May 14, 2024 - News

NWA's "true" unemployment rate is about 21%

A bar chart showing the U.S. metro areas with the highest and lowest True Rate of Unemployment in 2023. The measure shows the share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage).
Note: Share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage); Data: Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity; Chart: Axios Visuals

The region's "true rate of unemployment" paints a different picture than its standard jobless rate.

Why it matters: About 21% of the labor force in NWA are seeking but unable to find a full-time job, are unemployed or are earning less than $25,000 a year, according to a study by the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity.

Yes, but: NWA's official unemployment rate was 2.5% in March, compared to 3.8% nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Context: The living wage in NWA for an adult with no children is $20.27 per hour — or about $42,000 a year if working 40 hours a week — according to MIT's living wage calculator. For two working adults with two children, it's about $48,000.

  • That means the 21% statistic doesn't account for those working full time making more than $25,000 but less than a living wage.

The big picture: At 23%, the "true rate" of unemployment for the U.S. is a bit higher than the NWA rate.

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