednesday's ADP report suggesting that private-sector jobs increased by more than 200,000 in February is also somewhat supportive of a stable unemployment rate forecast.
Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup's unemployment and underemployment measures show a substantial deterioration since mid-January. In this context, the increase in unemployment as measured by Gallup may, at least partly, reflect growth in the workforce, as more Americans who had given up looking for work become slightly more optimistic and start looking for work again. So while there may be positive signs, the reality Gallup finds is that more Americans are looking for work now than were doing so just six weeks ago.
Gallup.com reports results from these indexes in daily, weekly, and monthly averages and in Gallup.com stories. Complete trend data are always available to view and export in the following charts:
Read more about Gallup's economic measures.
View our economic release schedule.
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 25,000 phone interviews with U.S. adults, aged 18 and older in the workforce, collected during a given month. 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 Feb. 1-29, 2012, with a random sample of 27,275 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 U.S. workers in the workforce, 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 2011 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 www.gallup.com.