United States - Unemployment





United States: Unemployment

Mnemonic LWQUNTAM.IUSA
Unit Ths. #, SA
Adjustments Seasonally Adjusted
Monthly 1.86 %
Data Oct 2018 6,075
Sep 2018 5,964

Series Information

Source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Release US Labor Force Statistics - Current Population Survey
Frequency Monthly
Start Date 1/31/1948
End Date 10/31/2018

United States: Labor

Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Labor Force Oct 2018 162,637 161,926 Ths. #, SA Monthly
Labor Force Employment Oct 2018 156,562 155,962 Ths. #, SA Monthly
Manufacturing Employment Oct 2018 12,785 12,753 Ths. #, SA Monthly
Total Employment Non-Ag Oct 2018 149,750 149,500 Ths. #, SA Monthly
Unemployment Oct 2018 6,075 5,964 Ths. #, SA Monthly
Unemployment Rate Oct 2018 3.7 3.7 %, SA Monthly
Wage & Salaries 2018 Q3 8,905,011 8,806,162 Mil. USD, SAAR Quarterly
Primary Industries Employment Mar 2018 1,138,843 1,129,288 #, NSA Monthly
Agriculture Employment 2016 2,702,095 2,674,749 # Annual

Release Information

The BLS presents labor force and unemployment data for census regions and divisions, states, and selected substate areas from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program (tables 1 to 4). Also presented are nonfarm payroll employment estimates by state and industry supersector from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program (tables 5 and 6). The LAUS and CES programs are both federal-state cooperative endeavors.

Please note that data for all sub-state areas (combined areas, counties, and cites) are released at a later date with the metropolitan area data.

1. Labor force and unemployment--from the LAUS program

The labor force and unemployment data are based on the same concepts and definitions as those used for the Current Population Survey (CPS), a sample survey of households that is conducted for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by the U.S. Census Bureau. The LAUS program measures employment and unemployment on a place-of-residence basis. The universe the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years of age and over. The information is collected from a sample of about 50,000 households located in 792 sample areas

  • Employed persons are those who, during the reference week (the week including the 12th day of the month), (a) did any work as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of their family, or (b) were not working but who had jobs from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.
  • Unemployed persons are those who were not employed during the reference week, had actively looked for a job sometime in the 4-week period ending with the reference week, and were currently available for work; persons on layoff expecting recall need not be looking for work to be counted as unemployed.
  • The labor force is the sum of employed and unemployed persons. The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed as a percent of the labor force.

Estimates for 48 of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and select areas are produced using time-series models. This method, which underwent substantial enhancement at the beginning of 2015, utilizes data from several sources, including the CPS, the CES, and state unemployment insurance (UI) programs.

Estimates for the state of California are derived by summing the estimates for the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale metropolitan division and the balance of California. Similarly, estimates for New York State are derived by summing the estimates for New York City and the balance of New York State.

Estimates for census regions are obtained by summing the model-based estimates for the component divisions. Each month, census division estimates are controlled to the national totals; state estimates are then controlled to their respective division totals. Sub-state and balance-of-state estimates for the five areas noted above are controlled to their respective state totals.

Estimates for Puerto Rico are derived from a monthly household survey similar to the CPS. A detailed description of the estimation procedures is available from BLS upon request.

The sub-state area data published in this release reflect the delineations issued by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget on February 28, 2013. A detailed list of the geographic definitions is available.

2. Employment--from the CES program

  • Employment data refer to persons on establishment payrolls, full or part-time, who receive pay for any part of the pay period that includes the 12th of the month.
  • Persons are counted at their place of work rather than at their place of residence; those appearing on more than one payroll are counted on each payroll.
  • Industries are classified on the basis of their principal activity in accordance with the 2012 version of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)

Data based on establishment records are compiled each month from mail questionnaires and telephone interviews by the BLS in cooperation with state agencies.  State agencies. The Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey is designed to provide industry information on nonfarm wage and salary employment, average weekly hours, average hourly earnings, and average weekly earnings for the Nation, States, and metropolitan areas. Data are based on payroll reports from a sample of over 390,000 establishments employing over 47 million nonfarm wage and salary workers.

CES State and Area employment data are produced using several estimation procedures. Where possible these data are produced using a "weighted link relative" estimation technique in which a ratio of current month weighted employment to that of the previous-month weighted employment is computed from a sample of establishments reporting for both months. The estimates of employment for the current month are then obtained by multiplying these ratios by the previous month's employment estimates. The weighted link relative technique is utilized for data series where the sample size meets certain statistical criteria.

