Monday, January 28, 2013 – 09:45 a.m.

Is U.S. unemployment really improving?

At this point not really. Even though the headline unemployment (U-3) number is at 7.8%.

What’s the problem?

The underemployment (U-6) number, a far better barometer, remains stubbornly high. The underemployment number takes into account three additional groups the headline number doesn’t. The three groups being unemployed workers who have exhausted their benefits, people working part-time who want full-time work, and people who have given up looking for employment (discouraged workers).

The December U.S. Department of Labor report had this number at 14.4%.

The Gallup Organziation has the unadjusted unemployment and underemployment numbers at 8.0% and 17.1% respectively. It’s a significant variance from the official government report.The biggest problem with the government top-line number is workers who have exhausted benefits haven’t been re-employed and are sitting on the sidelines.

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Labor will release its January report. Maybe we’ll get a better idea then.