Statician says US joblessness near Depression highs

NEW YORK, March 9 Mon Mar 9, 2009 10:22am EDT

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NEW YORK, March 9 (Reuters) - The U.S. unemployment rate would be 19.1 percent, close to the level during the Great Depression, using the methodology that prevailed 80 years ago, according to Shadowstats.com.

According to the official Labor Department figures, the jobless rate jumped to a 25-year high of 8.1 percent in February.

However, John Williams, from ShadowStats, argues that measurement changes implemented over the years make it impossible to compare the current unemployment rate with that seen during the Great Depression, when unemployment peaked at 25 percent.

"Such would be my best estimate of a rate that would be comparable to the Great Depression readings," said Williams of the 19.1 percent reading.

Still, he noted that the Depression peak itself may have been underestimated because it was restricted to "non-farm" payrolls at a time when agricultural labor still represented more than a quarter of the economy. (Reporting by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Tom Hals)

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