03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

HuffPost's Real Misery Index: Nearly One In Six Americans Are Jobless Or Underemployed

The rise in unemployment continues to devastate Americans, according to the latest update of the Huffington Post Real Misery Index.

The index rose to 32.9 after peaking at 32.3 in August, largely due to the increase in the U6 unemployment rate, which tracks part-time workers looking for full-time employment and those who've given up looking for work. Almost one in six Americans are jobless or underemployed and the economy has lost 7.3 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007, according to the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The index would be even higher were it not for a few bright spots in the economy, such as no annual percent increase in food and beverage prices and a slight uptick in housing prices.

The states with the highest underemployment rates through the third quarter of this year were Michigan (20.9 percent), Oregon (20.1 percent), California (19.6 percent) and South Carolina (18.4 percent).

And the numbers threaten to go higher with some economists predicting a 13% unemployment rate -- a post-World War II high -- in the aftermath of the recession.

"This is going to be the mother of all jobless recoveries," David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates told Bloomberg Radio on Monday morning.

Another major factor in the index's increase was a rise in the number of households receiving food stamps, which soared 24% percent compared to the previous year. Recently, some major retailers, such as Costco, announced that they would start accepting food stamps due to increased demand.

"Certainly this economy was a wake-up call," Costco CFO Richard Galanti recently told investors. "It is not just very low-end economic strata that are using these (who) typically don't have purchasing power."

To formulate our index, which provides a better snapshot of the economy than the often-criticized misery index (inflation added to unemployment), we used a more accurate unemployment statistic (the U6 formulation), with the inflation rate for three essentials (food and beverages, gas, medical costs), and year-over-year percent changes in credit card delinquencies, housing prices, food stamp participation, and home equity loan deficiencies. We gave equal weight to the broad unemployment numbers and the combination of the other seven metrics (with housing prices having an inverse relationship to the index).