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2.7%  Q1 GDP    4.57%  avg. 30-year mortgage     9.5%  Unemployment

Truer unemployment rate rises to 17.3%

A truer measure of the nation's unemployment rate rose to 17.3 percent in December, up from 17.2 percent and just off its recent historic high, set in October, according to government data out this morning.

The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly unemployment figures this morning and reported that the official U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged from November, at 10 percent.

But, as regular readers of this blog know, each month I unpack the jobless data to take a look at truer measures of unemployment.

The 10 percent figure does not take into account a) all the jobless Americans who have grown so discouraged while looking for work that they have given up and checked out of the labor force and b) part-time workers who want full-time jobs but can't find them.

If you add these two groups to the unemployment figure -- as I believe you should -- the number rises from 10 percent to 17.3 percent. I believe this is a truer measure of U.S. unemployment because it both categories -- the discouraged and the involuntary part-timers -- put added stresses on the economy, including extra unemployment benefits and reduced contributions to GDP.

The figure hit a previous peak of 17.4 percent in October. To show you how it's increased over the past two years, the number was 13.7 percent in December 2008 and 8.8 percent in December 2007, the month the Great Recession began.

Unemployment is counted differently now than it was during the Great Depression, but it's worth noting that the all-time high for unemployment in the U.S. came during the nadir of the Great Depression in early 1933, when it hit 25 percent.

-- Frank Ahrens
Follow me on Twitter at @theticker

By Frank Ahrens  |  January 8, 2010; 12:27 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker , Unemployment  | Tags: BLS, jobless rate, unemployment  
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