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Tag Archives: Unemployment insurance

Improving Key Labor Market Estimates during the Pandemic and Beyond

If things were good enough yesterday, why would we change them today? Good enough is OK for folding laundry, cleaning the junk drawer, and raking leaves, but not for official statistics from BLS. We do our best to provide a timely look at the labor market and economy, but we often learn more after we publish those initial data. As a result, we sometimes revise our statistics. That’s mostly a good thing, but there is a fine line between the frequency of revisions and introducing noise and possibly confusion.

I recently wrote about the importance of maintaining and sometimes changing official historical records, using baseball as an example. Today I want to highlight two of our statistical programs: the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) and the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data. We publish monthly statistics from these programs and revise them the following month as more information comes in. In addition to the monthly revisions, we incorporate more information once a year.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a huge impact on our lives. Check out our summary of how the pandemic affected the labor market and economy in 2020. The magnitude of the labor market changes stress tested the JOLTS and LAUS programs. Based on what we observed in real time, and what we know now, we realized we needed to respond to this unusual economic environment. We change our estimating techniques infrequently, but even the best techniques need adjustments to respond to such significant shocks. These adjustments reflect our commitment to continuous improvement.

Changes in Job Openings and Labor Turnover Estimates

The economic conditions caused by the pandemic led us to make two changes to JOLTS procedures. First, we changed the way we handled unusual reports, which we call outliers. In normal times, these outliers may be businesses with unusually large numbers of job separations. This process mutes the outlier impact on the estimates because those outliers are unlikely to represent other businesses. At the start of the pandemic, however, very large increases in separations were followed by very large increases in hires in many businesses. During this period, we adjusted the JOLTS outlier-detection techniques to accept as normal those extreme changes. Under these circumstances, these “outlier” reports did in fact represent many other businesses.

Second, JOLTS uses data from the much larger Current Employment Statistics (CES) sample to adjust estimates of hires and separations to stay in sync with the monthly employment changes. This procedure assumes that, over the long term, the difference between JOLTS hires and separations is close to the CES employment change. This assumption, however, was not appropriate in late March 2020 as people, businesses, and governments tried to contain the spread of COVID-19. The two surveys have different reference periods. The CES reference period is the pay period that includes the 12th of the month, whereas JOLTS estimates of hires and separations cover the entire month. Hires and separations during the latter half of March 2020 were not included in the CES employment change for March but were included in the JOLTS estimates for the month. To accurately capture the timing of this unprecedented event, we stopped aligning the JOLTS estimates of hires and separations with the CES employment change from March through November 2020.

More changes to JOLTS estimates came with the publication of the January 2021 news release. As we do every year, we revised the past 5 years of historical JOLTS data using updated CES employment estimates. We also updated the seasonal adjustment factors and applied them over the past 5 years. In addition, because we stopped using the alignment procedure for most of 2020, the difference between CES and JOLTS estimates had become quite large by December. To preserve the true economic differences between CES and JOLTS but reduce the divergence by the end of 2020, we adjusted estimates of hires and separations for the months in which the alignment procedure was turned off. These adjustments ensure that we report the highest quality data as quickly as we can, while improving accuracy as we learn more information.

Changes in State Labor Force and Unemployment Estimates

We also made real-time changes during the pandemic to the models we use to produce state labor force and unemployment estimates. The primary inputs to the models are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the source of the monthly national unemployment rate and other labor market measures. Because the CPS sample is not large enough to support state estimates on a monthly basis, we also use CES employment data and counts of continued claims for unemployment insurance to help inform the models. All of these model inputs experienced extreme movements, especially in the early part of the pandemic.

Starting with March 2020, we introduced two monthly adjustments we usually perform only once a year. These adjustments involved closer review and adjustment of outliers from all model inputs and level shifts. We discussed these changes in notes that appeared in the State Employment and Unemployment news releases for March 2020, April 2020, and May 2020.

These changes in 2020 provided a short-term solution for the state models. For the longer term, we respecified the relationships of the model inputs to provide more flexibility when unusual disruptions occur in the labor market. We explain these changes in our “Questions and Answers.”

We implemented the new estimation procedures for model-based areas in early 2021. They were reflected in the estimates published in the Regional and State Unemployment – 2020 Annual Averages news release. We replaced all previously published state data using the new procedures to ensure historically comparable estimates. The recent data revisions also reflect the best available inputs for model estimation. If you are interested in the details, you can read all about them at the LAUS Estimation Methodology page.

The speed with which the JOLTS and LAUS staff researched and implemented these improvements reflects the high quality of the BLS staff and their commitment to producing gold standard data. They make me proud to lead this great agency.

