The most regularly referenced economic indicator for the state of employment in the United States is the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is the share of the labor force currently without a job but seeking employment. In 2016, the civilian labor force of the United States numbered 159.19 million. In economic terms a distinction is made between the labor force and the general population. The employment rate evaluates the share of the total population (excluding institutionalized persons) current engaged in employment.
There are a multitude of reasons why members of the general population are outside of the civilian labor force. Some such reasons are desirable, such as early retirement, while others are unavoidable, such as long-term illness or caring for others. However of great concern for policymakers is the proportion of the population who are unemployed so long they lose hope or the desire to continue searching for a job. This phenomenon has prompted economists and concerned members of the public to raise awareness that the long-term unemployment rate in the United States is actually higher than government statistics suggest.
Like many countries around the world, the United States is struggling with youth unemployment rates higher than the national unemployment rate. In March 2017, the unemployment rate for those aged 16 to 24 was 9.1 percent. In contrast, the national figure at the time was 4.5 percent. These rates can partially explain why 35 percent of millennials considered the economy and employment the most important issue for the next president prior to the 2016 U.S. elections.
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