The Bureau of Labor Statistics is charge of the important task of monitoring and publishing unemployment numbers for the United States every month. These numbers have been especially critical and highly followed over the past few years as the United States experienced a severe recession and the slower than hoped economic recovery that has since followed. In its simplest form, an unemployment rate can be calculated by dividing the total number of unemployed workers by the total available workforce in the country. The total workforce in a given area is typically defined as all individuals who are willing to work and who are actively seeking to find a job at the present time (which includes submitting resumes, attending interviews, taking small or part-time jobs as they become available).
However, these unemployment numbers can be difficult to gather, accurately calculate, and may not be as comprehensive as one may think. In an effort to be as comprehensive as possible, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics collects six different measurements of unemployment. Most people hear about one of the six in the news every month as data is released by the Bureau. It is in poor for people to understand the other five numbers produced and look at all six measurements as a whole to properly examine the health of the economy of the United States.
Bureau of Labor Statistics Unemployment Data
The six different unemployment measurements collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics were all simply defined as “U1”, “U2”, “U3”, “U4”, “U5” and “U6”. To collect the data that is used for these different measurements the Bureau engages and two major surveys on an ongoing basis. First, a “Payroll Survey” (which is technically known as the Current Employment Statistics survey) gathers information from approximately 160,000 different companies and government entities to determine whether additional people are being hired (i.e., whether payrolls are expanding) were fired (payrolls are shrinking). Second, a “Household Survey” (which has the more formal name of the Current Population Survey) samples minimum of 60,000 different households to find out the employment status of each household member.
With the information gathered through the Payroll Survey and Household Survey the Bureau of Labor Statistics can then produce the six different measurements of unemployment discussed previously. Here is a breakdown of each of these datasets that are derived from both the Payroll Survey and Household Survey:
- U1 – the number of members of the United States labor force who have not worked for a lease 15 consecutive weeks
- U2 – the number of members of the United States labor force who have recently become unemployed or finished up temporary or seasonal work
- U3 – the national unemployment rate for the United States (this is the number everyone talks about and hears about a regular basis on the nightly news)
- U4 – a combination of U3 and individuals who are classified as “discouraged workers” (for those people who would like to work and are able to work but have stopped all of their efforts to find new job because they do not believe one exists for them at the present time)
- U5 – a combination of U4 and individuals who are classified as “marginally attached” (meaning that they would like to have a job but are not making any strenuous efforts of the present time to find one)
- U6 – combination of U5 and people who are only working part-time but would like to work full-time and have not been successful finding full-time on the (i.e., people who are suffering from underemployed)
Understanding These Unemployment Numbers
After examining all six measurements of unemployment, a better picture of the overall health of the United States economy will emerge. These unemployment numbers sure broader picture of not only who is working is not but also of who would like to be working more and those who would like to be working for the given for various reasons. These data sets are produced each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics can be found on their website.
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