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Good Question: Who Counts As Unemployed?

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Thursday, President Obama will speak to the country about his job plan, but Bill from Fridley first wants to know: who counts as unemployed?

The national unemployment rate is 9.1 percent. For every open job, there are 4.5 unemployed people competing.

The official stat only counts people who don’t have a job; who actively looked for work in the past four weeks; and are currently available for work. That’s about 14 million Americans.

It doesn’t include marginally attached and discouraged workers. Those are the 2.6 million people who’ve stopped looking because they’ve been passed over too many times, or they feel there are no jobs out there.

“You can’t give up, sooner or later you might get lucky — you might not,” said one job seeker.

And then there are the part-timers who want full-time work. About 8.8 million Americans had their hours cut, and are looking for more.

If we counted all of those people — our unemployment rate would be far above 9 percent. The real number is more like 16.2 percent.

A lot of people think the unemployment rate is figured out by counting people who file for unemployment, but that’s not true. It’s actually a giant, scientific, public opinion poll. About 60,000 households are called every month.

When Minnesota reports its unemployment numbers, the state is sharing how many people file for unemployment.

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