The unemployment rate is perhaps the most frequently cited economic indicator in the United States. It measures the share of workers in the labor force who are jobless and looking for work, and it typically tracks closely with the economy’s overall strength. However, the unemployment rate does not provide a complete snapshot of the U.S. labor market — and can even be misleading.
For example, some workers have been unemployed for so long that they become discouraged and give up looking work. Such workers are not factored in to the unemployment rate. Similarly, workers who want a full-time job but are only able to find a part-time position are also not considered unemployed. The unemployment rate is therefore often criticized for expressing an unrealistically rosey economic picture.
The underemployment rate, however, takes all these scenarios into account and provides a more comprehensive assessment of the American labor market.
As of May 2018, the U.S. unemployment was 3.8%, the lowest it has been in nearly two decades. Meanwhile, the underemployment rate as of the end of the first quarter stands at 8.3%, more than double the unemployment rate. Partially because state economies are expanding and contracting at varying rates, underemployment also varies considerably from state to state.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the underemployment rate in each state to identify the states where it is hardest to find full-time work. States are ranked by underemployment rate from lowest to highest.