Topic Archives: Unemployment

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.

Labor Day 2018 Fast Facts

About 92 percent of civilian workers with access to paid holidays receive Labor Day as a paid holiday. Before you set out for that long holiday weekend, take a moment to look at some fast facts we’ve compiled that show the current picture of our labor market.

Working

Working or Looking for Work

  • The civilian labor force participation rate—the share of the population working or looking for work—was 62.9 percent in July. The rate had trended down from the 2000s through the early 2010s, but it has remained fairly steady since 2014.

Not Working

  • The unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in July. After 6 months at 4.1 percent, the rate has had offsetting movements in recent months. In May, the rate hit its lowest point, 3.8 percent, since April 2000.
  • In July, there were 1.4 million long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). This represented 22.7 percent of the unemployed, down from a peak of 45.5 percent in April 2010 but still above the 16-percent share seen in late 2006.
  • Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 13.1 percent in July, while the rates were 3.4 percent for adult men and 3.7 percent for adult women. The unemployment rate was 6.6 percent for Blacks or African Americans, 4.5 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, 3.1 percent for Asians, and 3.4 percent for Whites.

Job Openings

Pay and Benefits

  • Average weekly earnings rose by 3.0 percent between July 2017 and July 2018; adjusted for inflation, real average weekly earnings are up 0.1 percent during this period.
  • Civilian compensation (wage and benefit) costs increased 2.8 percent between June 2017 and June 2018; adjusted for inflation, real compensation costs decreased 0.1 percent during this period.
  • Paid leave benefits are available to most private industry workers. The access rates in March 2018 were 71 percent for sick leave, 77 percent for vacation, and 78 percent for holidays.
  • In March 2018, civilian workers paid 20 percent of the cost of medical care premiums for single coverage and 32 percent for family coverage.

Productivity

  • Labor productivity—output per hour worked—in the U.S. nonfarm business sector grew 1.1 percent in 2017, continuing the historically below-average pace seen since the Great Recession. Some industries had impressive growth, however, including wireless telecommunications carriers (11.1 percent) and electronics and appliance stores (9 percent).
  • Multifactor productivity growth in the private nonfarm business sector recovered in 2017, rising 0.9 percent after falling 0.6 percent in 2016. Labor input for multifactor productivity—measured using the combined effects of hours worked and labor composition—grew 2.0 percent in 2017, outpacing the long-term 1987–2017 growth for labor input by 0.5 percentage points.

Safety and Health

  • In 2017, 14.3 percent of all workers were exposed to hazardous contaminants. The use of personal protective equipment was required for 11.8 percent of workers.

Education

  • Occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry made up 21.5 percent of employment. This educational category includes registered nurses, teachers at the kindergarten through secondary levels, and many management, business and financial operations, computer, and engineering occupations.
  • For 18 of the 30 occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026, some postsecondary education is typically required for entry.

Unionization

  • The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.7 percent in 2017, unchanged from 2016. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.
  • Total employer compensation costs for union workers were $47.65 and for nonunion workers $32.87 per employee hour worked. The cost of benefits accounted for 40.4 percent of total compensation or $19.23 for union workers and 29.1 percent or $9.56 for nonunion workers.

Work Stoppages

  • In the first 7 months of 2018, there were 445,000 workers involved in work stoppages that began this year. This is the largest number of workers involved in stoppages since 2000, when 394,000 workers were involved. There have been 12 stoppages beginning this year, which surpassed the 7 recorded in all of 2017.

From an American worker’s first job to retirement and everything in between, BLS has a stat for that! Want to learn more? Follow us on Twitter @BLS_gov.

A Clearer Look at Response Rates in BLS Surveys

Hands holding a tablet computer and completing a surveyPeople know BLS for our high-quality data on employment, unemployment, price trends, pay and benefits, workplace safety, productivity, and other topics. We strive to be transparent in how we produce those data. We provide detailed information on our methods for collecting and publishing the data. This allows businesses, policymakers, workers, jobseekers, students, investors, and others to make informed decisions about how to use and interpret the data.

We couldn’t produce any of these statistics without the generous cooperation of the people and businesses who voluntarily respond to our surveys. We are so grateful for the public service they provide.

To improve transparency about the quality of our data, we recently added a new webpage on response rates to our surveys and programs. We previously published response rates for many of our surveys in different places on our website. Until now there hasn’t been a way to view those response rates together in one location.

What is a response rate, and why should I care?

A response rate is the percent of potential respondents who completed the survey. We account for the total number of people, households, or businesses we tried to survey (the sample) and the number that weren’t eligible (for example, houses that were vacant or businesses that had closed). Response rates are an important measure for survey data. High response rates mean most of the sample completed the survey, and we can be confident the statistics represent the target population. Low response rates mean the opposite, and data users may want to consider other sources of information.

Do response rates tell the whole story?

A low response rate may mean the data don’t represent the target population well, but not necessarily. How much a low response rate affects how well the estimates represent the population is called nonresponse bias. Some important research by Robert M. Groves and Emilia Peytcheva published in the January 2008 issue of Public Opinion Quarterly looked at the connection between response rates and nonresponse bias in 59 studies. The authors found that high response rates can reduce the risk of bias, but there is not a strong correlation between response rate and nonresponse bias. Some surveys had a very low response rate but did not have evidence of high nonresponse bias. Other surveys had high nonresponse bias despite high response rates.

This means we should look at response rates with other measures of data quality and bias. BLS has studied nonresponse bias for many years. We have links to many of those studies in our library of statistical working papers.

What should I be looking for on the new page?

With response rates from multiple surveys in a single place, you can look for patterns across surveys and across time. For example, across every graph we see that response rates are declining over time. This is happening for nearly all surveys, government and private, on economic and other topics. It is simply getting harder to persuade respondents to answer our surveys.

Individual survey response rates are also interesting compared with other BLS surveys. We see that some surveys have higher response rates than others. To understand why this might be, we’ll want to look at the differences between the surveys. Each survey has specific collection procedures that affect response rates. For example, the high response rate for the Annual Refiling Survey (shown as ARS in the second chart) may catch your eye. When you see that it has a 12-month collection period and is mandatory in 26 states, the rate makes more sense.

We also can see how survey-specific changes have affected a survey’s response rate. For example, we see a drop in the response rate for the Telephone Point of Purchase Survey around 2012. This drop likely resulted from a change in sample design, as the survey moved from a sample of landline telephones to a dual-frame sample with both landlines and cell phones. Because the response rate for this survey continues to decline, we are developing a different approach for collecting the needed data.

What should I know before jumping into the new page?

There’s a lot of information! We’ve tried to make it as user friendly as possible, including a glossary page with definitions of terms and a page to show how each survey calculates their response rates. On the graphs, you can isolate a single survey by hovering over each of the lines. You can also download the data shown in each graph to examine it more closely.

We hope you will find this page helpful for understanding the quality of BLS data. Please let us know how you like it!