Gallup Finds February US Unemployment Jumps Most Since 2010, Third Consecutive Monthly Increase

Tyler Durden's picture

When it comes to economic data, there is the BLS's seasonally-adjusted, Birth/Death-ed, Arima-factored, goal-seeked, election year propaganda, or there is real time polling such as that conducted every month by Gallup. And while there is no doubt tomorrow's NFP number will be just better than expected (after all it is an election year for the Derpartment of Truth), the reality is that in February unemployment, that measured by the impartial polling agency Gallup, soared by 0.5%, the most since late 2010, from 8.6% to 9.1%, and back to August 2011 levels. As for the U-6 BLS equivalent, Gallup's underemployment metric rose to 19.1% from 18.7% in January, and a 18% low in mid 2011. The good news, it is just modestly better than the 19.9% in February 2011. Gallup's conclusion, which should be pretty obvious: "Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup's unemployment and underemployment measures show a substantial deterioration since mid-January. In this context, the increase in unemployment as measured by Gallup may, at least partly, reflect growth in the workforce, as more Americans who had given up looking for work become slightly more optimistic and start looking for work again. So while there may be positive signs, the reality Gallup finds is that more Americans are looking for work now than were doing so just six weeks ago....In mid-February, Gallup reported that its U.S. unemployment rate had increased to 9.0% from 8.3% in mid-January. The mid-month reading normally provides a relatively good estimate of the government's unadjusted unemployment rate for the month." Ahh.. Unadjusted. As for tomorrow, expect the BLS to continue in treating seasonally-adjusted Americans like idiots, and pushing the disconnect between the economy as seen by DC bureaucrats and Joe Sixpack to record spreads.

From Gallup:

U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, increased to 9.1% in February from 8.6% in January and 8.5% in December.

Gallup's U.S. Unemployment Rate, Monthly Averages

The 0.5-percentage-point increase in February compared with January is the largest such month-to-month change Gallup has recorded in its not-seasonally adjusted measure since December 2010, when the rate rose 0.8 points to 9.6% from 8.8% in November. A year ago, Gallup recorded a February increase of 0.4 percentage points, to 10.3% from 9.9% in January 2011.

In addition to the 9.1% of U.S. workers who are unemployed, 10.0% are working part time but want full-time work. This percentage is similar to the 10.1% in January, but is higher than the 9.6% of February 2011.

Percentage of U.S. Workers Working Part Time but Wanting Full-Time Work, Monthly Averages

As a result, Gallup's U.S. underemployment measure, which combines the percentage of workers who are unemployed and the percentage working part time but wanting full-time work, increased to 19.1% in February from 18.7% in January. This is an improvement from the 19.9% of February 2011.

Gallup's U.S. Underemployment Rate, Monthly Averages

Looking Ahead to the Government's Unemployment Report

The February unemployment rate the U.S. government reports on Friday morning will be based largely on mid-month conditions. In mid-February, Gallup reported that its U.S. unemployment rate had increased to 9.0% from 8.3% in mid-January. The mid-month reading normally provides a relatively good estimate of the government's unadjusted unemployment rate for the month.

Assuming the government's unadjusted rate increases -- from its 8.8% in January -- to at least match Gallup's mid-month measurement for February, then the government should also report an increase in the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February. If the government's unadjusted unemployment rate increases to the degree that Gallup's has from mid-month to mid-month, then the government's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate could show an even larger increase.

However, the extent of the seasonal adjustment also makes a difference. Last February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics applied a seasonal adjustment factor of 0.5 points to its unadjusted unemployment rate for the month. If that same seasonal adjustment is applied to Gallup's mid-month unemployment rate of 9.0%, it would produce a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.5%. Alternatively, if it was applied to Gallup's full-month unemployment rate of 9.1%, it would produce a seasonally adjusted rate of 8.6%. Gallup therefore forecasts an increase in the unemployment rate.

Gallup in February also found a decline in its Job Creation Index, which tends to support an increase in the February unemployment rate.

The consensus forecast, however, is for no change in the government's unemployment rate. February jobless claims were running at roughly 350,000 during the month, implying a relatively stable unemployment rate. Additionally, Wednesday's ADP report suggesting that private-sector jobs increased by more than 200,000 in February is also somewhat supportive of a stable unemployment rate forecast.

Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup's unemployment and underemployment measures show a substantial deterioration since mid-January. In this context, the increase in unemployment as measured by Gallup may, at least partly, reflect growth in the workforce, as more Americans who had given up looking for work become slightly more optimistic and start looking for work again. So while there may be positive signs, the reality Gallup finds is that more Americans are looking for work now than were doing so just six weeks ago.

Gallup's U.S. Underemployment Rate, Monthly Averages