(CN) – The unemployment rate was 4.5 percent in March 2017 – a level it hasn’t seen since the first half of 2007.
The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics attributed the low unemployment rate to there being 7.2 million unemployed people among the 160.2 million people in the labor force.
People were counted as unemployed if they did not work for pay during the week that included March 12, had actively sought employment during the preceding 4 weeks or were waiting to be recalled from a temporary layoff, and could have started a job if they had received an offer of employment.
The labor force is the sum of employed and unemployed people.
The bureau publishes six “alternative measures of labor underutilization,” known as U-1 through U-6, in each month’s employment report.
The unemployment rate, also called U-3 by government economists, is the total number of unemployed people as a percentage of the labor force.
U-1 and U-2 are more narrowly defined and always lower than the U-3 rate. U-4, U-5, and U-6 are more broadly defined and always higher.
In March 2017, the narrower measures, U-1 and U-2, were 1.7 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. U-1 includes only people who were unemployed for 15 weeks or longer. U-2 includes only unemployed people who lost their jobs or completed temporary jobs.
The most broadly defined rate, U-6, includes unemployed people, plus people who are “marginally attached” to the labor force, plus people who work part time for economic reasons.
The marginally attached are neither working nor looking for work but want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months.
People who work part time for economic reasons are those that would have preferred full-time employment, but were working part time because their hours had been cut or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
The U-6 rate was 8.9 percent in March 2017. Before that, it was most recently below 9.0 percent in December 2007.