Topic Archives: Unemployment

BLS Local Data App Now Available for Android Devices

The wait is over! The BLS Local Data app — a mobile application that connects users with the data they need to know about local labor markets — is now available for Android devices. Search “BLS Local Data” in Google Play.

The BLS Local Data app, first released for iPhones last fall, uses the BLS API to present local data and national comparisons for unemployment rates, employment, and wages. You can search using your current location, a zip code, or a location name to find relevant data quickly without having to navigate through the huge BLS database. With one click, you can find data for states, metro areas, or counties.

BLS continues to partner with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Chief Information Officer to expand the features and data in the app. A second version is in development and will be available soon for both iPhone and Android devices. Version 2.0 will include employment and wage data for detailed industries and occupations. It also will have new charting functionality that will allow users to plot the historical unemployment rate time series for their local area of interest.

Check out the app and bring the wealth of local labor market data produced by BLS directly to your mobile devices!

The BLS Local Data App showing employment and wage data for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

What Do We Know about Mega Metros?

Not only does BLS produce nationwide economic indicators, but we also have a treasure trove of data for metropolitan areas across the country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 62.9 percent of our country’s 325.7 million people live in incorporated places. To celebrate our metro areas, we looked at the data for our six largest ones. We started with five but expanded to six, and you’ll soon see why.

Just a little history

You can track our march west as a nation, and, later, to the Sun Belt, in this list of the six most populous U.S. cities:

  1. New York City: Since the first census in 1790, New York has been our most populous city. Its population of 8.6 million makes it more than twice as large as the next largest city, Los Angeles.
  2. Los Angeles City: With a population of about 4 million, Los Angeles first showed up on the top-five list with the 1930 Census.
  3. Chicago City: Even with little population growth over the last several years, Chicago remains the third-largest city, with a population of 2.7 million. Chicago first showed up on the top-five city list in 1870.
  4. Houston City: And now we get to the Sun Belt, which seems to expand every year. Houston, with a population of 2.3 million, was a top-five city starting in 1980.
  5. Phoenix City: In 2016, Phoenix beat out Philadelphia for the number five spot on the most populous city list. In July 2017, its population was 1.6 million.
  6. Philadelphia City: Since Philadelphia was the second most populous city in 1790 and remained within the top five until Phoenix nudged it out in 2016, we kept it on our list. Philadelphia’s population is almost 1.6 million.

What makes a metro area great?

That’s easy—its people! So what’s happening with the people in each metro area? Are they working? Where do they work? What type of work? What are their earnings? How do they spend their money?

For the rest of this blog, we will use the Office of Management and Budget’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas to define our mega metros:

  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Chicago- Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metropolitan Statistical Area

We won’t use these long titles, but we will compare the areas listed above.

What’s the unemployment rate?

In November 2018, the national unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. Los Angeles had the highest rate (4.2 percent) among these six areas. Phoenix (3.9 percent), Houston (3.8 percent), Chicago (3.8 percent), Philadelphia (3.6 percent) and New York (3.3 percent) round out our list. New York had the largest over-the-year decrease in their unemployment rate among these six areas from November 2017 to November 2018 (-0.9 percentage point). Los Angeles was the only one of the six metro areas that had an over-the-year increase (+0.2 percentage point) in the unemployment rate.

How about the number of jobs? Has that been going up?

As we walk around our metro areas, we will see more folks going to work than a year ago. Nonfarm payroll employment increased for all of these areas from November 2017 to November 2018. Two showed growth rates above the national average—4.2 percent in Phoenix and 3.7 percent in Houston. The other four areas showed growth rates of 1.5 percent or lower. The national growth rate was 1.6 percent.

Where are people employed? What industries?

What industries employ the most workers? Trade, transportation, and utilities is the biggest industry, with 28.5 million workers nationwide. Education and health services (24.1 million workers) comes in second.

As we walk around each of these metro areas, what industries will we see employing our workers? Basically the same as the nation! In four of the six areas (all but New York and Philadelphia), trade, transportation, and utilities is the biggest industry. For both New York and Philadelphia, the biggest industry is education and health services.

What kind of occupations do people have?

What occupations do these folks have? This might sound like what we just covered, but occupation and industry are different. For example, I’m an economist (occupation) who works in government (public administration industry), but I could be an economist who works in a bank (financial activities industry).

I must admit I was surprised that, for all of our metro areas and the nation, these are the three largest occupational groups for our workers: office and administrative support occupations, sales and related occupations, and food preparation and serving related occupations. So as you walk around these metro areas, you will see people hurrying to work on a computer, sell an item, or cook a meal!

What about earnings? Do they vary much by metro area?

Nationwide, average hourly earnings in November 2018 for all employees were $27.28. Phoenix had the lowest average hourly earnings among these six areas, at $27.22. The highest average hourly earnings were in New York, $32.83. That’s a difference of $5.61 per hour between the highest and lowest averages among these six metro areas.

