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U.S. Unemployment Ticks Down in Mid-March

U.S. Unemployment Ticks Down in Mid-March

Underemployment is 18.6%, down from 19.1% in February

by Dennis Jacobe

PRINCETON, NJ - The U.S. unemployment rate, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, declined to 8.8% in mid-March from 9.1% in February.


The 0.3-percentage-point decline in mid-March moderates the 0.5-point increase Gallup found in February, but it still leaves the mid-month rate higher than the 8.6% in January. A year ago, Gallup recorded a similar decline in the March unemployment rate of 0.4 points, as it fell to 9.9% in March from 10.3% in February.

The percentage of Americans working part time but wanting full-time work also declined in mid-March, to 9.8% from 10.0% in February. While the percentage of unemployed Americans is lower than it was a year ago, the percentage of Americans working part-time but seeking full-time work in mid-March is higher than the 9.2% of March 2011.


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, decreased to 18.6% in mid-March from 19.1% in February. This is an improvement from February, and it also is better than the 19.1% of March 2011.


Looking Ahead to the Government's Unemployment Report

The U.S. government will report its March unemployment rate on Friday, April 6. It will be based largely on mid-month reference week conditions. At 8.8%, Gallup's mid-March unadjusted unemployment rate is down by 0.3 points from 9.1% in February. This suggests that "real" unemployment decreased in March. Of course, Gallup's unadjusted rate in February was substantially higher than the government's unadjusted 8.7% rate.

The relationship between Gallup's unadjusted number and the U.S. government's seasonally adjusted number is complex and not always straightforward. This is in part because the government's seasonal adjustment factor varies from month to month and from year to year.

Last March, the government's seasonal adjustment was -0.3 percentage points, reducing its 9.2% unadjusted rate to an 8.9% seasonally adjusted rate. Applying the government's March 2011 seasonal adjustment to Gallup's unadjusted March 2012 data, the result is an implied seasonally adjusted March unemployment rate of 8.5%. Gallup's comparable number in mid-February (applying the government's February 2011 adjustment of -0.5 percentage points to Gallup's unadjusted mid-February number of 9.0%) was also 8.5%.

Regardless of what the government's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate ends up being for March, given the recession and financial crisis of recent years, Gallup believes that the best measure of real unemployment is an unadjusted rate. In this regard, Gallup finds modest increases in job creation and in the percentage of Americans who say now is a good time to find a quality job. These marginal improvements, along with the moderate expansion of the overall U.S. economy, tend to support Gallup's finding that the unadjusted unemployment rate showed modest improvement in mid-March.

Still, the 8.8% unadjusted unemployment rate and 18.6% underemployment rate that Gallup finds are not much to celebrate so long after a recession that began in December 2007.

wiuaxv21leetgdywxlbu5g.gif 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, 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 Feb. 16-Mar. 15, 2012, with a random sample of 18,825 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 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

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