May 7, 2024 - News

San Francisco's true unemployment rate

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

San Francisco's "true unemployment" rate last year was 22%, compared to its official rate of 4.2%, according to data from the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity (LISEP).

Why it matters: The new dataset highlights the true spectrum of inequality in major metro areas, capturing anyone who wants to but cannot find a full-time job with a living wage.

How it works: The think tank's proprietary system measures the proportion of workers looking for a full-time job that pays a living wage — and who are unable to find one.

  • LISEP's unemployment rates tend to be higher than the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics' rates because the BLS rate excludes people who might be earning only a few dollars a week. LISEP, by contrast, counts as unemployed anybody earning less than $25,000 per year.
  • The BLS, unlike LISEP, also excludes anybody who has stopped looking for work or is discouraged by a lack of jobs or the demands of child care.

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