The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor is the principal Federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy.
Economics Made Easy
What is unemployment?
Every month the Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS) asks roughly 60,000
households to complete a survey on what
they did the past week for work. To be
unemployed, a person must be age 16 or
older. They must be noninstitutionalized
and not have a job. They also must
currently be available to work and have
actively looked for work in the prior 4
weeks to be classified as unemployed.
Actively looking for work
These are examples of specific activities that count as actively looking for work.
Some activities, such as reading about a job opening in the newspaper or
on the internet but not actually applying for open jobs, are not counted
as actively looking for work.
With BLS data, you can
explore unemployment by
state and county at
Survey — asking questions and
collecting data using a sample.
Noninstitutionalized — not an
inmate of an institution such as
a prison or mental facility, and
anyone who is not an Active
Duty member of the Armed
Contacting an employer
or employment agency.
friends and family.
Did you know?
The sample survey system of counting the
unemployed in the United States is also
used by many foreign countries, including
Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Japan.