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Most unemployment measures are declining…

...while long-term unemployment is still rising

Many of us follow the unemployment rate closely, even more so since the pandemic began. But there are many definitions of unemployment, which depend on how people are attached to the labor force. To learn more, see this earlier blog post and this conversational account of unemployment measures.

Today’s FRED graph shows the recent evolution of 6 measures of unemployment. All increased dramatically, but not uniformly: The lines didn’t move in a parallel fashion—that is, the distance between them didn’t remain constant. Rather, the lines fanned out, showing that it wasn’t one particular type of unemployment that was responsible for the overall surge.

One detail worth noting, though, is that the long-term unemployed, which by definition take some time to accumulate, are still increasing, while all other unemployment groups are decreasing.

As of August, the long-term unemployed made up 5.1% of the labor force. And if the long-term unemployment rate stays high, the general unemployment rate must stay high, too. If the previous recession is any indication, reducing long-term unemployment may take a long time. Adjust the graph sliders to include the time period of the previous recession, and you’ll see what we mean.

How this graph was created: From the Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization release table (A-15) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employment Situation release, select all (seasonally adjusted) series and click “Add to Graph.” Adjust the sample period as you wish.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: U1RATE, U2RATE, U4RATE, U5RATE, U6RATE, UNRATE

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