Unemployment is defined as the part of the labor
force that is without a job and has been seeking employment
within the last four weeks. The extent to which unemployment occurs is usually measured by the unemployment rate. It is derived by simply dividing the number of unemployed people by the total labor force
. The unemployment rate is a relative indicator independent of country size and thus facilitates cross-country comparisons.
Unemployment is subject to seasonal fluctuations. It is typically higher during the winter when construction work and other outdoor occupations are in low demand. That is why monthly unemployment statistics
are often adjusted, based on these fluctuations, for the sake of comparability.
The U.S. unemployment rate
is currently at 9.1 percent (July 2011) and has been around nine percent since the financial crisis hit the U.S. economy in 2008. Even though the economy bounced back rather quickly after the crisis, the job market has not yet recovered and the unemployment rate is still far from its pre-recession level of roughly five percent.
Unemployment figures in the U.S. vary dramatically from state to state. According to this state unemployment ranking
by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates ranged from 3.3 percent in North Dakota to 12.9 percent in Nevada in 2011. Surprisingly, the unemployment rate in California
, the state with the largest GDP, was the second highest among all U.S. states. Florida’s unemployment rate
was also above national average, while the unemployment rate of New York
was slightly below it.
From an international perspective the U.S. unemployment rate is relatively high. While it is on par with the average unemployment rate in the European Union
, there are countries like Mexico, Australia
with unemployment rates that are substantially lower.
Photo: istocjphoto.com / yuri_arcurs