Unemployment Data–MARCH 2021

March 2021 Unemployment Data–the Full Count

The BLS estimates that official unemployment this month may be understated by up to 0.4%, 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
9.7 million


Working part-time because can’t find a full-time job:  5.8 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: 22.4 million (13.4% of the labor force)

Source: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf Read p. 5, Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on March 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.”

WORKING BUT IN POVERTY 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.

HOW MANY JOBS ARE AVAILABLE? In February 2021, the latest month available, the number of job openings was 7.4 million. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, April 6, 2021.  Thus there are 3.0 job-wanters for each available job. See also JOLTS Experimental State Estimates

HOW UNEMPLOYMENT IS MEASURED: 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.

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