Where do folks spend their money?

Because of small sample sizes for metro areas, we’ll use an average of 2016–17 data on consumer spending for metro areas and the United States. Consumers in the three largest areas—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—all allocate a larger share of their total spending to housing than the national average. The U.S. housing average is 33 percent, while New Yorkers spend about 39 percent on housing. The percentage of households that own their homes also varies in our areas: Philadelphia has the highest homeownership percentage (70 percent), while New York has the lowest (49 percent). But New York residents spend less on transportation, 12 percent, compared to Houston residents, who spend 18 percent.

Want more metro area data?

You might not know about our Economic Summaries, which gather data from many programs. We have information for hundreds of metro areas in all 50 states, plus a couple of territories. We also have geographic definitions for each subject. We update the summaries each month to keep them fresh.

You can use these Economic Summaries to see how your area is doing. If you have questions about this information, feel free to contact one of our BLS Regional Information Offices. We provide these gold-standard data to help you make smart decisions, such as, do you want to stay in your metro area? Or does another catch your eye?!

*A note to our readers that the above data are not seasonally adjusted and some may be subject to revision. Area definitions may differ by subject. For more area summaries and geographic definitions, please see our Economic Summaries.

100 years after World War I: What’s the Labor Market Status of Our Veterans in 2018?

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I — at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 — we also want to honor our current veterans.

In honor of Veterans Day, here are our most up-to-date statistics about veterans:

  • In October 2018, 19.1 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 8 percent of the civilian noninstitutional population age 18 and over.
  • After reaching 9.9 percent in January 2011, the unemployment rate for veterans was 2.9 percent in October 2018. The peak unemployment rate for nonveterans was 10.4 percent in January 2010; their rate was 3.5 percent in October 2018.
  • The unemployment rate for Gulf War-era II veterans—those who served on active duty at any time since September 2001—reached 15.2 percent in January 2011. In October 2018, the unemployment rate for these veterans was 3.1 percent.
  • There were 269,000 unemployed veterans in the United States in October 2018. Eighteen percent of them were ages 18 to 34, 39 percent were ages 35 to 54, and 43 percent were 55 years and over.
  • In the third quarter of 2018, more veterans worked in government than any other industry; 21 percent of all employed veterans worked in federal, state, or local government. By comparison, 13 percent of employed nonveterans worked in government.
  • After government, veterans were most likely to work in manufacturing and in professional and businesses services (about 11 percent each).

Looking for more information on veterans? Check out our page devoted to veterans.

Now, let’s take a look at some data that may help veterans who are looking for work or considering a career change.

Thinking of moving?

In 2017, the unemployment rate for veterans varied across the country, ranging from 1.7 percent in Maine and Vermont to 7.3 percent in Rhode Island.

Map showing unemployment rates for veterans by state, 2017 annual averages

Editor’s note: Data for this map are available in the table below.

Considering different industries?

There were 7.0 million job openings in September 2018. Here’s how they break down by industry.

Chart showing job openings by industry in September 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Wondering about different jobs?

Thank you, veterans, for your service. As with our armed forces of the past, your service is the foundation of this great nation.

Want more information? Check out our website at www.bls.gov 24/7 or give our information office a call at (202) 691-5200. We also have regional information offices available to help you. BLS has the data YOU need to make wise decisions.

Unemployment rates for veterans by state, 2017 annual averages
State Unemployment rate
Total, 18 years and older 3.7%
Alabama 2.2
Alaska 5.3
Arizona 5.2
Arkansas 4.4
California 4.2
Colorado 3.7
Connecticut 3.4
Delaware 4.0
District of Columbia 6.3
Florida 2.9
Georgia 3.4
Hawaii 3.5
Idaho 3.4
Illinois 4.1
Indiana 2.4
Iowa 5.0
Kansas 2.5
Kentucky 2.0
Louisiana 3.0
Maine 1.7
Maryland 3.3
Massachusetts 2.4
Michigan 3.6
Minnesota 5.1
Mississippi 3.5
Missouri 3.1
Montana 4.4
Nebraska 4.5
Nevada 4.9
New Hampshire 3.3
New Jersey 4.0
New Mexico 3.3
New York 3.9
North Carolina 4.7
North Dakota 2.1
Ohio 3.5
Oklahoma 3.5
Oregon 4.3
Pennsylvania 5.0
Rhode Island 7.3
South Carolina 3.9
South Dakota 2.5
Tennessee 3.5
Texas 3.8
Utah 2.9
Vermont 1.7
Virginia 2.5
Washington 3.2
West Virginia 5.1
Wisconsin 3.3
Wyoming 4.6
Note: Veterans are men and women who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and were not on active duty at the time of the survey.
Job openings by industry in September 2018
Industry Job openings
Professional and business services 1,256,000
Health care and social assistance 1,223,000
Accommodation and food services 961,000
Retail trade 756,000
Manufacturing 484,000
State and local government, excluding education 317,000
Transportation, warehousing, and utilities 300,000
Construction 278,000
Finance and insurance 272,000
Other services 243,000
Wholesale trade 237,000
State and local government education 205,000
Information 117,000
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 87,000
Real estate and rental and leasing 84,000
Federal government 79,000
Educational services 76,000
Mining and logging 32,000

New BLS Local Data App Now Available

BLS has partnered with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Chief Information Officer to develop a new mobile app for iPhones that is now available for free in the App Store! Search “BLS Local Data.”

