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Gallup poll shows that U.S. unemployment went up in February

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 8th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

As measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, U.S. unemployment increased to 9.1 percent in February from 8.6 percent in January and 8.5 percent in December. The 0.5-percentage-point increase in February compared with January was 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 percent from 8.8 percent in November.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Gallup recorded a February increase of 0.4 percentage points last year, to 10.3 percent from 9.9 percent in January 2011.

In addition to the 9.1 percent of U.S. workers who are unemployed, 10.0 percent are working part-time but desire full-time work. These figures are similar to the 10.1 percent in January, higher than the 9.6 percent of February 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, increased to 19.1 percent in February from 18.7 percent in January. This is an improvement from the 19.9 percent of February 2011.

The recent unemployment rate that the U.S. government will report at the end of this week will be based largely on mid-month conditions. In the middle of February, Gallup reported that its U.S. unemployment rate had increased to 9.0 percent from 8.3 percent in mid-January. Readings conducted in the middle of the month 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 percent 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.

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 percent, it would produce a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.5 percent. If this is applied to Gallup's full-month unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, it would produce a seasonally adjusted rate of 8.6 percent. Gallup therefore forecasts an increase in the unemployment rate.

The consensus forecast 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. This week's ADP report suggested 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.

While thee may be viewed as positive developments, the reality Gallup finds is that more Americans are looking for work now than were doing so just six weeks ago.

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