I have many Gmail labels. Some of them become bold when there is something within them that is unread, and then show me how many are unread in brackets, and some don't! In other words, some look like nothing's unread in them but then when I click on it there is plenty unread. Is there a setting to either show unread or not?

  • BTW if I set this label that doesn't show unread messages to "show if unread" it doesn't show, even though there's an unread message inside it!
    – Eliyahu
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 15:08
  • Was experimenting, and I marked all the messages in the label as unread and then put all but 1 back to unread and now it's working, and it shows that there is 1 unread! Sounds like a bug
    – Eliyahu
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 15:10
  • I suspect it's just a browser caching issue. Also, unread messages in sub-labels do not cause their parent label to "light up".
    – ale
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 15:13
  • @Al E. About the sub-labels - yes, that's expected, no problem there. As for the browser caching issue - any idea how to refresh it?
    – Eliyahu
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 15:22

3 Answers 3


The following is the comment the original poster made to the answer given to @FullDecent:

Thank you for your answer. However, I've got a custom made label that has 1 unread message and the unread count is 0! – Eliyahu Feb 12 '14 at 15:07

I believe the original poster has found existing inconsistencies with the way Gmail handles messages and conversations and labels and their user interface.

Short explanation

  1. Gmail searches internally first get a bunch of individual messages.
  2. They then show you only those conversations that have those messages that individually satisfied the search criteria.
  3. Gmail does not classify new message in a conversation with the existing user labels of the conversation it belongs to.
  4. The result is that fewer conversations are found and presented than users expect.

More detail

I suspect you're seeing the result of this Gmail bug. It may be that the conversation under that label has only some of the messages actually with that label.

And the new (unread) message in that conversation has not yet been labeled automatically (that's the bug). The result is that the single message is "unread" but does not have a label.

So if you search for "is:unread label:mylabel", then it finds messages that are simultaneously unread and labeled "mylabel" and then it presents you with the conversations that have those messages.

Since the new (unread) message is considered unread by Gmail, that conversation is not shown in the search results.

Some references:

See obscure Gmail docs that say:

When you add a label to a conversation, it only applies to the messages already in that conversation – not to messages sent after you applied the label. When you search for labeled messages, you'll see any messages that match the label, along with their conversation thread. However, you won't be able to search for an individual message in the thread that doesn't have that label.

And a blog post discussion.

Also lifehacker.



There are two ways that cause the unread count to not be shown.

  1. The count of messages is over 1,000 (not reproducible, happens sometimes, F5 does not fix it)
  2. Certain "System Labels" are exempt from the unread count, e.g. "All Mail", "Important"

"System labels" are distinct from "Labels", as well as "Categories" and "Circles". Although they all show up in that same section on the left of the page.

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  • Thank you for your answer. However, I've got a custom made label that has 1 unread message and the unread count is 0!
    – Eliyahu
    Commented Feb 12, 2014 at 15:07

I recently ran into this myself (in 2022).

I had marked all messages under a label as "read" but it still showed 12 unread messages. The way I fixed this was to select "all" messages via the drop down tick mark.

You'll then notice it says "All 50 conversations on this page are selected. Select all (some number) conversations in (label)". Click that to ensure you're selecting every single message with that label. Now that you are assured you have everything selected, click the "mark as read" icon.

Now every single message should be marked as read and the "unread" count for that label should be zero.

This worked for me.

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