How Many Unemployed People? Comparing Survey Data and Unemployment Insurance Counts

More than 37 million people filed for unemployment insurance benefits in the 10 weeks from the week ending March 21 to the week ending May 23. The unemployment rate in April was 14.7 percent. Or was it 19.5 percent? There were 23 million people counted as unemployed in mid-April, and 18 million people received unemployment insurance (UI) benefits at that time. How can all of these things be true? What’s the real story?

Back in October, I set the record straight on how counts of people receiving unemployment insurance benefits differ from how BLS measures unemployment. These two measures offer distinct but related measures of trends in joblessness, some of which I will explore here. I will focus only on data from states’ regular UI programs, but other programs exist as well. Here’s the bottom line: When all is said and done, the two measures track each other very closely.

The number of people filing for UI benefits reached record levels in recent weeks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to contain it. The UI claims numbers don’t come from BLS but rather from our colleagues at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. Their count of people receiving UI benefits hit its highest level ever, nearly 23 million (not seasonally adjusted), for the week ending May 9. Their separate count of people filing new UI claims hit a record high of more than 6 million people in early April.

UI Continued Claimed versus Total Unemployed

First, the contrasts. The Employment and Training Administration publishes weekly counts of UI claims. The UI claims data include both initial claims and continued claims.

  • Initial claims: A count of the new claims people filed to request UI benefits. These claims won’t necessarily all be approved if, for example, a state UI program determines the person isn’t eligible to receive benefits.
  • Continued claims: A count of claims for those who have already filed initial claims and who have experienced a week of unemployment. These people then file a continued claim to receive benefits for that week of unemployment. Continued claims are also called insured unemployment.

Interviewers for the BLS Current Population Survey contact households once a month to ask questions about employment, job search, and other labor market topics for the week containing the 12th of the month. The monthly labor market survey counts people as unemployed if they meet all of these conditions:

  • They are not employed.
  • They could have taken a job if one had been offered.
  • They had made at least one specific, active effort to find employment in the last 4 weeks OR were on temporary layoff.

People counted in the survey as unemployed may or may not be eligible for UI benefits.

Counts of continued UI claims track pretty well with our survey measures of unemployment. The two measures run mostly parallel but at different levels over time. The chart below shows some history through the reference week of the survey data for April 2020.

Continued unemployment insurance claims and total unemployed, 1994–2020, not seasonally adjusted

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

The gap between the two measures shows how the survey captures millions of unemployed people who do not receive UI benefits. This gap partly results from states’ eligibility requirements for their UI programs.

UI Continued Claims versus Job Losers

Our monthly labor market survey lets us see more detail about the characteristics of people who are unemployed. One characteristic is the reason for a person’s unemployment.

  • Some people are labor force entrants or reentrants if they did not have a job immediately before starting their job search.
  • Others quit or leave their job voluntarily and are job leavers.
  • The rest become unemployed by losing their job in one of the following ways:
    • Being permanently laid off
    • Being temporarily laid off
    • Completing a temporary job

People who become unemployed after losing their jobs are job losers. Job losers are more likely to be eligible for UI benefits. Data for this group more closely track the continued claims data.

Continued unemployment insurance claims and unemployed job losers, 1994–2020, not seasonally adjusted

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

To narrow the gap even more, we know the time limits all regular UI programs have for receiving benefits. These limits vary by state, but states rarely offer more than 26 weeks of benefits in their regular program. Our survey estimates of job losers unemployed 26 weeks or fewer track more closely with UI continued claims.

Continued unemployment insurance claims and unemployed job losers who were unemployed 26 weeks or fewer, 1994–2020, not seasonally adjusted

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

Current Trends

Let’s focus on these two measures since last fall. We can see they track even more closely through the April survey reference week.

Continued unemployment insurance claims and unemployed job losers who were unemployed 26 weeks or fewer, November 2019 to May 2020, not seasonally adjusted

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

Labor market data from BLS have always been essential for understanding our economy. Good data—from many sources—are even more essential now, both for guiding the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and for tracking its economic impact and recovery. The labor market impacts from the pandemic have been so massive and happened so quickly that policymakers, businesses, and workers have wanted data in almost real time. Our monthly surveys weren’t designed to provide data quite that rapidly, but combining data from multiple sources and understanding how those measures track one another can provide more insight than any single source. We’ve been thinking a lot in recent years about how to complement our survey data with high-frequency information from other sources. I’ve written about some of those efforts and will continue to do so. This pandemic will sharpen our focus on innovating to provide gold standard data for the public good.

