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Tag Archives: Unemployment

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.

Looking Back on the 2020 U.S. Labor Market and Economy

I know many of us are glad to see 2020 in the rearview mirror and have higher hopes for 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused so much suffering and hardship for people in the United States and around the world. During these challenging times, it remains important to have good, reliable, timely data. Good data are essential for the public health response to the pandemic and for tracking its economic and social effects, as well as the progress toward recovery. Let’s reflect back on some of the historic measures we saw in 2020.

Throughout the pandemic, the BLS staff and our colleagues across the statistical community have remained on the job to meet the growing needs for high-quality data. We are thankful we have been able to keep working; millions of other people haven’t been so fortunate. In part this is due to the way our work life at BLS changed in 2020. Nearly the entire staff has teleworked full time since March. That means we have needed to figure out new ways to collaborate with each other to continue producing essential data about the economy. That change in work life also meant that many staff members faced the challenges of new care arrangements for young children, schooling—often online—for older children, and keeping all their loved ones safe and healthy.

When the pandemic began in March 2020, many consumers began avoiding stores, restaurants, and other public gatherings to reduce the risk of catching or spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Many businesses and other organizations reduced their operations or closed completely. At the recommendation of public health authorities, many governors and other public leaders issued stay-at-home orders. The economic impact of COVID-19 was breathtaking in its speed and severity.

National employment data. The nation experienced steady employment growth in recent years; BLS recorded average monthly increases in nonfarm employment between about 170,000 and 200,000 from 2016 to 2019. January and February 2020 brought continued job gains before the bottom dropped out in March (down 1.7 million jobs) and especially in April (down 20.7 million). These were the two largest declines in history, dating to 1939. These declines were then followed by the 4 largest increases in history: 2.8 million, 4.8 million, 1.7 million, and 1.5 million. You have to go back to 1983 to find the next highest increase, 1,118,000. Employment in December 2020 was nearly 10 million lower than in February.

Nonfarm payroll employment, January 1970–December 2020

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

National unemployment data. The year started with some record-low unemployment rates. The 3.5-percent unemployment rate in both January and February 2020 tied for the lowest rate since December 1969 (also 3.5 percent). The unemployment rates for several demographic groups were at or near their record lows. For example, the unemployment rate for African Americans in February 2020, at 6.0 percent, was close to the all-time low of 5.2 percent in August 2019.

Then came the pandemic in March 2020. The unemployment rate that month rose 0.9 percentage point to 4.4 percent. In April, the unemployment rate increased by 10.4 percentage points to 14.8 percent, the highest rate and largest one-month increase in history (dating to January 1948). Nearly all demographic groups experienced record-high unemployment rates in April; for example, the rate for Hispanics was a record 18.9 percent, after a record low of 4.0 percent in September 2019. And for the first time since data became available for both groups in 1973, the unemployment rate for Hispanics in April 2020 exceeded the rate for African Americans.

Unemployment rates for selected groups, February, April, and December 2020

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

State unemployment data. We see a similar pattern when looking at state unemployment rates, with record-setting lows early in 2020 followed by record-setting highs. In February, state unemployment rates ranged from a low of 2.2 percent in North Dakota to a high of 5.8 percent in Alaska, with 12 states at their historic lows that month. By April, rates had increased in all states, with 40 states and the District of Columbia setting new highs in that month, and another 7 states cresting in subsequent months. (The state data began in 1976.) State unemployment rates in April ranged from 8.3 percent in Connecticut to 30.1 percent in Nevada. Check out our animated map showing the rapid transformation of state unemployment rates.

Consumer price data. Beyond the job market, the pandemic had a big effect on other aspects of everyday life, including consumers’ buying habits. Toilet paper and wipes were disappearing from store shelves, while fewer people were commuting or traveling. Those trends were reflected in rapid changes in consumer prices.

One-month changes in the Consumer Price Index are typically 0.1 or 0.2 percent; the 0.8 percent decrease in April 2020, was the largest monthly decline since December 2008. The overall change included some large movements in both directions. For example, the price of gasoline declined 20.6 percent in April, the largest one-month decline since November 2008. In contrast, prices for food at home rose by 2.6 percent, the largest monthly increase since February 1974. Looking below the surface even further, several items experienced record one-month price changes, with some records going back over 50 years.

Percent change in consumer prices for selected items in April 2020, seasonally adjusted

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

Labor Productivity data. The BLS quarterly measure of labor productivity in the nonfarm business sector compares output to hours worked. If output rises more than hours worked, productivity increases. The pandemic saw large declines in both output and hours starting in mid-March. There was a small decline in labor productivity in the first quarter of 2020, down 0.3 percent, as output declined (-6.4 percent) slightly more than hours worked (-6.1 percent). While we had not experienced declining productivity in nearly 3 years, small increases or decreases in the quarterly change are common. The second quarter saw labor productivity soar by 10.6 percent, the largest increase since 1971, when productivity increased 12.3 percent in the first quarter. The second quarter 2020 increase reflected a greater decline in hours worked (-42.9 percent) than in output (-36.8 percent).

