NC jobless rate is 12.6 percent under rare federal measure

North Carolina’s unemployment rate is 12.6 percent according to a little known federal estimate called the U6 index that is considered the broadest existing measure of unemployment.

The U6 rate, issued Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Department of Labor, is almost twice as high as North Carolina’s jobless rate of 6.7 percent for September.

The U6 measure is higher because it counts people who are “underemployed” and also those who give up looking for work because they are discouraged.

Unlike the monthly jobless rate, the U6 is based on a 12-month average and is reported once a quarter. North Carolina’s third-quarter U6 figure nearly matches the 12.5 percent nationwide average; the U6 nationwide ranged from a low of 5.4 percent in North Dakota to a high of 15.9 percent in Nevada for the third quarter.

The state’s 12.6 jobless rate represents 596,000 people out of work and underemployed in North Carolina. By comparison, September’s 6.7 percent jobless rate represents 310,279 unemployed North Carolinians.

North Carolina’s U6 rate peaked at 17.9 percent in late 2010 and again in early 2011, when more than 825,000 people were unemployed and underemployed in the state.