Author Archives: James_Hamilton

Interpreting the unemployment numbers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that 2.5 million more Americans were working in May than in April. That’s the biggest monthly increase since 1946, both in terms of the number of workers and as a percentage of the workforce. The unemployment rate dropped from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May, the biggest monthly drop since 1950. All this is very good news. But there are also indications that we are in a deeper hole than the headline numbers suggest. Here I explain why I believe the true unemployment rate in May was a number more like 19.8%.
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