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U-6 (Unemployment) Rate


The U-6 unemployment rate, often referred to as the “real” or “underemployment” rate, is a broader measure of unemployment in an economy. This rate includes not only the unemployed individuals actively seeking work, but also individuals marginally attached to the labor force, such as discouraged workers, and those employed part-time for economic reasons. Consequently, the U-6 rate provides a more comprehensive picture of the labor market’s health compared to the official unemployment rate (U-3).


The phonetics for the keyword: U-6 (Unemployment) Rate is:Yoo-Siks (Un-əm-ploy-mənt) Rayt

Key Takeaways

  1. U-6 Unemployment Rate is a more comprehensive measure of unemployment: Unlike the standard unemployment rate, the U-6 rate factors in marginally attached workers and those working part-time for economic reasons, thereby providing a broader view of the employment situation.
  2. It tends to be higher than the official unemployment rate: Since U-6 captures a larger pool of individuals facing labor market challenges, its value is generally higher than the official unemployment rate (U-3 rate), which only considers those who are actively seeking employment and are without a job.
  3. U-6 is useful for understanding underemployment and labor utilization: The U-6 rate helps analysts, policymakers, and the public to gain insight into underemployment and the overall efficiency of labor market utilization, making it an important tool for understanding the health of the economy and formulating policy decisions.


The U-6 Unemployment Rate is an important measure in business and finance because it provides a more comprehensive view of the labor market than the traditional unemployment rate. Considered the “real” unemployment rate, it includes not only the unemployed individuals actively looking for work but also those who are underemployed, working part-time for economic reasons, and those who are marginally attached to the labor force (discouraged workers who have given up on searching for a job due to market conditions). By capturing these additional components of the workforce, the U-6 rate offers valuable insights into the overall health of the economy, the efficiency of the labor market, and potential weaknesses in economic growth that may not be visible through the standard unemployment rate. This information aids policymakers, businesses, and investors in making informed decisions based on a more accurate portrayal of labor market dynamics.


The U-6 unemployment rate serves as a broader measure of labor market conditions in comparison to the standard unemployment rate (U-3). This comprehensive statistic acknowledges not only those who are actively seeking employment but also captures individuals marginally attached to the labor force or working part-time for economic reasons. By including these additional groups, the U-6 rate enables a deeper analysis of the labor market, allowing for the identification of trends and changes within population segments that might otherwise be overlooked. Consequently, the U-6 rate is considered to be a more accurate representation of the unemployment landscape, providing valuable insights for policymakers, businesses, and financial analysts when making decisions or formulating strategies. The main purpose of the U-6 unemployment rate is to provide a broader and more nuanced understanding of the labor market, which aids in informed decision-making on critical issues relating to employment policies and economic stability. As the U-6 rate accounts for workers who are not fully utilizing their potential, it helps to paint a clearer picture of labor market inefficiencies and potential areas of untapped human capital. This comprehensive assessment is vital for businesses in identifying potential workforce expansions, as well as for government institutions when designing policies to promote economic growth and tackle unemployment. Additionally, the U-6 rate assists economists and financial analysts in tracking economic cyclicality, monitoring potential trends, and refining labor market forecasts, which in turn, contribute to the overall management of economic policies and investment strategies.


The U-6 unemployment rate, also known as the underemployment rate, is a comprehensive measure of labor underutilization in the economy, including those who have given up finding a job, involuntary part-time workers, and the standard unemployment rate. Here are three real-world examples illustrating the concept: 1. The 2008 Great Recession: The U.S. economy faced a major downturn during the Great Recession (late 2007 to mid-2009), which led to a sharp increase in the U-6 unemployment rate. In October 2009, the U-6 unemployment rate peaked at 17.2%, indicating that a large portion of the workforce was underemployed, including part-time workers seeking full-time employment and discouraged workers who had stopped looking for jobs. 2. The COVID-19 Pandemic: The global pandemic in 2020 led to widespread job losses and business shutdowns in various sectors, particularly in hospitality, travel, and retail. In April 2020, the U.S. U-6 unemployment rate reached a historical high of 22.8%, reflecting the substantial economic impact of the pandemic on workers. 3. Seasonal Job Markets: In areas with a high dependency on seasonal industries, such as tourism, agriculture, or construction, the U-6 unemployment rate can fluctuate throughout the year. For example, in a tourist destination, the U-6 rate might increase during the off-season due to reduced hours or temporary layoffs of workers catering to the tourism industry, while it might decrease during the peak season as businesses increase hiring and hours of operation.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What does the U-6 (Unemployment) Rate mean?
The U-6 Unemployment Rate, also known as the “real” unemployment rate, is a broader measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers, marginally attached workers, and those who are employed part-time for economic reasons. It provides a more comprehensive view of the labor market compared to the traditional U-3 unemployment rate.
How is the U-6 rate different from the U-3 rate?
The U-3 rate, the official unemployment rate, measures the percentage of people without a job who have actively looked for work during the last month. The U-6 rate, on the other hand, takes into account those who have given up looking for work, are underemployed, or are only working part-time because of economic reasons.
What are discouraged workers and marginally attached workers?
Discouraged workers are individuals who have stopped looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available for them. Marginally attached workers are those who have looked for work in the past year but are not currently searching due to reasons such as family responsibilities or transportation issues. Both of these groups are included in the U-6 rate calculation.
How is the U-6 rate calculated?
The U-6 rate is calculated by adding together the number of unemployed individuals, discouraged workers, marginally attached workers, and those working part-time for economic reasons. This sum is then divided by the total labor force, which includes both employed and unemployed individuals, and the result is expressed as a percentage.
How can the U-6 rate be useful for understanding the economy?
The U-6 rate provides a more accurate picture of the true state of the labor market. It accounts for the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work, which can be particularly relevant during economic downturns. Comparing the U-6 rate to the U-3 rate can help indicate the level of labor market slack and the potential for future job growth.
Where can I find the U-6 unemployment rate data?
The U-6 unemployment rate data can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website. Their monthly Employment Situation report provides the most recent data for both the U-3 and U-6 rates.

Related Finance Terms

  • Labor Force Participation Rate
  • Underemployment
  • D discouraged Workers
  • Marginally Attached Workers
  • Nonfarm Payroll Employment

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