Marginally attached workers include people who are available and want to work. They have not looked for employment in the prior four weeks, but they have looked for work sometime in the past twelve months.
Marginally attached workers are not included in the labor force, so they cannot be considered unemployed in the official unemployment rate, U-3. To qualify for U-3, a person must have looked for work in the prior four weeks. People are “marginally attached” because they want to work and would accept a job if offered one. However, something is preventing them from looking for a job. Sometimes workers become discouraged. Perhaps they believe the economy is so weak that there is no work available. They may regard themselves as unqualified, either because they lack the necessary skills or because they believe employers discriminate against them.
Not all marginally attached workers are discouraged workers. They may choose to attend school to gain the necessary skills they lack, or they may remain out of work to tend to a sick family member. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools only offered online learning. Many parents chose to remain home to supervise their children, but they would have accepted a job that enabled them to work. These workers are not discouraged, but they are in the marginally attached pool.
The broader U-6 unemployment rate considers the marginally attached workers. Many economists believe U-3 was not a true reflection of the employment situation because U-3 does not consider marginally attached workers or workers who want to work full-time but accept a part-time position for economic reasons. U-6 is a better indicator of the under-utilization of labor in the economy. The U-6 rate considers marginally attached workers. U-6 also includes part-time workers who would prefer to work full-time but cannot for economic reasons. The mathematical formula is: