The official BLS seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for September 2021, is 4.8%. That unemployment rate is lower than the 5.2% in August and substantially less than the 7.8% unemployment rate of September 2020.
If one considers the total number of unemployed + those marginally attached to the labor force + those working part-time who want full-time work, the unemployment rate in September was 8.5%, down from 9.2% in July and substantially less than 12.8% a year earlier.
The Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is 61.6%, down from 61.7% in August 2021.
The 4.8% September unemployment rate certainly seems positive given that as recently as June the rate was 5.9%. The rate is the number that gets extensive media coverage when it is made public, given that it is produced by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS uses the U-3 number, described as Total Unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (it is the official unemployment rate).
Unfortunately, that number does not paint a true picture of the unemployment situation in the United States. That number only represents the unemployment status of people who are in the labor force on a fulltime basis.
The fact is that in the last year, 2,000,000 women and 1,000,000 men have left the labor force. In the year February 2020-2021, 3,000,000 women dropped out of the labor force.
WW is of the view that the more realistic employment picture is the U-6 number, which for September is 8.5%. The U-6 number is described as total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.
The Demographics of Unemployment for September 2021
Unemployment by Gender (20 years and older)
Women –3.7% (down from last month)
Men –4.2% (down from last month)
Unemployment by Race
White – 4.2% (down from last month)
Black – 7.9% (down from last month)
Hispanic – 6.3% (down from last month)
Asian –4.2% (down from last month)
Unemployment by Education (25 years & over)
Less than high school –7.9% (up from last month)
High School –5.8% (down from last month)
Some college –4.5% (down from last month)
Bachelor’s Degree or higher – 2.5% (down from last month)
In August, 31 states had unemployment rates below the national average of 5.2%. 21 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, had unemployment rates that were above the national average.
The state with the highest unemployment rate in August was Puerto Rico at 8.4%. [BLS 10/21]