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Marginal workers, underemployed push economic fringe to limit

While the steady rise of the nation’s unemployment rate has become shorthand for the recession’s impact, many economists say the grim figures — 8.9 percent in April — don’t tell the whole story of Americans’ financial distress. The plight of the jobless tends to dominate social policy conversations and media coverage but a less-exposed but equally vulnerable population is the millions of underemployed. This diffuse, often poorly tracked cross-section of citizens who bear the individual and collective challenges living on the economic fringes often go overlooked by policy makers and elected leaders.