Jim Robson, Senior Economist
Utah’s official monthly seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October 2018 was 3.2 percent. Such a low rate has characterized the Utah labor market for several years. To be unemployed and counted in the labor force, a person must not have a job, be available to take a job and have actively sought a job in the past four weeks. But this “official” unemployment rate measure is not the only labor utilization measurement. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) actually has unemployment measures and labor underutilization measures beyond the official rate. It calculates these on a quarterly basis for the nation and all 50 states.
Unemployment and labor underutilization estimates are based on a national monthly survey called the Current Population Survey (CPS). Other variable are added to the state survey results as state’s CPS sample is relatively small.
BLS’ most inclusive labor underutilization measure is known as U-6 (the last of six underutilization statistics). There are three components to U-6. In addition to the officially unemployed (U-3), BLS adds marginally attached workers—those who are available for work and have looked for work during the past year but did not look for work in the most recent four weeks (U-5). Finally, BLS adds in involuntary part-time workers—those who are working part-time but want full-time jobs. This becomes U-6. U-6 cannot be labeled an unemployment rate as it includes people who are not unemployed, but these people are not working to the fullest extent they would like. From their perspective, they are underutilized. Because of this employed component, the U series is labeled as an underutilization measure instead of an unemployment measure.