Underemployment in Minnesota

by Teri Fritsma

There’s unemployment, and then there’s underemployment.  Unemployment includes people who are out of work and are looking for work.  Underemployment includes a much larger group of people–those who don’t necessarily fit the strict definition of being unemployed but are also not in the best of economic circumstances. 


 Underemployment includes:


  • Marginally attached workers–people who aren’t working and aren’t looking for work but would like to be working.
  • Discouraged workers (a subset of the “marginally attached”)–people who have given a job market related reason for why they’re not looking for work (such as “there are no jobs available”); and
  • Involuntary part-time workers–people who are employed part-time but would rather be working full-time.


This measure, officially named “U6” but often referred to as “underemployment,” is calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  It’s called U6 because it’s the last of  6 measures of labor underutilization.  “U3” is the official unemployment rate.   


The map below shows underemployment by state, and includes data from the 3rd quarter of 2008 through the 2nd quarter of 2009.  Click on the map to interact. Using the dropdown box on the left, you can also view U3 — the official unemployment rate — by state.


Minnesota’s underemployment rate is 13.0% — not the worst in the nation, but not the best, either.

Are you among the 13 percent of Minnesota’s workforce who are underemployed? Though you may feel powerless, you’re not.  Now may be an ideal time to think about your career goals and consider your next step.  This could include assessing your skills, changing careers, taking an online class or finding short-term training.  Find more tips on coping with underemployment here.

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