Nearly 20 percent of U.S. workers underemployed


By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. workforce lacked adequate employment in January and struggled to make ends meet with reduced resources and bleak job prospects, according to a Gallup poll released on Tuesday.

In findings that appear to paint a darker employment picture than official U.S. data, Gallup estimated that about 30 million Americans are underemployed, meaning either jobless or able to find only part-time work.

Underemployed people spent 36 percent less on household purchases than their fully employed neighbors in January, while six out of 10 were not hopeful about their chances of finding adequate work in the coming month, the poll said.

Gallup surveyed more than 20,000 U.S. adults from January 2 to 31. The results have a 1 percentage point margin of error.

The poll comes at a time when voter anger over the slow economic recovery is running high and President Barack Obama’s hopes of boosting employment through government programs have been frustrated by partisan rancor in Congress.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 9.7 percent in January but remains near record highs.

Gallup found that underemployed Americans were more likely to have a favorable view of Obama, with 55 percent approving of his performance as president against 49 percent of the public.

The poll’s estimate of U.S. underemployment is higher than official statistics. The Labor Department says 16.5 percent of American workers were without employment or worked part-time for economic reasons in January against Gallup’s 19.9 percent.

A Labor Department official said the government rate may be lower because it factors out temporary seasonal changes in employment to better reflect the underlying economy.

(Editing by Howard Goller and Paul Simao)

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