Looking at Unemployment differently

U3, state by state, average of Q2 2012 to Q1 2013

U6, state by state, average of Q2 2012 to Q1 2013

Unemployment is a notoriously controversial topic and The Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS (unintentionally) complicates matters by publishing no fewer than six instead of one single metric. The media widely publishes U3, or the total unemployed plus “discouraged workers” but ignores broader measures such as U6, which reports all unemployed, as well as those “marginally attached to the labour force” (i.e., temporary jobs) plus those who are working part time but can’t find full time employment.

Another problem – unemployment numbers month to month are volatile but BLS publishes a series I like to look at that addresses this problem – four month moving averages of US Unemployment, broken down to the state level.

The two charts above present U3 and U6 for all states, tracked as a four month moving averages across the period Q2, 2012 to Q1, 2013. For each chart I’ve baselined the vertical axis at the lowest rate observed, and sorted the remaining states in ascending order. Finally, I’ve identified the US national four month unemployment rate.

Click to expand each image. Regardless of how today’s unemployment number shakes out, remember the underlying data is volatile so sometimes its better to look at a moving average rather a single snapshot result.

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