Since its beginnings in 1884, BLS has built consistent data to allow comparisons across the decades. Maintaining this history allows data users to quickly learn “when was the last time.” We also have collected and published new data specifically about the COVID-19 pandemic. Still to come, BLS will release more 2020 data in the coming year. Those new results will add to the unique story of the extraordinary 2020 economy.

Nonfarm payroll employment, January 1970–December 2020
MonthEmployment levelOver-the-month change

Jan 1970

71,176,000-65,000

Feb 1970

71,305,000129,000

Mar 1970

71,451,000146,000

Apr 1970

71,348,000-103,000

May 1970

71,124,000-224,000

Jun 1970

71,029,000-95,000

Jul 1970

71,053,00024,000

Aug 1970

70,937,000-116,000

Sep 1970

70,944,0007,000

Oct 1970

70,521,000-423,000

Nov 1970

70,409,000-112,000

Dec 1970

70,792,000383,000

Jan 1971

70,865,00073,000

Feb 1971

70,807,000-58,000

Mar 1971

70,860,00053,000

Apr 1971

71,036,000176,000

May 1971

71,247,000211,000

Jun 1971

71,254,0007,000

Jul 1971

71,315,00061,000

Aug 1971

71,373,00058,000

Sep 1971

71,614,000241,000

Oct 1971

71,642,00028,000

Nov 1971

71,847,000205,000

Dec 1971

72,109,000262,000

Jan 1972

72,441,000332,000

Feb 1972

72,648,000207,000

Mar 1972

72,944,000296,000

Apr 1972

73,162,000218,000

May 1972

73,469,000307,000

Jun 1972

73,758,000289,000

Jul 1972

73,709,000-49,000

Aug 1972

74,141,000432,000

Sep 1972

74,264,000123,000

Oct 1972

74,674,000410,000

Nov 1972

74,973,000299,000

Dec 1972

75,268,000295,000

Jan 1973

75,617,000349,000

Feb 1973

76,014,000397,000

Mar 1973

76,284,000270,000

Apr 1973

76,455,000171,000

May 1973

76,648,000193,000

Jun 1973

76,887,000239,000

Jul 1973

76,913,00026,000

Aug 1973

77,168,000255,000

Sep 1973

77,276,000108,000

Oct 1973

77,607,000331,000

Nov 1973

77,920,000313,000

Dec 1973

78,031,000111,000

Jan 1974

78,100,00069,000

Feb 1974

78,254,000154,000

Mar 1974

78,296,00042,000

Apr 1974

78,382,00086,000

May 1974

78,549,000167,000

Jun 1974

78,604,00055,000

Jul 1974

78,636,00032,000

Aug 1974

78,619,000-17,000

Sep 1974

78,610,000-9,000

Oct 1974

78,630,00020,000

Nov 1974

78,265,000-365,000

Dec 1974

77,652,000-613,000

Jan 1975

77,293,000-359,000

Feb 1975

76,918,000-375,000

Mar 1975

76,648,000-270,000

Apr 1975

76,460,000-188,000

May 1975

76,624,000164,000

Jun 1975

76,521,000-103,000

Jul 1975

76,770,000249,000

Aug 1975

77,153,000383,000

Sep 1975

77,228,00075,000

Oct 1975

77,540,000312,000

Nov 1975

77,685,000145,000

Dec 1975

78,017,000332,000

Jan 1976

78,503,000486,000

Feb 1976

78,816,000313,000

Mar 1976

79,048,000232,000

Apr 1976

79,292,000244,000

May 1976

79,312,00020,000

Jun 1976

79,376,00064,000

Jul 1976

79,547,000171,000

Aug 1976

79,704,000157,000

Sep 1976

79,892,000188,000

Oct 1976

79,911,00019,000

Nov 1976

80,240,000329,000

Dec 1976

80,448,000208,000

Jan 1977

80,690,000242,000

Feb 1977

80,988,000298,000

Mar 1977

81,391,000403,000

Apr 1977

81,728,000337,000

May 1977

82,088,000360,000

Jun 1977

82,488,000400,000

Jul 1977

82,834,000346,000

Aug 1977

83,075,000241,000

Sep 1977

83,532,000457,000

Oct 1977

83,800,000268,000

Nov 1977

84,173,000373,000

Dec 1977

84,410,000237,000

Jan 1978

84,594,000184,000

Feb 1978

84,948,000354,000

Mar 1978

85,460,000512,000

Apr 1978

86,162,000702,000

May 1978

86,509,000347,000

Jun 1978

86,950,000441,000

Jul 1978

87,204,000254,000

Aug 1978

87,483,000279,000

Sep 1978

87,621,000138,000

Oct 1978

87,956,000335,000

Nov 1978

88,391,000435,000

Dec 1978

88,671,000280,000

Jan 1979

88,808,000137,000

Feb 1979

89,055,000247,000

Mar 1979

89,479,000424,000

Apr 1979

89,417,000-62,000

May 1979

89,789,000372,000

Jun 1979

90,108,000319,000

Jul 1979

90,217,000109,000

Aug 1979

90,300,00083,000

Sep 1979

90,327,00027,000

Oct 1979

90,481,000154,000

Nov 1979

