What the unemployment rate doesn't measure

A drop in the unemployment rate is always good economic news, but those of all political stripes say .. it's not as good as it looks.

"This feels like a Charles Dickens novel. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," Michael Burgess, R-TX,  said during a hearing with Labor Department officials.

"I don't think we should forget that as bad as the unemployment rate has been, the actual job situtation in the country has been worse than that because of these ways they don't get measured," Austen Goolsbee, a former economic adviser to President Obama said.

What the unemployment rate does not measure is those without jobs who have simply given up.

"It does not include the number of people who have become discouraged and are just not looking for a job at all," Matt Mcdonald, a Republican economic analyst at Hamilton Place Strategies, said.

"Those aren't captured in the headline numbers that we see every month," he said.

Almost 4 million people are in that group. Another 8 million have been forced to take only part time work even though they want a full time job.

If those people were counted, officials say, the latest rate of 8.3 percent would be much higher-- at 15.1 percent.

"So that number is almost double the official unemployment rate, and that sort of gives you a much more realistic picture of you know the labor market," Aparna Mathur of the American Enterprise Institute said.

There is an even broader number that troubles some others. There are 6 million fewer jobs than there were at the beginning of the recession.

"Fewer Americans are actually participating in the workforce than in almost 28 years," Kevin Brady, R-TX said. "The labor force participation rate is 63.7 percent, hasn't been this low since March of 1983."

And how long will it take the economy to replace those missing jobs?

Officials, say it will be a long time even with strong monthly gains.

"It would take 23 more months of growth at this month's pace, 243,000 per month to regain all those jobs," says John Galvin, acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Even though the president must be heartened by the most recent numbers, they also hold political risks.

Former adviser Austen Goolsbee said Obama may face rising unemployment rates in the midst of an election year.