For some employment series, the sample of establishments is very small or highly variable. In these cases, a model-based approach is used in estimation. These models use the direct sample estimates (described above), combined with forecasts of historical (benchmarked) data to decrease volatility in estimation. For more detailed information about each model, refer to the BLS Handbook of Methods.

Payroll employment data are seasonally adjusted at the statewide supersector level. In some states, the seasonally adjusted payroll employment total is computed by aggregating the independently adjusted supersector series. In other states, the seasonally adjusted payroll employment total is independently adjusted.

State estimation procedures are designed to produce accurate data for each individual state. The BLS independently develops a national employment series; state estimates are not forced to sum to national totals. Because each state series is subject to larger sampling and non-sampling errors than the national series, summing them cumulates individual state level errors and can cause significant distortions at an aggregate level. Due to these statistical limitations, BLS does not compile a "sum- of-states" employment series, and cautions users that such a series is subject to a relatively large and volatile error structure.

3. Reliability of the estimates

  • The estimates presented in this release are based on sample surveys, administrative data, and modeling and, thus, are subject to sampling and other types of errors. Estimates not directly derived from sample surveys are subject to additional errors resulting from the specific estimation processes used.
  • The sums of individual items may not always equal the totals shown in the same tables because of rounding.
  • Unemployment rates are computed from unrounded data and thus may differ slightly from rates computed using the rounded data displayed in the tables.
  • Model-based error measures from the CPS for seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted data and for over-the-month and over-the-year changes are available online at: technical note

Series from the Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment release may be revised in the following month's State Employment and Unemployment release.

1. Labor force and unemployment--from the LAUS program

Data from the CPS are revised each month usually back two months. These revisions are largely due to newly available data. Additionally, labor force and unemployment data for prior years reflect adjustments made at the end of each year. The adjusted estimates reflect updated population data from the U.S. Census Bureau, any revisions in the other data sources, and model re-estimation. In most years, historical data for the most recent five years (both seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted) are revised near the beginning of each calendar year, prior to the release of January estimates. With the introduction of a new generation of times-series models in early 2015, historical data were re-estimated back to the series beginnings in 1976, 1990, or 1994.

Once each year, labor force estimates are revised to reflect updated input data and new Census Bureau population controls. As part of this procedure, all of the state and sub-state models are reviewed, revised as necessary, and then reestimated; this reestimation is called "smoothing."

When new population controls are available from the Bureau of the Census (typically with the update of data for January) CPS estimates for all states and select areas are adjusted to these controls. Additionally, the time series regression models for the states and model-based areas are reestimated based on the latest input data.

Other sub-state estimates for non model-based metropolitan areas and counties for previous years are also revised on an annual basis, typically with the update of the data for the reference month of March or April. The updates incorporate any changes in the inputs, such as revisions to establishment-based employment estimates or claims data and updated historical relationships. The revised estimates are then readjusted to the latest statewide estimates of employment and unemployment.

2. Employment--from the CES program

Revisions of historical CES data for the most recent 5 years are made once a year, coincident with annual benchmark adjustments. CES Employment estimates are adjusted annually to a complete count of jobs, called benchmarks, derived principally from tax reports that are submitted by employers who are covered under state unemployment insurance (UI) laws. The benchmark information is used to adjust the monthly estimates between the new benchmark and the preceding one and also to establish the level of employment for the new benchmark month. Thus, the benchmarking process establishes the level of employment, and the sample is used to measure the month-to-month changes in the level for the subsequent months. Please refer to the BLS for additional information on recent benchmark revisions for states.

The BLS releases state totals for main industries at 10:00am. Industrial data and data for metropolitan areas are released in bulk files around 10:30am. Due to the large volume of these files, it takes about an hour to fully update our datasets with the reported data and an additional hour to update Moody's Analytics' supplemental series. Expect the release to be fully updated by 12:30pm.

The CPS was significantly redesigned with the release of data for January 1994. A new questionnaire, automated data collection methods, and a modernized computer processing system were introduced. Users should expect a break in the data between December 1993 and January 1994.

Additional information on the methodology used by the BLS for the CPS can be found here.

In addition, information on comparing the different BLS Employment Programs can be found in this article and from the BLS here.

Much information on this page was taken from the BLS's technical note

Please refer to the BLS for a full listing of CES Published Series by NAICS industry.

Please refer to the BLS for more information on the Non-standard CES areas