90,573,00092,000

Dec 1979

90,672,00099,000

Jan 1980

90,800,000128,000

Feb 1980

90,883,00083,000

Mar 1980

90,994,000111,000

Apr 1980

90,849,000-145,000

May 1980

90,420,000-429,000

Jun 1980

90,101,000-319,000

Jul 1980

89,840,000-261,000

Aug 1980

90,099,000259,000

Sep 1980

90,213,000114,000

Oct 1980

90,490,000277,000

Nov 1980

90,747,000257,000

Dec 1980

90,943,000196,000

Jan 1981

91,033,00090,000

Feb 1981

91,105,00072,000

Mar 1981

91,210,000105,000

Apr 1981

91,283,00073,000

May 1981

91,296,00013,000

Jun 1981

91,490,000194,000

Jul 1981

91,601,000111,000

Aug 1981

91,565,000-36,000

Sep 1981

91,477,000-88,000

Oct 1981

91,380,000-97,000

Nov 1981

91,171,000-209,000

Dec 1981

90,895,000-276,000

Jan 1982

90,565,000-330,000

Feb 1982

90,563,000-2,000

Mar 1982

90,434,000-129,000

Apr 1982

90,150,000-284,000

May 1982

90,107,000-43,000

Jun 1982

89,865,000-242,000

Jul 1982

89,521,000-344,000

Aug 1982

89,363,000-158,000

Sep 1982

89,183,000-180,000

Oct 1982

88,907,000-276,000

Nov 1982

88,786,000-121,000

Dec 1982

88,771,000-15,000

Jan 1983

88,990,000219,000

Feb 1983

88,917,000-73,000

Mar 1983

89,090,000173,000

Apr 1983

89,364,000274,000

May 1983

89,644,000280,000

Jun 1983

90,021,000377,000

Jul 1983

90,437,000416,000

Aug 1983

90,129,000-308,000

Sep 1983

91,247,0001,118,000

Oct 1983

91,520,000273,000

Nov 1983

91,875,000355,000

Dec 1983

92,230,000355,000

Jan 1984

92,673,000443,000

Feb 1984

93,157,000484,000

Mar 1984

93,429,000272,000

Apr 1984

93,792,000363,000

May 1984

94,098,000306,000

Jun 1984

94,479,000381,000

Jul 1984

94,789,000310,000

Aug 1984

95,032,000243,000

Sep 1984

95,344,000312,000

Oct 1984

95,629,000285,000

Nov 1984

95,982,000353,000

Dec 1984

96,107,000125,000

Jan 1985

96,372,000265,000

Feb 1985

96,503,000131,000

Mar 1985

96,842,000339,000

Apr 1985

97,038,000196,000

May 1985

97,312,000274,000

Jun 1985

97,459,000147,000

Jul 1985

97,648,000189,000

Aug 1985

97,840,000192,000

Sep 1985

98,045,000205,000

Oct 1985

98,233,000188,000

Nov 1985

98,443,000210,000

Dec 1985

98,609,000166,000

Jan 1986

98,732,000123,000

Feb 1986

98,847,000115,000

Mar 1986

98,934,00087,000

Apr 1986

99,121,000187,000

May 1986

99,248,000127,000

Jun 1986

99,155,000-93,000

Jul 1986

99,473,000318,000

Aug 1986

99,588,000115,000

Sep 1986

99,934,000346,000

Oct 1986

100,121,000187,000

Nov 1986

100,308,000187,000

Dec 1986

100,509,000201,000

Jan 1987

100,678,000169,000

Feb 1987

100,919,000241,000

Mar 1987

101,164,000245,000

Apr 1987

101,499,000335,000

May 1987

101,728,000229,000

Jun 1987

101,900,000172,000

Jul 1987

102,247,000347,000

Aug 1987

102,420,000173,000

Sep 1987

102,647,000227,000

Oct 1987

103,138,000491,000

Nov 1987

103,372,000234,000

Dec 1987

103,661,000289,000

Jan 1988

103,753,00092,000

Feb 1988

104,214,000461,000

Mar 1988

104,489,000275,000

Apr 1988

104,732,000243,000

May 1988

104,962,000230,000

Jun 1988

105,326,000364,000

Jul 1988

105,550,000224,000

Aug 1988

105,674,000124,000

Sep 1988

106,013,000339,000

Oct 1988

106,276,000263,000

Nov 1988

106,617,000341,000

Dec 1988

106,898,000281,000

Jan 1989

107,161,000263,000

Feb 1989

107,427,000266,000

Mar 1989

107,621,000194,000

Apr 1989

107,791,000170,000

May 1989

107,913,000122,000

Jun 1989

108,027,000114,000

Jul 1989

108,069,00042,000

Aug 1989

108,120,00051,000

Sep 1989

108,369,000249,000

Oct 1989

108,476,000107,000

Nov 1989

108,752,000276,000

Dec 1989

108,836,00084,000

Jan 1990

109,199,000363,000

Feb 1990

109,435,000236,000

Mar 1990

109,644,000209,000

Apr 1990

109,686,00042,000

May 1990

109,839,000153,000

Jun 1990

109,856,00017,000

Jul 1990

109,824,000-32,000

Aug 1990

109,616,000-208,000

Sep 1990

109,518,000-98,000

Oct 1990

109,367,000-151,000

Nov 1990

109,214,000-153,000

Dec 1990

109,166,000-48,000

Jan 1991