Continued unemployment insurance claims and Current Population Survey measures of unemployed, not seasonally adjusted
DateCurrent Population Survey unemployedCurrent Population Survey unemployed job losersCurrent Population Survey unemployed job losers who were unemployed 26 weeks or fewerUnemployment insurance continued claims under state programs

1/15/1994

9,492,0005,215,0004,204,0003,142,036

2/12/1994

9,262,0004,925,0003,968,0003,529,168

3/12/1994

8,874,0004,522,0003,577,0003,255,495

4/16/1994

8,078,0003,832,0002,959,0002,780,268

5/14/1994

7,656,0003,319,0002,520,0002,558,790

6/18/1994

8,251,0003,459,0002,722,0002,399,131

7/16/1994

8,281,0003,701,0002,919,0002,616,255

8/13/1994

7,868,0003,565,0002,832,0002,382,494

9/17/1994

7,379,0003,206,0002,543,0002,095,343

10/15/1994

7,155,0003,168,0002,557,0002,119,751

11/12/1994

6,973,0003,366,0002,759,0002,246,077

12/10/1994

6,690,0003,514,0002,947,0002,501,945

1/14/1995

8,101,0004,350,0003,697,0003,045,968

2/18/1995

7,685,0003,923,0003,288,0003,011,244

3/18/1995

7,480,0003,718,0003,112,0002,872,790

4/15/1995

7,378,0003,479,0002,817,0002,578,113

5/13/1995

7,185,0003,275,0002,697,0002,362,466

6/17/1995

7,727,0003,160,0002,615,0002,321,295

7/15/1995

7,892,0003,470,0002,899,0002,643,997

8/12/1995

7,457,0003,331,0002,823,0002,363,074

9/16/1995

7,167,0003,017,0002,492,0002,110,587

10/14/1995

6,884,0003,104,0002,588,0002,154,971

11/18/1995

7,024,0003,355,0002,851,0002,095,335

12/9/1995

6,872,0003,533,0003,065,0002,596,696

1/13/1996

8,270,0004,425,0003,884,0003,211,081

2/17/1996

7,858,0004,099,0003,517,0003,234,481

3/16/1996

7,700,0003,849,0003,248,0003,086,902

4/13/1996

7,124,0003,610,0002,903,0002,753,405

5/18/1996

7,166,0003,164,0002,643,0002,314,322

6/15/1996

7,377,0003,116,0002,570,0002,285,632

7/13/1996

7,693,0003,323,0002,717,0002,494,226

8/17/1996

6,868,0002,932,0002,451,0002,219,197

9/14/1996

6,700,0002,812,0002,375,0002,007,009

10/12/1996

6,577,0002,757,0002,320,0001,910,925

11/16/1996

6,816,0003,126,0002,677,0002,169,112

12/7/1996

6,680,0003,230,0002,805,0002,406,303

1/18/1997

7,933,0004,027,0003,561,0002,975,311

2/15/1997

7,647,0003,659,0003,158,0002,903,673

3/15/1997

7,399,0003,493,0003,026,0002,719,345

4/12/1997

6,551,0003,050,0002,593,0002,392,620

5/17/1997

6,398,0002,696,0002,318,0002,039,498

6/14/1997

7,094,0002,878,0002,457,0002,008,106

7/12/1997

6,981,0002,895,0002,405,0002,273,294

8/16/1997

6,594,0002,859,0002,374,0002,047,159

9/13/1997

6,403,0002,616,0002,190,0001,797,836

10/18/1997

5,995,0002,525,0002,105,0001,761,841

11/15/1997

5,914,0002,698,0002,319,0001,977,179

12/13/1997

5,957,0003,051,0002,663,0002,251,072

1/17/1998

7,069,0003,556,0003,136,0002,726,043

2/14/1998

6,804,0003,254,0002,868,0002,660,864

3/14/1998

6,816,0003,311,0002,906,0002,590,407

4/18/1998

5,643,0002,647,0002,262,0002,181,018

5/16/1998

5,764,0002,517,0002,196,0001,895,102

6/13/1998

6,534,0002,628,0002,316,0001,908,179

7/18/1998

6,567,0002,847,0002,499,0002,277,800

8/15/1998

6,173,0002,715,0002,365,0001,987,304

9/12/1998

6,039,0002,534,0002,169,0001,805,455

10/17/1998

5,831,0002,426,0002,109,0001,735,477

11/14/1998

5,711,0002,587,0002,299,0001,944,590

12/12/1998

5,565,0002,849,0002,537,0002,232,312

1/16/1999

6,604,0003,394,0003,095,0002,808,153

2/13/1999

6,563,0003,151,0002,859,0002,669,301

3/13/1999

6,119,0002,888,0002,597,0002,581,727

4/17/1999

5,688,0002,633,0002,360,0002,219,359

5/15/1999

5,507,0002,362,0002,107,0002,016,349

6/12/1999

