The unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent, which sounds pretty good. But the unemployment rate doesn't count people who've given up looking for jobs, which is why the employment-to-population ratio, especially the "prime-age" ratio for those 25 through 54, may be a better measure of the health of the labor market.
After I wrote about this metric on Monday, several readers wrote in to wonder if even it might be overstating the health of the labor market because more people are working part time, or working multiple jobs, or scrounging a living from freelance assignments.
On part-time work, we have pretty good numbers; the percentage of people who are working part time (fewer than 35 hours a week) but say they'd work full time if they could is higher than it was at any point from 1995 until 2008. At this point in a now seven-year-old economic expansion it's not much higher, though, while the percentage of voluntary part-time workers is lower than it was in the late 1990s. So factoring in part-timers makes the employment situation look a little bleaker, but not a lot.