109,055,000-111,000

Feb 1991

108,734,000-321,000

Mar 1991

108,574,000-160,000

Apr 1991

108,364,000-210,000

May 1991

108,249,000-115,000

Jun 1991

108,334,00085,000

Jul 1991

108,292,000-42,000

Aug 1991

108,310,00018,000

Sep 1991

108,336,00026,000

Oct 1991

108,357,00021,000

Nov 1991

108,296,000-61,000

Dec 1991

108,328,00032,000

Jan 1992

108,369,00041,000

Feb 1992

108,311,000-58,000

Mar 1992

108,365,00054,000

Apr 1992

108,519,000154,000

May 1992

108,649,000130,000

Jun 1992

108,715,00066,000

Jul 1992

108,793,00078,000

Aug 1992

108,925,000132,000

Sep 1992

108,959,00034,000

Oct 1992

109,139,000180,000

Nov 1992

109,272,000133,000

Dec 1992

109,495,000223,000

Jan 1993

109,794,000299,000

Feb 1993

110,044,000250,000

Mar 1993

109,994,000-50,000

Apr 1993

110,296,000302,000

May 1993

110,568,000272,000

Jun 1993

110,749,000181,000

Jul 1993

111,055,000306,000

Aug 1993

111,206,000151,000

Sep 1993

111,448,000242,000

Oct 1993

111,733,000285,000

Nov 1993

111,984,000251,000

Dec 1993

112,314,000330,000

Jan 1994

112,595,000281,000

Feb 1994

112,781,000186,000

Mar 1994

113,242,000461,000

Apr 1994

113,586,000344,000

May 1994

113,921,000335,000

Jun 1994

114,238,000317,000

Jul 1994

114,610,000372,000

Aug 1994

114,896,000286,000

Sep 1994

115,247,000351,000

Oct 1994

115,458,000211,000

Nov 1994

115,869,000411,000

Dec 1994

116,165,000296,000

Jan 1995

116,501,000336,000

Feb 1995

116,697,000196,000

Mar 1995

116,907,000210,000

Apr 1995

117,069,000162,000

May 1995

117,049,000-20,000

Jun 1995

117,286,000237,000

Jul 1995

117,380,00094,000

Aug 1995

117,634,000254,000

Sep 1995

117,875,000241,000

Oct 1995

118,031,000156,000

Nov 1995

118,175,000144,000

Dec 1995

118,320,000145,000

Jan 1996

118,316,000-4,000

Feb 1996

118,739,000423,000

Mar 1996

118,993,000254,000

Apr 1996

119,158,000165,000

May 1996

119,486,000328,000

Jun 1996

119,769,000283,000

Jul 1996

120,015,000246,000

Aug 1996

120,199,000184,000

Sep 1996

120,410,000211,000

Oct 1996

120,665,000255,000

Nov 1996

120,961,000296,000

Dec 1996

121,143,000182,000

Jan 1997

121,363,000220,000

Feb 1997

121,675,000312,000

Mar 1997

121,990,000315,000

Apr 1997

122,286,000296,000

May 1997

122,546,000260,000

Jun 1997

122,814,000268,000

Jul 1997

123,111,000297,000

Aug 1997

123,093,000-18,000

Sep 1997

123,585,000492,000

Oct 1997

123,929,000344,000

Nov 1997

124,235,000306,000

Dec 1997

124,549,000314,000

Jan 1998

124,812,000263,000

Feb 1998

125,016,000204,000

Mar 1998

125,164,000148,000

Apr 1998

125,442,000278,000

May 1998

125,844,000402,000

Jun 1998

126,076,000232,000

Jul 1998

126,205,000129,000

Aug 1998

126,544,000339,000

Sep 1998

126,752,000208,000

Oct 1998

126,954,000202,000

Nov 1998

127,231,000277,000

Dec 1998

127,596,000365,000

Jan 1999

127,702,000106,000

Feb 1999

128,120,000418,000

Mar 1999

128,227,000107,000

Apr 1999

128,597,000370,000

May 1999

128,808,000211,000

Jun 1999

129,089,000281,000

Jul 1999

129,414,000325,000

Aug 1999

129,569,000155,000

Sep 1999

129,772,000203,000

Oct 1999

130,177,000405,000

Nov 1999

130,466,000289,000

Dec 1999

130,772,000306,000

Jan 2000

131,005,000233,000

Feb 2000

131,124,000119,000

Mar 2000

131,596,000472,000

Apr 2000

131,888,000292,000

May 2000

132,105,000217,000

Jun 2000

132,061,000-44,000

Jul 2000

132,236,000175,000

Aug 2000

132,230,000-6,000

Sep 2000

132,353,000123,000

Oct 2000

132,351,000-2,000

Nov 2000

132,556,000205,000

Dec 2000

132,709,000153,000

Jan 2001

132,698,000-11,000

Feb 2001

132,789,00091,000

Mar 2001

132,747,000-42,000

Apr 2001

132,463,000-284,000

May 2001

132,410,000-53,000

Jun 2001

132,299,000-111,000

Jul 2001

132,177,000-122,000

Aug 2001

132,028,000-149,000

Sep 2001

131,771,000-257,000

Oct 2001

131,454,000-317,000

Nov 2001

131,142,000-312,000

Dec 2001

130,982,000-160,000