6,271,0002,495,0002,204,0001,963,530

7/17/1999

6,319,0002,729,0002,422,0002,181,103

8/14/1999

5,826,0002,559,0002,251,0001,978,309

9/18/1999

5,661,0002,299,0002,039,0001,728,476

10/16/1999

5,372,0002,162,0001,935,0001,705,790

11/13/1999

5,380,0002,340,0002,092,0001,828,872

12/11/1999

5,245,0002,451,0002,193,0002,094,337

1/15/2000

6,316,0003,134,0002,808,0002,531,224

2/12/2000

6,284,0003,066,0002,771,0002,604,156

3/18/2000

6,069,0002,802,0002,535,0002,277,154

4/15/2000

5,212,0002,259,0002,027,0001,975,507

5/13/2000

5,460,0002,196,0001,957,0001,783,386

6/17/2000

5,959,0002,303,0002,080,0001,812,319

7/15/2000

6,028,0002,508,0002,273,0002,107,129

8/12/2000

5,863,0002,570,0002,317,0001,933,774

9/16/2000

5,359,0002,284,0002,010,0001,709,044

10/14/2000

5,153,0002,105,0001,857,0001,735,297

11/18/2000

5,336,0002,355,0002,108,0001,822,245

12/9/2000

5,264,0002,618,0002,376,0002,261,776

1/13/2001

6,647,0003,449,0003,162,0002,787,024

2/17/2001

6,523,0003,343,0003,061,0002,954,857

3/17/2001

6,509,0003,379,0003,047,0002,932,361

4/14/2001

6,004,0003,027,0002,697,0002,772,097

5/12/2001

5,901,0002,839,0002,578,0002,554,830

6/16/2001

6,816,0003,136,0002,833,0002,634,433

7/14/2001

6,858,0003,372,0003,060,0003,053,451

8/18/2001

7,017,0003,379,0003,004,0002,793,540

9/15/2001

6,766,0003,294,0002,961,0002,630,082

10/13/2001

7,175,0003,753,0003,356,0002,888,718

11/17/2001

7,617,0004,252,0003,738,0003,105,348

12/8/2001

7,773,0004,485,0003,937,0003,604,679

1/12/2002

9,051,0005,449,0004,757,0004,234,835

2/16/2002

8,823,0005,105,0004,457,0004,206,538

3/16/2002

8,776,0004,861,0004,145,0004,078,226

4/13/2002

8,255,0004,550,0003,744,0003,731,669

5/18/2002

7,969,0004,180,0003,293,0003,314,004

6/15/2002

8,758,0004,429,0003,547,0003,248,721

7/13/2002

8,693,0004,607,0003,673,0003,518,751

8/17/2002

8,271,0004,427,0003,545,0003,195,935

9/14/2002

7,790,0004,123,0003,170,0002,947,854

10/12/2002

7,769,0004,151,0003,181,0002,912,625

11/16/2002

8,170,0004,555,0003,521,0003,205,969

12/7/2002

8,209,0004,849,0003,718,0003,481,337

1/18/2003

9,395,0005,641,0004,564,0004,011,764

2/15/2003

9,260,0005,487,0004,336,0004,042,069

3/15/2003

9,018,0005,150,0004,047,0004,009,388

4/12/2003

8,501,0004,716,0003,526,0003,693,322

5/17/2003

8,500,0004,589,0003,475,0003,341,816

6/14/2003

9,649,0004,775,0003,654,0003,334,821

7/12/2003

9,319,0004,958,0003,842,0003,635,324

8/16/2003

8,830,0004,789,0003,715,0003,278,613

9/13/2003

8,436,0004,500,0003,363,0002,985,665

10/18/2003

8,169,0004,319,0003,206,0002,944,236

11/15/2003

8,269,0004,505,0003,401,0003,090,089

12/13/2003

7,945,0004,629,0003,598,0003,338,180

1/17/2004

9,144,0005,195,0004,063,0003,754,598

2/14/2004

8,770,0004,888,0003,838,0003,690,774

3/13/2004

8,834,0004,920,0003,765,0003,466,491

4/17/2004

7,837,0004,253,0003,255,0002,994,939

5/15/2004

7,792,0003,778,0002,845,0002,690,913

6/12/2004

8,616,0003,930,0003,010,0002,685,110

7/17/2004

8,518,0004,233,0003,372,0002,892,369

8/14/2004

7,940,0003,809,0002,982,0002,639,474

9/18/2004

7,545,0003,644,0002,853,0002,342,492

10/16/2004

7,531,0003,653,0002,832,0002,348,403

11/13/2004

7,665,0003,898,0003,103,0002,481,768

12/11/2004

7,599,0004,166,0003,320,0002,781,151

1/15/2005

8,444,0004,771,0003,905,0003,269,319

2/12/2005

8,549,0004,461,0003,624,0003,200,271

3/12/2005

7,986,0004,067,0003,289,0003,044,727

4/16/2005

7,335,0003,559,0002,787,0002,565,759

5/14/2005

7,287,0003,265,0002,606,0002,347,511

6/18/2005

7,870,0003,482,0002,883,0002,354,977

