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U.S. Unemployment Ticks Down to 7.6% in Mid-December

U.S. Unemployment Ticks Down to 7.6% in Mid-December

But fewer Americans say now is a good time to get a quality job

by Dennis Jacobe

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, is 7.6% in mid-December, improved slightly from 7.8% in November. Gallup's seasonally adjusted unemployment is 7.8% in December, similar to the 7.7% seasonally adjusted rate the U.S. government reported for November.

Gallup Adjusted and Unadjusted Unemployment Rate Trend, January 2011-December 2012

These results are based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews, conducted by landline and cellphone, with approximately 30,000 Americans from Nov. 16-Dec. 15 -- 67.0% of whom are active in the workforce. Gallup calculates the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate by applying the adjustment factor the government used for the same month in the previous year -- in this case, +0.2 percentage points in December 2011. Gallup's rolling 30-day survey period differs significantly from the reference period the government's monthly reports use, which is one week in the first half of the month.

Underemployment, as measured without seasonal adjustment, is 17.3% in mid-December, essentially the same as 17.2% of November. Gallup's U.S. underemployment measure combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed in the workforce with the percentage of those working part time but looking for full-time work.

Gallup's U.S. Underemployment Rate, Monthly Averages

The decline in the mid-December 30-day unemployment rate was offset by an increase in the number of part-timers wanting full-time work, which was at 9.7% in mid-December, up from 9.4% in November.

Percentage of U.S. Workers Working Part Time but Wanting Full-Time Work, Monthly Averages

Quality Job Perceptions Experience Sharp Decline

Americans' perceptions of the quality job climate worsened significantly in December, despite the general stability in the unemployment and underemployment rates. The percentage of Americans saying now is a good time to find a quality job fell sharply to 19% in December from a post-recession/financial crisis high of 24% in November. Three in four Americans (76%) continue to say this is a bad time to find a quality job. The record high for this measure came in January 2007, when 48% said it was a good time to find a quality job.

Trend: Americans' Perceptions of the U.S. Job Market


Gallup Daily tracking data for the 30 days ending on Dec. 15 suggest that the U.S. unemployment situation is largely unchanged in December. As a result, the government in early January seems likely to report little change in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December. Of course, such a projection assumes that the labor force will not show another sharp decline as was the case in November, or significant growth counterbalancing last month's decline.

Many Americans are settling for part-time jobs as 2012 comes to an end because they cannot find full-time work. The slight downtick in the unemployment rate was offset by an uptick in the percentage working part time, but wanting full time work. While part-time work is better than no work -- and even part-time jobs may be harder to get after the holidays -- such jobs do not provide the basis for forming new households or building experience in a quality job.

Indeed, a separate Gallup survey finds Americans becoming more pessimistic about their ability to find a quality job. Fewer Americans say now is a good time to find a quality job than was the case just a month ago. Like full-time work, the availability of quality jobs is key to economic growth.

At last week's Federal Open Market Committee meeting, the Fed suggested that it would keep interest rates low until the unemployment rate reached 6.5%. Further, the FOMC implied that achieving this goal could take until mid-2015. Gallup's data suggest that the Fed should not just target monetary policy based on the unemployment rate, but should also take into account the quality of the jobs available and the percentage of the entire population that works full time for an employer.

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, 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

Unemployment and underemployment results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking from Nov. 16-Dec. 15, 2012, with a random sample of about 30,000 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 the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±1 percentage point.

Quality job results are based on a Gallup poll including telephone interviews conducted Dec. 14-17, 2012 with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±3 percentage points.

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 cellphone 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. Cellphone 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 (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone 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.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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