Unemployment statistics tell you how healthy the economy is. Learn about the various types of unemployment, the causes, and terms that you'll need to understand the numbers.

Understanding Unemployment

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What Is Unemployment?
Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is the current unemployment rate in the U.S.?

    The current U.S. unemployment rate was 5.2% in August 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said in its monthly report, released September 3, 2021. This unemployment rate was 0.2 percentage points lower than in July. While August 2021's unemployment rate is lower, it's still higher than early 2020 levels (3.5% with 5.7 million unemployed in February 2020).

  • What is the natural rate of unemployment?

    The natural unemployment rate is the lowest level sustainable without creating inflation. In a healthy economy, workers are always coming and going, looking for better jobs. Until they find that new job, this jobless status is the natural rate of unemployment. 

  • Who reports the U.S. unemployment rate?

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the U.S. unemployment rate on both a weekly and monthly basis. There are two unemployment rates reported: the "real," or "U-6," unemployment rate and "U-3," which is the rate most often reported in the media. For the U-3 rate, the BLS only counts people without jobs who are included in the labor force.

  • How does the U.S. measure unemployment?

    The unemployment rate formula is the number of unemployed people in the country, divided by the total number of workers available in the civilian labor force. The BLS has a specific definition of "unemployed" for determining this percentage. You must be older than age 16 and have been available to work full time during the past four weeks to be counted as unemployed. You must have actively looked for work during that same period.

Key Terms