Comprehensive Jobless Rate Hits New All-Time Low

Most headlines today will trumpet the unemployment’s rate drop to the lowest level in 50 years (3.5 percent), but the comprehensive jobless rate (CJR), a more holistic measure of unemployment developed in Mercatus Center research, fell to the lowest level ever (6.3 percent).

The CJR is the most encompassing measure of joblessness, counting someone as unemployed if they simply say that they want to work, regardless of whether that person is actively pursuing employment or even available to start a job. As a result, it’s the highest valid estimate that any politician or pundit can claim as the “true” unemployment rate.

The comprehensive jobless rate isn’t intended to replace the official unemployment rates provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but rather serve as complimentary benchmark providing additional context for the existing measures.

The good news of the day is that despite concerns over slowing manufacturing activity and increasing trade barriers, the US labor market continues its record-breaking streak of growth, at least for now.

Quick Statistics from the July 2019 BLS Jobs Report

Headline Employment Statistics

  • Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 136,000 jobs.

  • The labor force participation rate held steady at 63.2 percent.

  • The headline unemployment rate (U-3) fell by 0.2 percentage points to 3.5 percent.

Other Unemployment Rates

  • The mid- to long-term unemployment rate (15 weeks or longer; U-1) held steady at 1.3 percent.

  • The discouraged worker unemployment rate (U-4) fell by 0.3 percentage points to 3.7 percent.

  • The comprehensive jobless rate (U-5b) fell by 0.3 percentage points to 6.3 percent.

Deeper Unemployment Statistics

  • The number of unemployed workers fell by 275,000 to 5.8 million.

  • The number of people who say they want a job but were not actively seeking work fell by 270,000 to 4.9 million.

  • Short-term unemployed workers (under 15 weeks) fell by 315,000 to 3.6 million.

  • Long-term unemployed workers (27 weeks or longer) rose by 71,000 to 1.3 million, accounting for 22.7 percent of those who are unemployed.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Employment Statistics

  • The unemployment rate for those specifically seeking full-time work fell by 0.1 percentage points to 3.4 percent.

  • The unemployment rate for those specifically seeking part-time work fell by 0.5 percentage points to 3.9 percent.

  • The number of people who wanted to work full time, but who could only find part-time work for economic reasons, fell by 31,000 to 4.35 million (a drop of 6.6 percent over the last 12 months). The part-time workers who wanted full-time employment constituted 16.8 percent of all part-time workers.


  • Average hourly earnings (for all private, nonfarm employees) rose by 2.9 percent over the previous 12 months.

  • Average weekly earnings (for all private, nonfarm employees) rose by 2.6 percent over the previous 12 months.