As the Federal Reserve warns that it could be another five or six years before the job market returns to normal, determining if you're unemployed and therefore eligible for unemployment benefits is probably going to affect many more people in the coming years. Determining whether or not you're "unemployed" is tricky because of which jobless Americans are counted in the official number.

The national unemployment rate fell to 10% in November, but that number still makes the 6.1% unemployment rate a year ago look like a gift. Nor does that 10% take into account the underemployed and people who have given up looking for work.

So as the nation prepares for a jobless rate of 9.3% to 9.7% in the coming year, according to one Fed forecast quoted by the New York Times, the fun people at Mint.com have come up with The Unemployment Game Show to help you determine if you're really unemployed:

Go ahead and watch. It's good for a laugh. Or not.




While I wouldn't use it as a source to determine if you're eligible for unemployment benefits, it's a fun way to see if you count as part of the official federal "unemployment" statistic, currently at 10% nationally, or fall under lesser reported figures.

In addition to the video, the Web site also has a roadmap to help figure out if you're unemployed by answering a series of yes/no questions. I won't republish it here, but it does help explain how the 10% national unemployment rate that the Bureau of Labor Statistics differs from the 17.2% real unemployment rate when other jobless people are counted.

These former workers include the underemployed, meaning people who want full-time jobs but can only find part-time work, and other workers that the Bureau of Labor Statistics calls "marginally attached" to the labor market.

So when you hear that the national unemployment rate is 10%, go look up the numbers to see what the real unemployment rate is and how bad it really is.

As the Mint graphic points out, it's interesting to see that people who have given up looking for work after being jobless for a year are not considered to be in the labor pool and don't count as officially unemployed. If it has been less than a year since they've looked for a job and have given up looking, they still don't count in the official unemployment numbers.

Even if you're not officially "unemployed" as a federal statistic, you may still be eligible for such benefits while being out of work. You basically have to continue searching for work to be eligible until your benefits run out.

That, however, is another game to play.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at www.AaronCrowe.net


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