The Rising Underemployment Rate and its Emotional Impact

In a previous post called The Cost of Unemployment, I wrote about the toll, on health and well-being, that unemployment had on people.

One aspect of unemployment that rarely gets mentioned is underemployment. Gallup defines underemployment as people who are “unemployed or working part-time but wanting full-time work” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 3). According to the latest Gallup poll, the underemployment rate is at a staggering 20% as of March 15, 2010, compared to the 9.7% unemployment rate reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Underemployed Americans are 2x more likely to have been told that they suffer from depression (21% vs. 12% employed Americans)(Marlar, 2010, para. 5).

These findings, both the rate of underemployment and the well-being index score, “underscore why Americans say the most important problem facing the nation today is jobs and unemployment” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 2).

Interestingly, the Gallup data indicates that a decline in the U.S. unemployment rate might be attributed to an increase in the unemployed taking on part-time work and adding to the underemployment rate.

“It is also often suggested that a growth in part-time jobs may indicate future growth in full-time work — that companies hire part-time workers before committing to hiring new full-time employees. While this is sometimes the case, it may not be so at this point in the U.S. economy: Gallup data show that one in three part-time employees who are wanting full-time work are currently “hopeful” about finding a full-time job in the next 30 days — not much of an endorsement of the idea that today’s new part-time work will progress to full-time jobs” (Jacobe, 2010, para. 8).


Jacobe, D. (2010, March 19). Underemployment hits 20% in mid-March. Gallup. Retrieved from

Marlar, J. (2010, March 9). The emotional cost of underemployment. Gallup. Retrieved from

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,