7/16/2005

7,839,0003,618,0003,034,0002,581,153

8/13/2005

7,327,0003,297,0002,705,0002,361,634

9/17/2005

7,259,0003,373,0002,775,0002,293,043

10/15/2005

6,964,0003,162,0002,535,0002,377,075

11/12/2005

7,271,0003,329,0002,687,0002,515,835

12/10/2005

6,956,0003,622,0003,000,0002,659,503

1/14/2006

7,608,0003,990,0003,419,0003,010,836

2/18/2006

7,692,0003,846,0003,233,0002,865,435

3/18/2006

7,255,0003,707,0003,108,0002,712,772

4/15/2006

6,804,0003,426,0002,771,0002,430,217

5/13/2006

6,655,0003,152,0002,546,0002,183,176

6/17/2006

7,341,0003,222,0002,718,0002,177,172

7/15/2006

7,602,0003,374,0002,820,0002,450,260

8/12/2006

7,086,0003,132,0002,585,0002,283,575

9/16/2006

6,625,0002,878,0002,366,0002,022,552

10/14/2006

6,272,0002,724,0002,247,0002,077,157

11/11/2006

6,576,0003,025,0002,555,0002,231,475

12/9/2006

6,491,0003,374,0002,928,0002,536,673

1/13/2007

7,649,0004,127,0003,668,0002,887,810

2/17/2007

7,400,0003,942,0003,425,0003,037,700

3/17/2007

6,913,0003,487,0002,987,0002,788,224

4/14/2007

6,532,0003,249,0002,724,0002,598,802

5/12/2007

6,486,0003,070,0002,591,0002,293,089

6/16/2007

7,295,0003,241,0002,752,0002,241,672

7/14/2007

7,556,0003,730,0003,157,0002,548,427

8/18/2007

7,088,0003,472,0002,899,0002,335,412

9/15/2007

6,952,0003,208,0002,645,0002,128,411

10/13/2007

6,773,0003,259,0002,668,0002,143,999

11/10/2007

6,917,0003,382,0002,814,0002,260,475

12/8/2007

7,371,0004,013,0003,396,0002,665,956

1/12/2008

8,221,0004,608,0003,951,0003,242,075

2/16/2008

7,953,0004,471,0003,805,0003,265,157

3/15/2008

8,027,0004,555,0003,922,0003,220,809

4/12/2008

7,287,0003,931,0003,212,0003,018,445

5/17/2008

8,076,0003,949,0003,204,0002,759,158

6/14/2008

8,933,0004,201,0003,451,0002,801,895

7/12/2008

9,433,0004,562,0003,782,0003,097,770

8/16/2008

9,479,0004,735,0003,855,0003,112,252

9/13/2008

9,199,0004,699,0003,655,0002,957,202

10/18/2008

9,469,0005,138,0004,006,0003,188,153

11/15/2008

10,015,0005,746,0004,609,0003,714,261

12/13/2008

10,999,0006,878,0005,483,0004,531,208

1/17/2009

13,009,0008,633,0007,041,0005,647,319

2/14/2009

13,699,0009,098,0007,380,0006,031,637

3/14/2009

13,895,0009,315,0007,347,0006,354,009

4/18/2009

13,248,0008,687,0006,347,0006,237,658

5/16/2009

13,973,0008,930,0006,531,0006,049,295

6/13/2009

15,095,0009,194,0006,567,0006,012,730

7/18/2009

15,201,0009,447,0006,275,0005,989,877

8/15/2009

14,823,0009,316,0005,955,0005,578,533

9/12/2009

14,538,0009,170,0005,520,0005,131,447

10/17/2009

14,547,0009,176,0005,482,0004,893,301

11/14/2009

14,407,0009,130,0005,237,0004,996,155

12/12/2009

14,740,0009,822,0005,881,0005,262,045

1/16/2010

16,147,00010,574,0006,302,0005,538,244

2/13/2010

15,991,00010,664,0006,347,0005,465,212

3/13/2010

15,678,00010,311,0005,880,0005,270,644

4/17/2010

14,609,0009,110,0004,607,0004,715,968

5/15/2010

14,369,0008,812,0004,484,0004,333,973

6/12/2010

14,885,0008,769,0004,606,0004,226,459

7/17/2010

15,137,0008,964,0004,695,0004,471,386

8/14/2010

14,759,0008,894,0004,724,0004,138,097

9/18/2010

14,140,0008,651,0004,526,0003,737,930

10/16/2010

13,903,0008,331,0004,306,0003,697,842

11/13/2010

14,282,0008,926,0004,787,0003,804,696

12/11/2010

13,997,0008,995,0004,986,0004,119,344

1/15/2011

14,937,0009,520,0005,545,0004,552,936

2/12/2011

14,542,0009,212,0005,403,0004,521,733

3/12/2011

14,060,0008,841,0004,874,0004,215,458

4/16/2011

13,237,0007,958,0004,276,0003,726,578

5/14/2011

13,421,0007,885,0004,051,0003,492,720

6/18/2011

14,409,0007,940,0004,315,0003,454,731

