US unemployment rate

This page is about the monthly data from the BLS on U-3, also known simply as the unemployment rate.


6 Aug 2014.

The unemployment rate rose from 4.4% in Mar 2007 to 10.1% in Oct 2009, but has been in a declining trend since, and now stands at 6.2%.

The unemployment rate usually quoted is technically U-3, the most restrictive of several unemployment measures, including only those who have looked for work in the last four weeks. Long term, peaks usually come at the end of, or following, recessions, and can be anywhere from 6% to 11%. Within a long trend in one direction a tick of 0.1 or 0.2 in the opposite direction is common.


6 Aug 2014. Data through Jul 2014.

Data is from the BLS.


Clippings below covered through 2 Dec 2009.

Recent local extrema (7 May 2010) 4.4% hit several times in late 2006 and Mar 2007. 10.1% in Oct 2009.

US unemployment background (11 Jul 2009) Most reported unemployment statistics are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Department of Labor. All the BLS unemployment data are from the Current Population Survey, a monthly survey of a probability sample of approximately 60,000 households, conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the BLS. Data are collected by personal and telephone interviews. Response is voluntary, but only about 4% refuse. Roughly speaking, the BLS divides the population into the “Employed” (E), the “Unemployed” (U; must have looked for a job in the last four weeks), the “Marginally attached” (M; looking for a job but not in the last 4 weeks), those not looking for a job at all (N), and the institutionalized. The unemployment rate usually reported is U-3, including just the Unemployed (U / E + U). There is also a broader measure of unemployment, U-6, which includes the Unemployed, those working part-time for economic reasons (i.e. wanting full-time; PTER), and the Marginally attached; these are all the people who are looking for full-time work but are unable to find it (U + PTER + M / E + U + M). There is one other statistic of interest, the “Not employed”. This includes those who are not looking for work (NLFW; so U + M + NLFW / E + U + M + NLFW). The survey questions and the definitions have changed over time. Probably the official unemployment rate has been pretty stable over time but, strictly speaking, current data is only comparable to data back to Jan 1994.


  • From the BLS home page,, choose the tab “Databases and tables”; then under the header “Unemployment”, at the line “Labor Force Statistics including the National Unemployment Rate” click “Top picks”; tick fifth box down, for “Unemployment rate, Civilian labor force”, and click “Retrieve data”; click “More formatting options”; select “All years”, “Original Data Value” and “Include graphs” and then click “Retrieve data”.

See also

Clippings below were used in the construction of this page

Goldman Sachs' (Jan Hatzius') unemployment prediction

2 Dec 2009. Reuters.

“Goldman Sachs 2011 forecast would be an absolute disaster for Dems. James Pethokoukis”

[The GS forecast:]

“The key features of our 2011 outlook: (1) a strengthening in growth from 2.1% on average in 2010 to 2.4% in 2011, with real GDP rising at an above-potential 3½% pace in late 2011; (2) a peaking in unemployment in mid-2011 at about 10¾%; (3) extremely low inflation – close to zero on a core basis during 2011; and (4) a continuation of the Fed’s (near) zero interest rate policy (ZIRP) throughout 2011.

That said we see risks that could upset these markets. On the one hand, we might be underestimating the vigor of the economic recovery, and therefore the pressures for Fed tightening. In addition, surging asset prices and worries about a “bubble” could prompt Fed officials to tighten before such a move seems warranted on real-economy grounds. On the other hand, the economy (and the markets) could struggle under the weight of credit restraint for small businesses, weakness in commercial real estate markets, or fiscal tightening, especially by state and local governments.”

CR on Okun's law