The Faces Behind the “Official” Unemployment Rate


29% of our potential is not working but should be
The Numbers Behind the “Official” Unemployment Rate

By: Joe J. Wallace

Knowing a number of people who are unemployed, underemployed, or have exhausted their unemployment benefits and have essentially become “ghosts” as far as official statistics are concerned, an effort has been made to put real numbers of real people into three categories.

The categories to be examined are those who have jobs which is defined by the Bureau of Labor as people working for a paycheck for more than 30 hours per week, the official unemployed plus underemployed, and the people who for some reason are fully capable of working but are neither working nor looking for work.

The population of the United States as estimated by the Census Department should be right at 315 Million people today based on starting 2012 with 312.8 Million and growing at one net person every 17 seconds including births, deaths, and immigration.

The highest workforce to population ratio ever was 64.3% and occurred in 2001. Based on a 2012 population of 315 Million that would equate to 202,545,000 people who should be in the labor force today.

The lowest workforce to population since back in the 60’s when the dual income family started to emerge as the model is 58.3% and corresponds to from 2009 until now with little change. That equates to 183,645,000 people either working full time, part time, or actively looking for work.

The number of actual full time jobs right now is 45.6% of the population or 143,640,000 people working more than 30 hours per week.

Given those numbers the number of people either looking for a job or unemployed is 40,005,000 people (19.8% of historically capable workforce).

The number of people that have just given up and dropped out of the workforce for some reason is 18,900,000 (9.3% of historically capable workforce).

The total number of people that are either unemployed, underemployed, or have dropped out is now nearly 59 Million people (29.1% of historically capable workforce?

Our government tells us the “official” unemployment rate is 7.8% that only accounts for the needs of 15,798,510 of our citizens who qualify to be counted in “official” unemployment numbers. This undercounts the workforce by a full 43,106,490 capable people who should be working by all historical measures.

These people find ways to survive including doing odd jobs for cash, finding friendly medical professionals to help them get onto disability, buying and selling merchandise in the black market, relying on the generosity of others, accessing the social safety net, or living off savings. The bottom line is that we have over 43 Million people who are in the business of surviving and paying no taxes on their income or consuming the resources of others.

The earnings of 43 Million workers at an average wage of $50,000 per year amounts to $1.72 Trillion that income and employment taxes are not paid on. From an IRS perspective it creates a shortfall in FICA taxes of $263 Billion and income taxes of roughly the same amount. This also deprives employers of roughly $172 Billion in potential profits at a profit margin of 10% which is also taxable at appropriate rates.

By kidding ourselves and allowing our government to deceive us while patting themselves on the back, our country is squandering the most valuable asset that we have in the labor, the industriousness, and the spirits of 43 Million people. We need to demand truthfulness and transparency in our government officials and statistics lest we wake up soon when some more people become “ghosts” to the reality of an “official” unemployment rate of 5% with 50 Million people who have checked out and entered survival mode. That is a burden that the rest of us will not be able to bear.

Source for Data: Center for Budget and Policy Priorities


  1. a Fact that bodes disaster for the future? The unemployed rate for the Youth population of America is thru the Roof, and way higher than this truthful and dismal assessment of the larger picture on unemployement.

  2. Well, the big problem is that the voters of this country seem to be incapable of even knowing that 29% of 100 is 29. Their eyes glaze over when numbers are presented unless those numbers are on a check made out to them.

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