7/16/2011

14,428,0008,107,0004,441,0003,695,537

8/13/2011

14,008,0007,897,0004,395,0003,497,400

9/17/2011

13,520,0007,636,0003,849,0003,150,942

10/15/2011

13,102,0007,390,0003,911,0003,141,911

11/12/2011

12,613,0007,201,0003,813,0003,323,025

12/10/2011

12,692,0007,691,0004,392,0003,571,487

1/14/2012

13,541,0008,234,0004,977,0004,019,589

2/18/2012

13,430,0007,866,0004,783,0003,834,179

3/17/2012

12,904,0007,415,0004,394,0003,650,071

4/14/2012

11,910,0006,555,0003,580,0003,377,436

5/12/2012

12,271,0006,607,0003,601,0003,079,181

6/16/2012

13,184,0006,927,0003,973,0003,069,545

7/14/2012

13,400,0007,151,0004,248,0003,288,629

8/18/2012

12,696,0006,820,0004,003,0003,068,519

9/15/2012

11,742,0006,161,0003,497,0002,796,675

10/13/2012

11,741,0006,125,0003,428,0002,772,151

11/10/2012

11,404,0006,069,0003,520,0002,902,343

12/8/2012

11,844,0006,592,0004,086,0003,203,819

1/12/2013

13,181,0007,575,0005,046,0003,661,355

2/16/2013

12,500,0007,130,0004,468,0003,483,983

3/16/2013

11,815,0006,638,0004,024,0003,345,945

4/13/2013

11,014,0006,079,0003,642,0003,049,657

5/18/2013

11,302,0005,751,0003,437,0002,752,679

6/15/2013

12,248,0005,939,0003,794,0002,745,766

7/13/2013

12,083,0005,934,0003,771,0002,995,510

8/17/2013

11,462,0005,856,0003,677,0002,772,037

9/14/2013

10,885,0005,470,0003,409,0002,412,302

10/12/2013

10,773,0005,649,0003,657,0002,418,279

11/9/2013

10,271,0005,400,0003,371,0002,514,678

12/7/2013

9,984,0005,460,0003,492,0002,838,295

1/18/2014

10,855,0006,152,0004,163,0003,334,697

2/15/2014

10,893,0006,024,0004,089,0003,329,510

3/15/2014

10,537,0005,779,0003,853,0003,096,231

4/12/2014

9,079,0004,972,0003,100,0002,721,859

5/17/2014

9,443,0004,613,0002,948,0002,421,319

6/14/2014

9,893,0004,670,0003,239,0002,372,393

7/12/2014

10,307,0004,867,0003,359,0002,518,959

8/16/2014

9,787,0004,750,0003,442,0002,363,077

9/13/2014

8,962,0004,176,0002,774,0002,076,867

10/18/2014

8,680,0003,995,0002,682,0002,046,031

11/15/2014

8,630,0004,182,0002,954,0002,158,767

12/13/2014

8,331,0004,355,0003,083,0002,445,747

1/17/2015

9,498,0004,912,0003,601,0002,750,868

2/14/2015

9,095,0004,721,0003,514,0002,720,615

3/14/2015

8,682,0004,503,0003,259,0002,674,331

4/18/2015

7,966,0003,977,0002,789,0002,251,252

5/16/2015

8,370,0003,962,0002,850,0002,047,456

6/13/2015

8,638,0003,951,0003,029,0002,066,476

7/18/2015

8,805,0004,204,0003,207,0002,217,720

8/15/2015

8,162,0003,987,0002,968,0002,124,998

9/12/2015

7,628,0003,509,0002,647,0001,903,085

10/17/2015

7,597,0003,576,0002,678,0001,825,692

11/14/2015

7,573,0003,633,0002,815,0001,970,435

12/12/2015

7,542,0003,820,0002,964,0002,255,937

1/16/2016

8,309,0004,287,0003,357,0002,624,638

2/13/2016

8,219,0004,244,0003,299,0002,582,311

3/12/2016

8,116,0004,149,0003,123,0002,461,697

4/16/2016

7,413,0003,716,0002,761,0002,126,849

5/14/2016

7,207,0003,322,0002,480,0001,982,730

6/18/2016

8,144,0003,677,0002,855,0001,975,334

7/16/2016

8,267,0003,869,0003,001,0002,109,038

8/13/2016

7,996,0003,787,0002,918,0002,030,018

9/17/2016

7,658,0003,536,0002,660,0001,728,317

10/15/2016

7,447,0003,352,0002,551,0001,710,066

11/12/2016

7,066,0003,271,0002,490,0001,828,034

12/10/2016

7,170,0003,668,0002,917,0002,071,781

1/14/2017

8,149,0004,361,0003,481,0002,437,106

2/18/2017

7,887,0004,184,0003,335,0002,364,751

3/18/2017

7,284,0003,812,0002,990,0002,256,527

4/15/2017

6,555,0003,369,0002,561,0001,984,675

5/13/2017

6,572,0003,017,0002,317,0001,757,086

6/17/2017

7,250,0003,359,0002,698,0001,780,061

