Is the unemployment rate an accurate depiction of the number of people who are NOT working in our society? Explain.

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yscorse eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The unemployment rate does not count all jobless individuals. To be classified as unemployed, a person must be jobless, looking for a job, and available for work. People without jobs who do not fit one of these criteria are classified as not in the labor force. Thus, these people are not working but not included in unemployment figures.

United States unemployment figures are announced early each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This information is calculated using the Current Population Survey (CPS). About 60,000 eligible households are interviewed—approximately 110,000 individuals each month—and several measures are taken to ensure a representative sampling. The survey excludes people living in institutions (such as correctional facilities, residential nursing care, or mental health facilities), so individuals in these situations who are not working are not represented in unemployment numbers, either.

There are other situations in which someone may not be working but is still considered employed, such as vacation, illness, family/ medical leave, childcare problems, labor disputes, and weather. A small group of people are classified as employed unpaid family workers, people working without pay for 15 hours or more per week in a business operated by a family member with whom they live.

People considered not in the labor force have various circumstances, including students and retirees. Often, family responsibilities keep people out of the labor force. Individuals are considered unemployed if they did not have a job at all during the survey reference week, made at least one specific active effort to find a job during the prior 4 weeks, and were available for work (unless temporarily ill). Also, people not working and waiting to be called back to a job from which they had been laid off are considered unemployed.

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