The BLS Local Data app is ideal for customers who want to know more about local labor markets, such as jobseekers and economic and workforce development professionals. You can search using your current location, a zip code, or a location name to find relevant data quickly without having to navigate through the huge BLS database. With one click, you can find data for states, metro areas, or counties.

Using the BLS API, the app quickly presents local data and national comparisons for unemployment rates, employment, and wages.

In the coming months, look for more features and data in the app. We’re already working on future releases that will include industry and occupation drilldowns and comparisons between local areas.

Check out the app and explore the wealth of local labor market data produced by BLS! And don’t worry, Android users! An Android version of the app will be available in the future.

iPhone screen image for BLS Local Data app

Digging Deeper into the Details about the Unemployed

National employment indicators, such as the unemployment rate, get attention as we release them each month. In August 2018, the unemployment rate stood at 3.9 percent, the same as in July. The rate in May, 3.8 percent, was the lowest since 2000. In addition to reporting this headline number, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides considerable detail about those who are employed – and those who are unemployed. Let’s explore.

But first, a reminder. The unemployment rate and details about the unemployed come from the monthly Current Population Survey, a survey of roughly 60,000 households. We collect information about household members age 16 and over. These individuals are counted as “employed” if they say they performed at least one hour of work “for pay or profit” during the reference week, the week including the 12th of the month. People are “unemployed” if they say that during the reference week they (1) had not worked; (2) were available for work; and (3) had actively looked for work (such as submitting a job application or attending a job interview) sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.

Together, the employed and unemployed make up the “labor force.” The unemployment rate is the share of the labor force who are unemployed. Those who are neither employed nor unemployed are “not in the labor force.” This category includes students, retirees, stay-at-home parents, people with a disability, and others who are not working or actively looking for work.

We have more measures that help to provide a fuller picture of America’s labor force. These include people who work part time but would prefer to work full time. We also count people who have searched for work in the past 12 months but not in the past 4 weeks (and are therefore not counted as unemployed). Further, we count a subset of this group who are not looking because they do not believe work is available for them. People who fall into these categories are included in the alternative measures of labor underutilization, which we publish each month.

Let’s look at the unemployed in more detail. We can sort the unemployed into 4 groups: (1) new entrants to the labor force (such as recent graduates now looking for work); (2) reentrants to the labor force (those who had a job, then left the labor force, and are now looking for work again); (3) job leavers (those who recently left a job voluntarily); and (4) job losers (those who left a job involuntarily, such as getting laid off or fired or completing temporary jobs).

Typically, the largest share of the unemployed are job losers, and this share jumps during economic downturns. While the other categories are less volatile, they make up a larger share of the total as job losers decline. For example, in August 2018, 44 percent of the unemployed were either reentrants or those who recently left a job. The share of the unemployed in both of these categories is higher than in 2009, when job losers accounted for nearly two-thirds of the unemployed. A potential reason for people to reenter the labor market, or leave an existing job to look for another, is that they perceive jobs are readily available. In periods of high unemployment, reentrants make up a smaller proportion of the unemployed. For example, when the unemployment rate reached 10.0 percent in October 2009, reentrants made up only 22 percent of the unemployed. Similarly, in 2009 and 2010, the share of the unemployed who were job leavers (those who quit their jobs voluntarily) was less than 6 percent, about half of the current share.

A chart showing the number of unemployed by the reason for unemployment from 1998 to 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available from our data-retrieval tool.

Another measure to assess the strength of the labor market is the number of people quitting their job. These data are from our Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That survey asks employers about the number of “separations” over the past month. It classifies separations as either quits (voluntary), layoffs or discharges (not voluntary), or other (including retirements, deaths, and disability). The most recent data, for July 2018, identified 3.6 million quits over the month, an all-time high. (The survey began in 2000.) The quit rate, which divides quits by total employment, was 2.4 percent, also close to a record high.

Most of the time, quits exceed layoffs and discharges, except in periods of high unemployment.

A chart showing the number of people each month who quit their jobs, were laid off or discharged from their job, or separated for other reasons from 2000 to 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available from our data-retrieval tool.

At any given time, there is a lot of movement in and out of jobs, and in and out of the labor market. And individuals have a variety of reasons for making such moves. But the overall trend in recent years toward individuals coming back into the labor market and voluntarily quitting their jobs suggests that individuals may feel that job opportunities are available.