Jan 2002

130,852,000-130,000

Feb 2002

130,736,000-116,000

Mar 2002

130,717,000-19,000

Apr 2002

130,623,000-94,000

May 2002

130,634,00011,000

Jun 2002

130,684,00050,000

Jul 2002

130,590,000-94,000

Aug 2002

130,587,000-3,000

Sep 2002

130,501,000-86,000

Oct 2002

130,628,000127,000

Nov 2002

130,615,000-13,000

Dec 2002

130,472,000-143,000

Jan 2003

130,580,000108,000

Feb 2003

130,444,000-136,000

Mar 2003

130,232,000-212,000

Apr 2003

130,177,000-55,000

May 2003

130,196,00019,000

Jun 2003

130,194,000-2,000

Jul 2003

130,191,000-3,000

Aug 2003

130,149,000-42,000

Sep 2003

130,254,000105,000

Oct 2003

130,454,000200,000

Nov 2003

130,474,00020,000

Dec 2003

130,588,000114,000

Jan 2004

130,769,000181,000

Feb 2004

130,825,00056,000

Mar 2004

131,142,000317,000

Apr 2004

131,411,000269,000

May 2004

131,694,000283,000

Jun 2004

131,793,00099,000

Jul 2004

131,848,00055,000

Aug 2004

131,937,00089,000

Sep 2004

132,093,000156,000

Oct 2004

132,447,000354,000

Nov 2004

132,503,00056,000

Dec 2004

132,624,000121,000

Jan 2005

132,774,000150,000

Feb 2005

133,032,000258,000

Mar 2005

133,156,000124,000

Apr 2005

133,518,000362,000

May 2005

133,690,000172,000

Jun 2005

133,942,000252,000

Jul 2005

134,296,000354,000

Aug 2005

134,498,000202,000

Sep 2005

134,566,00068,000

Oct 2005

134,655,00089,000

Nov 2005

134,993,000338,000

Dec 2005

135,149,000156,000

Jan 2006

135,429,000280,000

Feb 2006

135,737,000308,000

Mar 2006

136,047,000310,000

Apr 2006

136,205,000158,000

May 2006

136,244,00039,000

Jun 2006

136,325,00081,000

Jul 2006

136,520,000195,000

Aug 2006

136,694,000174,000

Sep 2006

136,843,000149,000

Oct 2006

136,852,0009,000

Nov 2006

137,063,000211,000

Dec 2006

137,249,000186,000

Jan 2007

137,477,000228,000

Feb 2007

137,558,00081,000

Mar 2007

137,793,000235,000

Apr 2007

137,842,00049,000

May 2007

137,993,000151,000

Jun 2007

138,069,00076,000

Jul 2007

138,038,000-31,000

Aug 2007

138,015,000-23,000

Sep 2007

138,095,00080,000

Oct 2007

138,174,00079,000

Nov 2007

138,284,000110,000

Dec 2007

138,392,000108,000

Jan 2008

138,403,00011,000

Feb 2008

138,324,000-79,000

Mar 2008

138,275,000-49,000

Apr 2008

138,035,000-240,000

May 2008

137,858,000-177,000

Jun 2008

137,687,000-171,000

Jul 2008

137,491,000-196,000

Aug 2008

137,213,000-278,000

Sep 2008

136,753,000-460,000

Oct 2008

136,272,000-481,000

Nov 2008

135,545,000-727,000

Dec 2008

134,839,000-706,000

Jan 2009

134,055,000-784,000

Feb 2009

133,312,000-743,000

Mar 2009

132,512,000-800,000

Apr 2009

131,817,000-695,000

May 2009

131,475,000-342,000

Jun 2009

131,008,000-467,000

Jul 2009

130,668,000-340,000

Aug 2009

130,485,000-183,000

Sep 2009

130,244,000-241,000

Oct 2009

130,045,000-199,000

Nov 2009

130,057,00012,000

Dec 2009

129,788,000-269,000

Jan 2010

129,790,0002,000

Feb 2010

129,698,000-92,000

Mar 2010

129,879,000181,000

Apr 2010

130,110,000231,000

May 2010

130,650,000540,000

Jun 2010

130,511,000-139,000

Jul 2010

130,427,000-84,000

Aug 2010

130,422,000-5,000

Sep 2010

130,357,000-65,000

Oct 2010

130,625,000268,000

Nov 2010

130,750,000125,000

Dec 2010

130,822,00072,000

Jan 2011

130,841,00019,000

Feb 2011

131,053,000212,000

Mar 2011

131,288,000235,000

Apr 2011

131,602,000314,000

May 2011

131,703,000101,000

Jun 2011

131,939,000236,000

Jul 2011

131,999,00060,000

Aug 2011

132,125,000126,000

Sep 2011

132,358,000233,000

Oct 2011

132,562,000204,000

Nov 2011

132,694,000132,000

Dec 2011

132,896,000202,000

Jan 2012

133,250,000354,000

Feb 2012

133,512,000262,000

Mar 2012

133,752,000240,000

Apr 2012

133,834,00082,000

May 2012

133,934,000100,000

Jun 2012

134,007,00073,000

Jul 2012

134,159,000152,000

Aug 2012

134,331,000172,000

Sep 2012

134,518,000187,000

Oct 2012

134,677,000159,000

Nov 2012

134,833,000156,000

Dec 2012

