HOW IS UNEMPLOYMENT MEASURED

Measuring unemployment is the job of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is part of the Department of Labor. Every month, the BLS produces data on unemployment and on other aspects of the labor market, such as types of employment, length of the average workweek, and the duration of unemployment. These data come from a regular survey of about 60,000 households, called the Current Population Survey Based on the answers to survey questions, the BLS places each adult (aged 16 and older) in each surveyed household into one of three categories.

• Employed: This category includes those who worked as paid employees, worked in their own business or worked as unpaid workers in a family member’s business. It also includes those who were not working but who had jobs from which they were temporarily absent because of, for example, vacation illness, or bad weather

• Unemployed: This category includes those who were not employed, were available for work, and had tried to find employment during the previous 4 weeks. It also includes those waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off.

Not in the labor force: This category includes those who fit neither of the first two categories, such as a full-time student, homemaker, or retiree.

Figure 1 shows the breakdown into these categories for 2004 Once the BLS has placed all the individuals covered by the survey in a category, it computes various statistics to summarize the state of the labor market. The BLS defines the labor force as the sum of the employed and the unemployed: