The unemployment rate shot up by half a percentage point in February, according to figures released by the polling organization Gallup on Thursday.
The jump from 8.6 percent in January to 9.1 percent last month is the largest month-by-month increase in more than a year, Gallup said. It is the highest rate since August.
Gallup’s figures differ from the official government unemployment rate because they do not adjust the figure for seasonal variations or include anyone under 18. The survey suggests that the official figures will also show an increase from January’s 8.3 percent when they are released on Friday, said Gallup’s chief economist Dennis Jacobe.
“If the government's unadjusted unemployment rate increases to the degree that Gallup's has from mid-month to mid-month, then the government's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate could show an even larger increase,” Jacobe said.
He predicted the government figure for February would stand at either 8.5 or 8.6 percent.
Gallup’s figure reveals the largest single month increase since December 2010 when it went up from 8.8 percent to 9.6 percent. According to the organization, the underemployment rate – which includes part-time workers who want to be in full-time employment, rose from 18.7 percent to 19.1 percent in February, the highest since last May.
“Regardless of what the government reports, Gallup's unemployment and underemployment measures show a substantial deterioration since mid-January,” added Jacobe. “In this context, the increase in unemployment as measured by Gallup may, at least partly, reflect growth in the workforce, as more Americans who had given up looking for work become slightly more optimistic and start looking for work again.
“So while there may be positive signs, the reality Gallup finds is that more Americans are looking for work now than were doing so just six weeks ago.
Official Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment figures have shown the rate go down from 9 percent since September.
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