7/15/2017

7,441,0003,519,0002,822,0001,936,985

8/12/2017

7,287,0003,536,0002,866,0001,851,667

9/16/2017

6,556,0002,992,0002,314,0001,611,895

10/14/2017

6,242,0002,859,0002,252,0001,572,784

11/11/2017

6,286,0002,907,0002,289,0001,672,980

12/9/2017

6,278,0003,298,0002,715,0001,909,886

1/13/2018

7,189,0003,891,0003,259,0002,242,438

2/17/2018

7,091,0003,716,0003,069,0002,226,157

3/17/2018

6,671,0003,375,0002,799,0002,082,891

4/14/2018

5,932,0002,805,0002,272,0001,841,572

5/12/2018

5,756,0002,493,0002,004,0001,584,129

6/16/2018

6,812,0003,022,0002,511,0001,564,998

7/14/2018

6,730,0003,164,0002,551,0001,738,468

8/18/2018

6,370,0002,885,0002,291,0001,605,843

9/15/2018

5,766,0002,474,0001,912,0001,396,832

10/13/2018

5,771,0002,510,0001,958,0001,353,628

11/10/2018

5,650,0002,598,0002,107,0001,429,209

12/8/2018

6,029,0002,947,0002,443,0001,703,504

1/12/2019

7,140,0003,791,0003,291,0002,070,444

2/16/2019

6,625,0003,300,0002,760,0002,107,108

3/16/2019

6,382,0003,098,0002,513,0001,990,542

4/13/2019

5,387,0002,484,0001,984,0001,686,671

5/18/2019

5,503,0002,281,0001,783,0001,491,921

6/15/2019

6,292,0002,703,0002,196,0001,538,052

7/13/2019

6,556,0002,986,0002,483,0001,673,714

8/17/2019

6,203,0002,906,0002,418,0001,594,845

9/14/2019

5,465,0002,227,0001,711,0001,379,722

10/12/2019

5,510,0002,340,0001,889,0001,366,544

11/9/2019

5,441,0002,561,0002,123,0001,439,799

12/7/2019

5,503,0002,752,0002,361,0001,707,456

1/18/2020

6,504,0003,267,0002,808,0002,053,978

2/15/2020

6,218,0003,151,0002,712,0002,036,213

3/14/2020

7,370,0004,441,0003,907,0002,055,283

4/18/2020

22,504,00020,384,00019,953,00017,601,283
Continued unemployment insurance claims and unemployed job losers who were unemployed 26 weeks or fewer, not seasonally adjusted
DateCurrent Population Survey unemployed job losers who were unemployed 26 weeks or fewerUnemployment insurance continued claims under state programs

11/2/2019

1,428,992

11/9/2019

2,123,0001,439,799

11/16/2019

1,523,691

11/23/2019

1,488,691

11/30/2019

1,733,682

12/7/2019

2,361,0001,707,456

12/14/2019

1,780,860

12/21/2019

1,760,439

12/28/2019

2,124,746

1/4/2020

2,229,673

1/11/2020

2,114,161

1/18/2020

2,808,0002,053,978

1/25/2020

2,125,243

2/1/2020

2,060,389

2/8/2020

2,073,658

2/15/2020

2,712,0002,036,213

2/22/2020

2,079,249

2/29/2020

2,032,792

3/7/2020

1,954,265

3/14/2020

3,907,0002,055,283

3/21/2020

3,391,238

3/28/2020

8,107,677

4/4/2020

12,356,980

4/11/2020

16,138,295

4/18/2020

19,953,00017,601,283

4/25/2020

21,576,373

5/2/2020

20,733,760

5/9/2020

22,637,743

5/16/2020

18,855,114

Ensuring Security and Fairness in the Release of Economic Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is the gold standard of accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible statistical data, and I am committed to keeping it that way. As Commissioner, it is my obligation to do everything possible to protect the integrity of our data and to make sure everyone has equitable access to these data.

One step toward equitable access and data security is coming soon; on March 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will eliminate all electronics from the lock-up facility where we allow members of the media to review economic releases and prepare news stories before the official release of the data. We are changing the procedures to better protect our statistical information from premature disclosure and to ensure fairness in providing our information to the public.

