The 'Real Unemployment Rate' Ticked Higher in January

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/ Source: CNBC.com
CNBC / Bureau of Labor Statistics

The U.S. Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate was 5.7 percent in January—but does that rate tell the real story?

A number of economists look past the "main" unemployment rate to a different figure the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls "U-6," which it defines as "total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of all civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers."

In other words, the unemployed, the underemployed and the discouraged—a rate that still remains high. The U-6 rate rose in January to 11.3 percent, the first time in six months that it ticked higher. The trend in U-6 has been somewhat more volatile than in the main unemployment rate as well.

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-- Ben Berkowitz, CNBC.com