The 800 Pound U.S. Underemployment Gorilla

mature job seeker

Mature unemployed salesman makes a call on his cell phone to reply to a advertisement for a want ad job in the newspaper.

Unemployment, as an economic concept, is fairly easy to define. The unemployment rate is the percentage of Americans of working age who want to get a job but cannot get a job. Consequently, these people don’t have jobs. This is the standard textbook definition of unemployment in the United States.

However, a growing chorus of critics have a serious problem with this definition. This definition paints an unnecessarily rosy picture of the health of the U.S. job market. No less than acclaimed company Gallop Group takes exception to the official jobless benchmark. Gallop is saying that the U.S. jobs figure should also factor in underemployment.

Underemployment has many different definitions. But for simplicity’s sake, underemployment is when you are qualified but you can only find a part-time job. In short, you would like to work a full-time job and make a full-time income, but you can only get a part-time job and settle for lower wages.

There are many cases of people with advanced degrees who are waiting tables in the United States. We are talking about those with law degrees, PHDs, or master’s degrees from sciences to mathematics. These are people who are working ten hours per week, when they wish they could be working 40 hours per week. Of course, they wish they would be working within their fields. Unfortunately, the jobs just aren’t there.

Gallop’s beef with the government’s rosy jobless numbers is that the painful reality of underemployment is not reflected in those numbers. Gallop issued a very strong opinion piece on its website calling the government’s unemployment figures “a big lie”. There is a lot of truth to Gallop’s argument.

There is a lot of pain currently being felt by workers in the United States. These are individuals who are highly skilled, highly talented, and have solid experience. For some reason or another, they are forced to settle for jobs that aren’t full time and jobs that pay them nowhere close to what they should be earning. Expect this level of discontent to bubble up eventually, unless it is dealt with soon.


Jacob Maslow is a native New Yorker with  five children. He left his payroll manager position after finding that his true passion was in writing, and has never looked back.


  1. Well, said. I would add that the unemployed not counted are also a big factor and another chance for the govt to “rosy up” the numbers. I know highly skilled formrerly self employed with no work, they do not count. I know well educated and experienced technical people, that recently went years without a job and were looking hard, but being so long out and no longer qualified for Unemployment payments I believe they were no longer counted either. Some knowledgeable friends spropose we should be looking at the number of non-governmental jobs instead of the fictitious “unemployment” number. But a politician will look for the rosy angle for sure. But angles of looking at it will not fix it either way.

  2. My pay has gone down from $22.00 per hour (2009) down to $12.50 (2015) a hour because of the flood of illegal immigrants. Only reason I still have a job is because I have a drivers license, when they give that to illegals I will be permently unemployed.

  3. So what? This is the new normal. Technology is rapidly making people everywhere obsolete while the overall population continues to surge ahead. Radio Shack is just the latest example of how technology has caused tens of thousands of people to lose their jobs and livelihoods, replaced by a few hundred wage-slave warehouse workers for Amazon (who are themselves endangered by Amazon’s order fulfillment robots that are currently in use). While Radio Shack employees may not be the most highly skilled or well paid people in the world, but the bottom line is that they work and live in our own communities, contributing to our local economies. E-commerce builds warehouses wherever they can get away with paying the lowest wages, stripping money away from any community where people actually would want to live.

    The only real endgame here is that we need some sort of apocalyptic disaster that wipes out a significant percentage of our population. Until that day, we will continue our slow march into a bleak future of widespread poverty and stark divisions between the elite and the rest of us. People get a four year degree that is already obsolete by the time they graduate, and CEO’s are only concerned with increasing their bonuses by finding new and creative ways of reducing their payroll by any means necessary. Even professionals with useful skills are being laid off by their employers and forced to work for minimal pay and benefits with a contracting or staffing company, because the large corporations can save money by contracting out their work, avoiding having to pay for any benefits themselves. It is a race to bottom, and there is no end in sight.

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