Understanding BLS Unemployment Statistics

Have you ever wondered how the
unemployment rate you hear about on the news is calculated? Each month we talk
to people across the country, asking questions about what they did last week.
Based on their responses, we divide people into one of three categories:
employed, unemployed, and not in the labor force. Let’s use this hive and these bees
as an example. If you have a job, you are employed. If you do not have a job, are
currently looking for and available to take a job, you are unemployed. Employed
and unemployed make up what’s called the labor force. Everyone else falls into
our third category, not in the labor force. Some examples are if you are retired, a student, or taking care of your family.
The vast majority of people who are not in the labor force say that they do not
want a job. To calculate the unemployment rate, you add the employed and the
unemployed to get the labor force. Then you divide the number of unemployed by
the labor force. So the unemployment rate is the unemployed divided by the labor
force. To learn more check out BLS.gov/cps.


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