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Is the Real Unemployment Rate 10%?

Nov 14, 2015 | Economics

In the Democratic debate on November 14, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) stated that the real unemployment rate was around 10 percent. When Sanders says 10 percent, he is referring to the U-6 unemployment rate which includes people who are not looking for work but would like to work (also known as those who are marginally attached to the workforce) and people who are working part-time for economic reasons. That unemployment rate in October 2015 was 9.5 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (or 9.8 percent when seasonally adjusted). However, the official unemployment rate (also known as the U-3 unemployment rate), which is people who are currently searching for work, was much lower at 4.8 percent in October or the more often cited 5.0 percent when seasonally adjusted.

Which measure is the "real" unemployment rate is a matter of opinion. Importantly, whatever measure is used should be put in context with previous estimates of the same measure rather than compared on an apples-to-oranges basis.

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