Unemployment (U.S.)

Yahoo  6 hrs ago  Comment 
U.S. homebuilding rebounded sharply in December as a firming economy boosts demand for rental housing, while an unexpected drop in the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits last week pointed to a further tightening in the labor...
MarketWatch  6 hrs ago  Comment 
U.S. monthly unemployment claims lowest since November 1973
newratings.com  Jan 19  Comment 
AMSTERDAM (dpa-AFX) - Dutch unemployment rate decreased at the end of the year, after remaining stable in the previous month, figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics showed Thursday. The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell to 5.4 percent...
WA Business News  Jan 19  Comment 
guardian.co.uk  Jan 19  Comment 
Labor’s employment spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, says the government is failing to deliver its jobs plan The federal government insists the latest jobs figures show the resilience of the Australian economy, although the unemployment rate rose...
newratings.com  Jan 18  Comment 
CANBERA (dpa-AFX) - Australia will on Thursday release unemployment figures for December, highlighting a busy day for Asia-Pacific economic activity. The jobless rate is expected to hold steady at 5.7 percent, with the addition of 10,000 jobs...
Benzinga  Jan 18  Comment 
GBP/USD is trading at 1.2304, down 0.0105. The U.K. Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported the number of people claiming unemployment benefits (claimant count ) in the United Kingdom fell by 10,100 in December versus a 1,300 rise in...
newratings.com  Jan 18  Comment 
newratings.com  Jan 18  Comment 
LONDON (dpa-AFX) - The U.K. unemployment rate remained stable in three months to November and people claiming unemployment benefits declined unexpectedly, data from the Office for National Statistics showed Wednesday. The unemployment rate came...
Clusterstock  Jan 18  Comment 
Unemployment in the UK fell once again at the latest reading, with 52,000 fewer people unemployed, according to the data released by the Office for National Statistics. Headline unemployment remained unchanged at just 4.8% — a 10-year low....
Forbes  Jan 17  Comment 
Faced with unemployment and only $100 to her name, a California woman has sued fast-food giant Chipotle for $2.2 billion over the allegedly unlawful use of a photo. Leah Caldwell, who hails from Sacramento, claims that a photographer took a...




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This article is about unemployment in the U.S. To read more about unemployment in other countries, see Unemployment (disambiguation).

Unemployment and employment are closely watched economic indicators. A low rate of unemployment often raises inflation fears, due to potential labor shortages. High unemployment raises fears of recession. Strong job growth means prosperity. Job losses, recession. The chart to the right shows the annual unemployment rate from 1948 through 2007.

In looking at unemployment and employment there is ample room for confusion. Two separate and distinct measures of unemployment are often reported in the media, as well as two separate and distinct measures of employment. Each indicator has value, but must be understood correctly. All four are reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Unemployment

  • The “Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report” is often cited in the press, with a focus on “initial claims” for benefits. An increase or decrease is popularly taken as a portent of the direction of the economy. A seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate is also reported weekly. This measure of unemployment is not equivalent to the unemployment rate that is reported on a monthly basis by the BLS for several reasons: (1) Not all persons are covered by Federal or State unemployment insurance programs. (2) Some who are covered don’t file claims. (3) Some are still unemployed when their benefits run out and they drop out of the program.
  • A broader unemployment rate is estimated on a monthly basis by the BLS. The data that form the basis for the unemployment rate are gathered through a monthly survey of 60,000 households. This is called the Current Population Survey (CPS). The reference period is the week that includes the 12th day of the month. This is the unemployment rate that is used when economists and market analysis look at trends over time. Note that both measures of unemployment are revised annually, resulting in changes in previously reported unemployment rates.

Definitions and Discussion

The unemployed are defined by the BLS as “persons aged 16 years and older who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.”

The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percent of the labor force. The labor force consists of employed and unemployed persons. It is sometimes called the “civilian labor force” because it excludes people in the armed forces.

The size of the labor force varies over time due to economic conditions and changes in the number of working age people. When the economy is strong more people are apt to look for work and the size of the labor force swells. This could drive up the unemployment rate even when employment is growing. On the other hand, when jobs are scarce some people give up looking for work, which can result in a decline in the unemployment rate even as the economy weakens.

As the Baby Boom generation retires the size of the labor force might shrink, although a strong flow of young people into the labor force (the “Echo Boom” generation) and immigrants have the potential to keep the size of the labor force high enough. Many Baby Boomers may also delay the age at which they retire.

Illegal immigration is a complicating factor in the estimation of the number of employed and unemployed in this country. This “shadow labor force” is not well accounted for.

Employment

  • In the CPS (the survey of 60,000 households) each employed person is counted only once, even if he or she holds more than one job. Excluded are persons whose only activity consisted of work around their own house (painting, repairing, or own home housework) or volunteer work for religious, charitable, and other organizations. The employed include paid employees and those who work in their own business
  • The BLS also conducts the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey of 390,000 business establishments. It yields a detailed breakdown of employment, hours and earnings for all major industrial sectors (except agriculture) and subgroups each month. When analysts talk about change in manufacturing jobs, for example, they are referring to the CES survey. The CES says nothing about unemployment.

The two surveys show different levels of employment and employment growth and have on occasion been contradictory due to the different samples and survey methodologies.

Unemployment Rate Since 1948
Unemployment Rate Since 1948
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