Chart: What's the real unemployment rate?

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate fell to 5.1 percent in August—but does that tell the real story?

Many economists look beyond the "main" unemployment rate to other figures that can give a more textured view of the economy. On jobs day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts out a slew of data that show various aspects of the nation's employment situation.

One of those pieces of data is the U-6 rate. The BLS defines U-6 as "total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force," plus all marginally attached workers.

In other words, the unemployed, the underemployed and the discourages—a rate than remains stubbornly above prerecession levels.

The U-6 rate dipped in August to 10.3 percent, the lowest since June 2008. The overall trend in the U-6 has been more volatile than the main unemployment rate (also known as the U-3). The U-6 is down 140 basis points over the past year, versus an 80-basis-point drop in the U-3.

This jobs report has particular importance this month as the Fed considers whether to raise interest rates. An increase seemed all but certain just weeks ago before the stock market's slide amid fears of a softening Chinese economy and stagnant growth worldwide. Janet Yellen has repeatedly suggested the FOMC was waiting to see data showing a sustained economic recovery.

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Take today's release with a grain of salt, though: Jobs figures for the past ten Augusts have been revised upward by an average of 58,000 jobs, according to a Reuters analysis of news releases and subsequent revisions. August is the most common month for estimates to miss, likely due in part to seasonal adjustment.