135,072,000239,000

Jan 2013

135,263,000191,000

Feb 2013

135,541,000278,000

Mar 2013

135,680,000139,000

Apr 2013

135,871,000191,000

May 2013

136,093,000222,000

Jun 2013

136,274,000181,000

Jul 2013

136,386,000112,000

Aug 2013

136,628,000242,000

Sep 2013

136,815,000187,000

Oct 2013

137,040,000225,000

Nov 2013

137,304,000264,000

Dec 2013

137,373,00069,000

Jan 2014

137,548,000175,000

Feb 2014

137,714,000166,000

Mar 2014

137,968,000254,000

Apr 2014

138,293,000325,000

May 2014

138,511,000218,000

Jun 2014

138,837,000326,000

Jul 2014

139,069,000232,000

Aug 2014

139,257,000188,000

Sep 2014

139,566,000309,000

Oct 2014

139,818,000252,000

Nov 2014

140,109,000291,000

Dec 2014

140,377,000268,000

Jan 2015

140,568,000191,000

Feb 2015

140,839,000271,000

Mar 2015

140,910,00071,000

Apr 2015

141,194,000284,000

May 2015

141,525,000331,000

Jun 2015

141,699,000174,000

Jul 2015

142,001,000302,000

Aug 2015

142,126,000125,000

Sep 2015

142,281,000155,000

Oct 2015

142,587,000306,000

Nov 2015

142,824,000237,000

Dec 2015

143,097,000273,000

Jan 2016

143,205,000108,000

Feb 2016

143,417,000212,000

Mar 2016

143,654,000237,000

Apr 2016

143,851,000197,000

May 2016

143,892,00041,000

Jun 2016

144,150,000258,000

Jul 2016

144,521,000371,000

Aug 2016

144,664,000143,000

Sep 2016

144,953,000289,000

Oct 2016

145,071,000118,000

Nov 2016

145,201,000130,000

Dec 2016

145,415,000214,000

Jan 2017

145,612,000197,000

Feb 2017

145,795,000183,000

Mar 2017

145,934,000139,000

Apr 2017

146,154,000220,000

May 2017

146,295,000141,000

Jun 2017

146,506,000211,000

Jul 2017

146,734,000228,000

Aug 2017

146,924,000190,000

Sep 2017

146,966,00042,000

Oct 2017

147,215,000249,000

Nov 2017

147,411,000196,000

Dec 2017

147,590,000179,000

Jan 2018

147,671,00081,000

Feb 2018

148,049,000378,000

Mar 2018

148,244,000195,000

Apr 2018

148,397,000153,000

May 2018

148,667,000270,000

Jun 2018

148,881,000214,000

Jul 2018

149,030,000149,000

Aug 2018

149,259,000229,000

Sep 2018

149,364,000105,000

Oct 2018

149,576,000212,000

Nov 2018

149,668,00092,000

Dec 2018

149,908,000240,000

Jan 2019

150,145,000237,000

Feb 2019

150,095,000-50,000

Mar 2019

150,263,000168,000

Apr 2019

150,482,000219,000

May 2019

150,545,00063,000

Jun 2019

150,720,000175,000

Jul 2019

150,913,000193,000

Aug 2019

151,108,000195,000

Sep 2019

151,329,000221,000

Oct 2019

151,524,000195,000

Nov 2019

151,758,000234,000

Dec 2019

151,919,000161,000

Jan 2020

152,234,000315,000

Feb 2020

152,523,000289,000

Mar 2020

150,840,000-1,683,000

Apr 2020

130,161,000-20,679,000

May 2020

132,994,0002,833,000

Jun 2020

137,840,0004,846,000

Jul 2020

139,566,0001,726,000

Aug 2020

141,149,0001,583,000

Sep 2020

141,865,000716,000

Oct 2020

142,545,000680,000

Nov 2020

142,809,000264,000

Dec 2020

142,582,000-227,000
Unemployment rates for selected groups, February, April, and December 2020
Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicityFebruary 2020April 2020December 2020

Total, 16 years and older

3.514.86.7

White

3.014.16.0

Black or African American

6.016.79.9

Asian

2.414.55.9

Hispanic or Latino

4.418.99.3
Percent change in consumer prices for selected items in April 2020, seasonally adjusted
Expenditure categoryPercent change

Car and truck rental (1998)

-16.6

Airline fares (1989)

-15.2

Hotel and motel lodging (1967)

-8.1

Women’s footwear (1978)

-5.2

Full service meals and snacks (1998)

-0.3

Carbonated drinks (1978)

4.5

Household paper products (1997)

4.5

Cookies (1978)

5.1

Chicken (2004)

5.8

Update on the Misclassification that Affected the Unemployment Rate

How hard can it be to figure out whether a person is employed or unemployed? Turns out, it can be hard. When BLS put out the employment and unemployment numbers for March, April, and May 2020, we also provided information about misclassification of some people. I want to spend some time to explain this issue, how it affected the data, and how we are addressing it.

