Unemployment Data–FEBRUARY 2021

February 2021 Unemployment Data–the Full Count

The BLS estimates that official unemployment this month may be understated by up to 0.5%, reflecting measurement problems.



African American
Persons with a disability¹
Men 20 years and over
Women 20 years and over
Teens (16-19 years)
Black teens
Officially unemployed
10.0 million


Working part-time because can’t find a full-time job:  6.1 million
People who want jobs but are not looking so are not counted in official statistics (of which about 1.9 million¹ searched for work during the prior 12 months and were available for work during the reference week.) 6.9 million
Total: 23.0 million (13.8% of the labor force)

Source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf Read p. 5, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on February 2021 Establishment and Household Survey Data for problems. See also Current Employment Statistics–Highlights. For BLS State and area data, see Geographic Information and State Unemployment Summary and Current Unemployment Rates for States and Historical Highs/Lows, Seasonally Adjusted

*See Uncommon Sense #4 and How the BLS Measures Unemployment for an explanation of the unemployment measures.

¹Not seasonally adjusted.  Marginally Attached workers want work and are available, have looked for work within the last 12 months, but not during “the 4 weeks preceding the survey.”

In addition, millions more were working full-time, year-round, yet earned less than the official poverty level for a family of four. In 2019,  that number was 16.7 million, 14.0 percent of full-time, full-year workers (estimated from Current Population Survey, Bur. of the  Census). The poverty threshold in 2019 was $26,172 for a family of four.

In January 2021, the latest month available, the number of job openings was 6.9 million. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, March 11, 2021.  Thus there are 3.3 job-wanters for each available job. See also JOLTS Experimental State Estimates

Unemployment is measured as a percent of the civilian non-institutional labor force.  The unemployed are those who have not worked at least an hour during the week of record, when a sample survey is taken, and who have looked for work during that month. The labor force includes those 16 years old and older who are either working or unemployed.  It excludes those in  institutions, like nursing homes or prisons, and those in the military. The latter two groups would in all likelihood experience high unemployment. Merely adding the incarcerated would add about one percentage point to the unemployment rate.

One thought on “Unemployment Data–FEBRUARY 2021

  1. I often compare the “average weekly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers” at the BLS web page: — https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/CES0500000031. The bad news is that the Feb. 1966 average was higher than the Feb. 2020 average. Since the Feb. 2021 average is about 6% higher, pandemic related, the Jan. 2021 matches the average for Oct. 1972. If the missing 7.8 million P&N workers are rehired, the average will sink back to the 1966 average, likely. The Job Quality Index shows that the nonsupervisory workers have an average weekly income of $44,835/year, or $865.16/week. Of the 98 million employed P&N workers today, 55% earn an average of $35,510/yr, and the higher paid 44% earn $61,416, which 73% higher than the lower workers. This analysis leaves out the about 54 million who work part-time and/or partial year (30.1% of all workers), and I think their average income in $19,000/year. The Brookings paper Meet the Low Wage Workforce explains this. Though they leave out 27 million workers who they consider seasonal or family or disabled, and whose wages are very low. The Social Security Administration reports — https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2019 — in a wage income report that the median wage earnings out of 169 million in 2019 was $34,248. Exactly 19.37105% of wage workers, over 32 million, earned less than $10,000, and their average was $4,140/year. The report on this page implies a work force of 166 million, because it adds on workers who have officially dropped out. The BLS reports total workforce at 160.21 million in Table A-1 Employment. The SSA reports 169,328,746 workers (2019). —— All that. The main idea is that wages were higher in 1972, and if pandemic layoffs are rehired, the wage of 1966 will be higher, again.

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