Looking beyond the May unemployment numbers

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As the Center’s ongoing look behind the numbers, we’re digging into the May unemployment stats. The official unemployment rate is 9.4 percent, up from 8.9 in April. That translates into 14.5 million unemployed people. But as we’ve discussed in the past, that doesn’t mean only 14.5 people are looking for work.

In May, 2.2 million people were classified as marginally employed, meaning they have looked for work within the last year, but not within the two-week window that would move them into the ranks of the officially unemployed. That 2.2 million includes almost 800,000 discouraged workers, people who have simply given up looking for work because they don’t think any jobs are available. And there were more than 9 million people working part-time for economic reasons — people who want to have more hours, or want to work full time, but can’t.

Adding up those numbers, that’s a total of 25.8 million people who want to be working, or working more, up from 24.7 million people in April.