In the monthly Current Population Survey of U.S. households, people age 16 and older are placed into one of three categories:

  • Employed — they worked at least one hour “for pay or profit” during the past week.
  • Unemployed — they did not work but actively looked for work during the past 4 weeks OR they were on temporary layoff and expect to return to work.
  • Not in the labor force — everyone else (including students, retirees, those who have given up their job search, and others).

Again, how hard can this be? It starts to get tricky when we talk to people who say they have a steady job but did not work any hours during the past week. In normal times, this might include people on vacation, home sick, or on jury duty. And we would continue to count them as employed. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the collapse of labor markets created challenges the likes of which BLS has never encountered. People who reported zero hours of work offered such explanations as “I work at a sports arena and everything is postponed” or “the restaurant I work at is closed.” These people should be counted as unemployed on temporary layoff. As it turns out, a large number of people—we estimate about 4.9 million in May—were misclassified.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the unemployment rate—at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent in February—rose sharply to 4.4 percent in March and to 14.7 percent in April, before easing to 13.3 percent in May. Despite the stark difference from February, we believe the unemployment rate likely was higher than reported in March, April, and May. As stated in our Employment Situation news releases for each of those months, some people in the Current Population Survey (also known as the CPS or household survey) were classified as employed but probably should have been classified as unemployed.

How did the misclassification happen?

We uncovered the misclassification because we saw a sharp rise in the number of people who were employed but were absent from their jobs for the entire reference week for “other reasons.” The misclassification hinges on how survey interviewers record answers to a question on why people who had a job were absent from work the previous week.

According to special pandemic-related interviewer instructions for this question, answers from people who said they were absent because of pandemic-related business closures should have been recorded as “on layoff (temporary or indefinite).” Instead, many of these answers were recorded as “other reasons.” Recording these answers as “on layoff (temporary or indefinite)” ensures that people are asked the follow-up questions needed to classify them as unemployed. It does not necessarily mean they would be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, but I’ll get into that in a moment.

When interviewers record a response of “other reasons” to this question, they also add a few words describing that other reason. BLS reviewed these descriptions to better understand the large increase in the number of people absent from work for “other reasons.” Our analysis suggests this group of people included many who were on layoff because of the pandemic. They would have been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff had their answers been recorded correctly.

What are BLS and the Census Bureau doing to address the misclassification?

BLS and our partners at the U.S. Census Bureau take misclassification very seriously. We’re taking more steps to fix this problem. (The Census Bureau is responsible for collecting the household survey data, and BLS is responsible for analyzing and publishing the labor market data from the survey.) Both agencies are continuing to investigate why the misclassification occurred.

