Snapshots of Ourselves, the Working Class

Who are the 23 Million ‘Underemployed’ Workers?

By Heidi Shierholz
Beaver County Blue via

Nov 28, 2012 – The number 23 million is often loosely used in public debate to mean the number of people “looking for work.”

But who does this number count and not count? First, it includes 12.3 million people who meet the official definition of unemployment: jobless workers who are actively seeking work.

Second, it includes the 8.3 million workers who are working part time but who want and are available for full-time work (“involuntary” part-timers).

Third, it includes the 2.5 million people who want a job and are available to work, but have given up actively seeking work (“marginally attached” workers). These three groups together—23.1 million strong—make up the group commonly referred to as the “underemployed.”

Who is not counted in that 23 million? Workers who are underemployed in a “skills or experience” sense (e.g., a mechanical engineer working as a barista). Unfortunately, there is no official measure that counts people who are underemployed in this way.

The figure below shows how the number of “underemployed” workers has evolved since 2000. The number of underemployed workers increased over the weak business cycle of 2000–2007 from 10.0 million in the fourth quarter of 2000 to 13.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. It then shot up in the Great Recession to a peak of 26.9 million in Oct. 2009 before modestly improving to its current level.

One thought on “Snapshots of Ourselves, the Working Class”

  1. This situation was man made to enhance the wealth of a few. Unions were destroyed in record numbers by changes in the laws. The Business round Table organized the strategy and monitarily supported the political/banking arm. Taking away money from consumers kills all business.Our country is declining because the corporations run the political system , when the people are to regulate and run the corporations. The tail wags the dog!

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