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Knowledge Base

Understanding The Unemployment Rate

Does the official unemployment rate exclude people who want a job but are not currently looking for work?

Yes – the labor force only includes individuals who are employed and those who are actively seeking employment.

How does the government measure unemployment?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is a federal agency that produces a range economic data reflecting the state of the U.S. economy, conducts a monthly survey called the Current Population Survey that involves 60,000 households. These households are selected using random sampling methods designed to generate as close an approximation as possible to the larger population.

Who is counted as employed?

People are considered employed if they did any work at all for pay or profit. This includes all part-time and temporary work, as well as regular full-time, year-round employment.

Who is counted as unemployed?

People are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work. Actively looking for work may consist of contacting an employer directly or having a job interview or some other means of active job search.

Passive methods of job search do not have the potential to connect job seekers with potential employers and therefore do not qualify as active job search methods. Examples of passive methods include attending a job training program or course, or merely reading about job openings that are posted in newspapers or on the Internet.