Before the March data collection, we anticipated some issues with certain questions in the survey because of the unprecedented nature of this national crisis. As a result, interviewers received special instructions on how to answer the temporarily absent question if a person said they had a job but did not work because of the pandemic. Nevertheless, we determined that not all of the responses to this question in March were coded according to the special instructions. Therefore, before the April data collection, all interviewers received an email that included instructions with more detailed examples, along with a reference table to help them code responses to this question. However, the misclassification was still evident in the April data. Before the May data collection, every field supervisor had a conference call with the interviewers they manage. In these conference calls, the supervisors reviewed the detailed instructions, provided examples to clarify the instructions, and answered interviewers’ questions.

Although we noticed some improvement for May, the misclassification persisted. Therefore, we have taken more steps to correct the problem. Before the June collection, the Census Bureau provided more training to review the guidance to the interviewers. The interviewers also received extra training aids. The electronic survey questionnaire also now has new special instructions that will be more accessible during survey interviews.

Why doesn’t BLS adjust the unemployment rate to account for the misclassification?

As I explained above, we know some workers classified as absent from work for “other reasons” are misclassified. People have asked why we just don’t reclassify these people from employed to unemployed. The answer is there is no easy correction we could have made. Changing a person’s labor force classification would involve more than changing the response to the question about why people were absent from their jobs.

Although we believe many responses to the question on why people were absent from their jobs appear to have been incorrectly recorded, we do not have enough information to reclassify each person’s labor force status. To begin with, we don’t know the exact information provided by the person responding to the survey. We know the brief descriptions included in the “other reasons” category often appear to go against the guidance provided to the survey interviewers. But we don’t have all of the information the respondent might have provided during the interview.

Also, we don’t know the answers to the questions respondents would have been asked if their answers to the question on the reason not at work had been coded differently. This is because people whose answers were recorded as absent from work for “other reasons” were not asked the follow-up questions needed to determine whether they should be classified as unemployed. Specifically, we don’t know whether they expected to be recalled to work and whether they could return to work if recalled. Therefore, shifting people’s answers from “other reasons” to “on layoff (temporary or indefinite)” would not have been enough to change their classification from employed to unemployed. We would have had to assume how they would have responded to the follow-up questions. Had we changed answers based on wrong assumptions, we would have introduced more error.

In addition, our usual practice is to accept data from the household survey as recorded. In the 80-year history of the household survey, we do not know of any actions taken on an ad hoc basis to change respondents’ answers to the labor force questions. Any ad hoc adjustment we could have made would have relied on assumptions instead of data. If BLS were to make ad hoc changes, it could also appear we were manipulating the data. That’s something we’ll never do.

How much did the misclassification affect the unemployment rate?

We don’t know the exact extent of this misclassification. To figure out what the unemployment rate might have been if there were no misclassification, we have to make some assumptions. These assumptions involve deciding (1) how many people in the “other reasons” category actually were misclassified, (2) how many people who were misclassified expected to be recalled, and (3) how many people who were misclassified were available to return to work.

In the material that accompanied our Employment Situation news releases for March, April, and May, we provided an estimate of the potential size of the misclassification and its impact on the unemployment rate. Here we assumed all of the increase in the number of employed people who were not at work for “other reasons,” when compared with the average for recent years, was due solely to misclassification. We also assumed all of these people expected to be recalled and were available to return to work.

For example, there were 5.4 million workers with a job but not at work who were included in the “other reasons” category in May 2020. That was about 4.9 million higher than the average for May 2016–19. If we assume this 4.9 million increase was entirely due to misclassification and all of these misclassified workers expected to be recalled and were available for work, the unemployment rate for May would have been 16.4 percent. (For more information about this, see items 12 and 13 in our note for May. We made similar calculations for March and April.)

These broad assumptions represent the upper bound of our estimate of misclassification. These assumptions result in the largest number of people being classified as unemployed and the largest increase in the unemployment rate. However, these assumptions probably overstate the size of the misclassification. It is unlikely that everyone who was misclassified expected to be recalled and was available to return to work. It is also unlikely that all of the increase in the number of employed people not at work for “other reasons” was due to misclassification. People may be correctly classified in the “other reasons” category. For example, someone who owns a business (and does not have another job) is classified as employed in the household survey. Business owners who are absent from work due to labor market downturns (or in this case, pandemic-related business closures) should be classified as employed but absent from work for “other reasons.”

Regardless of the assumptions we might make about misclassification, the trend in the unemployment rate over the period in question is the same; the rate increased in March and April and eased in May. BLS will continue to investigate the issue, attempting both to ensure that data are correctly recorded in future months and to provide more information about the effect of misclassification on the unemployment rate.

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.