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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The statistic most often used to illustrate weakness in Washington State’s labor market is the unemployment rate, or the share of the labor force that is unsuccessfully looking for work. At the national level, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a more comprehensive measure often called the “underemployment rate.” That measure includes people who have stopped looking for work because they have become discouraged. It also includes people who are working part-time because they can’t find fulltime work. During a recession, the gap between the two rates widens because of the increased difficulty of finding employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t publish state-level underemployment rates, but a recent post by Joe Turner got me wondering what was happening with underemployment in Washington State. So I dug into the microdata and the results are shown below. (April is the most recent month available.)

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