For many years the news media have helped BLS and the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) inform the public about our data. Since the mid-1980s, BLS and ETA have provided prerelease data access to news organizations under strict embargoes, known as “lock-ups.” We have provided this early access consistent with federal Statistical Policy Directives of the Office of Management and Budget. BLS uses the lock-up for several major releases each month, including the Employment Situation and Consumer Price Index. ETA uses the lock-up for the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims data. These economic data have significant commercial value and may affect the movement of commodity and financial markets upon release.

Because of technological advancements, the current lock-up procedure creates an unfair competitive advantage for lock-up participants who provide BLS data to trading companies. Today, the internet permits anyone in the world to obtain economic releases for themselves directly from the BLS or DOL websites. However, unlike media organizations with computer access in the current lock-up, others who use the data do not have up to 30 minutes before the official release to process the data. Their postings about the data may lag behind those released directly from the lock-up at official publication time, 8:30 a.m. Eastern. High-speed algorithmic trading technology now gives a notable competitive advantage to market participants who have even a few microseconds head start. To eliminate this advantage and further protect our data from inadvertent or purposeful prerelease, no computers or any other electronic devices will be allowed in the lock-up.

In recent years, BLS and ETA have devoted significant resources to introducing improved technologies that strengthen our infrastructure and ensure data are posted to the BLS or DOL websites immediately following the official release time.

We at BLS and ETA are committed to the principle of a level playing field—our data must be made available to all users at the same time. We are equally committed to protecting our data. We are now positioned to continue helping the media produce accurate stories about the data, while also ensuring that all parties, including the media, businesses, and the general public, will have equitable and timely access to our most sensitive data.

You can find more details about these changes in our notice to lock-up participants. We also have a set of questions and answers about the changes to the lock-up procedures.

Did You Know Official Unemployment Estimates Are NOT from Unemployment Insurance Counts?

Editor’s Note: On October 23, 2019, we discovered some errors in the news release we published September 25 on which this blog is based. The news release was reissued with corrected data on November 7, 2019. This blog reflects the corrected data.

As BLS Commissioner, I am keenly aware of how much interest there is in our unemployment figures. It has often seemed to me that people don’t understand how we measure unemployment. I sometimes hear things like, “I’m not getting unemployment insurance benefits, so the BLS unemployment numbers don’t include me.”

I’d like to set the record straight. The unemployment estimates we release each month are completely independent of the unemployment insurance program. We do not use counts of people applying for or receiving benefits to determine the national unemployment rate. In fact, we don’t even ask about unemployment insurance benefits in the monthly survey.

How then do we measure unemployment? Our estimates are based on a nationwide, monthly household survey, known as the Current Population Survey, in which we ask people about their labor market activity in a particular week of the month.

We count people as unemployed if they:

  • Were not employed
  • Could have taken a job if one had been offered
  • Had made at least one specific, active effort to find employment in the last 4 weeks OR were on temporary layoff

The definition of unemployment includes people even if they:

  • Are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits
  • Have exhausted their benefits
  • Did not apply for benefits

To help us learn more about people who do and do not apply for benefits, the Department of Labor’s Chief Evaluation Office sponsored a special supplement or addition to the Current Population Survey in May and September 2018.

From this survey, we learned that 74 percent of unemployed people who worked in the previous 12 months had not applied for unemployment insurance benefits since their last job. Of the unemployed who did not apply, 3 out of 5 did not apply because they didn’t believe they were eligible to receive benefits. Specifically, they believed they were not eligible because their work was not covered by unemployment insurance, they quit their job, they were terminated for misconduct, they had insufficient past work, or they had previously exhausted their benefits.

Percent distribution of unemployed people who did not apply for unemployment insurance benefits  by the main reason for not applying, 2018

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

Looking further into the characteristics of the 26 percent of people who had applied for benefits, people who were last employed in management, professional, and related jobs were most likely to apply. Those in service jobs were least likely to apply.

Percent of unemployed people who applied for unemployment insurance benefits, by occupation of last job, 2018

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

In 2018, two-thirds of unemployed people who had applied for unemployment insurance benefits since their last job received benefits. The percentage of applicants who had received benefits ranged from 54 percent for those who last worked in production, transportation, and material moving occupations to 71 percent for those in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations.

Want to learn more about this topic? We have more data on unemployment insurance benefit applicants, nonapplicants, and recipients on our website.

Percent distribution of unemployed people who did not apply for unemployment insurance benefits by the main reason for not applying, 2018
ReasonPercent of unemployed who had worked in the previous 12 months

Eligibility issues

59.1%

Other reasons for not applying for benefits

24.8

Attitude about or barrier to applying for benefits

11.5

Reason not provided

4.6
Percent of unemployed people who applied for unemployment insurance benefits, by occupation of last job, 2018
Occupation of last jobPercent who applied for benefits

Management, professional, and related

37.6%

Natural resources, construction, and maintenance

29.6

Sales and office

24.6

Production, transportation, and material moving

22.9

Service

15.2