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Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) Program

Where do I find the unemployment rate for my area?

To find the unemployment rate for your area, please click here.

How are monthly LAUS estimates generated?

Developed by the federal BLS in conjunction with CWIA, several methods are used to estimate statistics for civilian labor force, employment, unemployment, and unemployment rates. National estimates are derived directly from the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted for BLS by the U.S. Census Bureau; statewide level estimates use a statistical model incorporating inputs from the CPS, Current Employment Statistics (CES), and Unemployment Compensation (UC) claims counts which are controlled to national totals; sub-state geographies are estimated by dividing statewide totals using a multi-step “handbook” method which uses data from the CES, UC claims counts, CPS, population estimates and the American Community Survey (ACS). For further information about the Labor Force and Unemployment rate methodology, please visit the BLS website here.

What is the Current Population Survey (CPS)?

The Current Population Survey (CPS) is a monthly household survey of the population of the United States administered by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.  CPS is the data source for the national estimates of the labor force composition.

What is the American Community Survey (ACS)?

The American Community Survey is a nationwide survey administered by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.  ACS provides communities with reliable and timely demographic, housing, social, and economic data and provides information for states and local areas to use in planning and development.

How are the terms Civilian Labor Force, Employment, Unemployment, and Unemployment Rate defined?

  • Civilian Labor Force includes persons aged 16 and older who were not institutionalized or on active military duty and were either employed or unemployed during the reference week (normally the week including the 12th of the month).
  • Employment includes those who: did any work as paid employees, worked in their own business or farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family business during the reference week. It also includes those who had a job but did not work due to a temporary absence. Each employed person is counted only once, even if they had more than one job.
  • Unemployment includes those who did not have a job during the reference week, were available for work, and made specific efforts to find a job sometime during the 4 weeks prior to the reference week.
  • Unemployment Rate is the percent of the civilian labor force that was unemployed (i.e. unemployment divided by labor force).

Who is NOT considered to be in the labor force?

Persons not in the labor force include those who are neither employed nor unemployed. This category includes retired persons, students, those taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work.

What is a Seasonal Adjustment?

Seasonal adjustment is a process whereby the normal seasonal changes are removed or discounted from monthly data. For example, we know that some industries show large fluctuations in employment because they need greater or fewer employees at certain times of the year. Ski resorts, for instance, hire far more employees in the winter months to accommodate the snow skiing season and schools have large changes at the beginning and the ending of the school year.  By seasonally adjusting employment, statisticians attempt to remove the predictable seasonal patterns in order to isolate the underlying month-to-month economic changes in the employment and unemployment series. The adjustment consists of either raising or lowering the actual estimate reported by a certain volume or percentage, which represent the expected seasonal increases or decreases that had historically occurred.

Typically, the monthly employment and unemployment numbers reported in the news are seasonally adjusted data. Seasonally adjusted data are useful when comparing different months of data, whereas not seasonally adjusted data should only be compared to the same month in prior years. Annual average estimates are calculated from the not seasonally adjusted data series.

Why does monthly Civilian Employment differ from Total Nonfarm Employment?

The Center for Workforce Information & Analysis releases data about the civilian labor force employment and total nonfarm employment (jobs) every month. The number reported for civilian labor force employment differs from the number of jobs reported because they are measuring different types of employment. Civilian labor force employment counts the number of working people by where they live. This includes business owners, the self-employed, unpaid family workers, private household workers, and wage and salary workers. An individual with more than one job is only counted once. Total nonfarm employment counts the number of jobs by the place of work. This does not include business owners, the self-employed, unpaid family workers, or private household workers. If someone holds more than one job, they may be counted more than once.

Are only those people who are collecting unemployment benefits included in the unemployment estimates?

No. The estimate of unemployment includes all people who fit the definition and are actively seeking a job. The unemployed include job losers (those who were laid off), job leavers (those who voluntarily left a job), new entrants, and re-entrants into the labor force. Unemployment claimants are a subset of the total unemployed. Those that have exhausted benefits are still considered unemployed if they are seeking employment. 

How often are the LAUS data changed?

Statewide LAUS estimates are released on a monthly basis. The initial release of data for any given month is referred to as “preliminary”. When data for the next month is released, the previous month’s “preliminary” data is revised and released as “final” data. (For example: When May data is released, it is considered “preliminary”. When June data is released, the May data is revised and is considered “final”.) Additionally, once a year – between the December and January release – LAUS data is benchmarked. The benchmarking process updates all model inputs with the most recent available data, and re-estimates all data for the most recent five years, including changes to seasonal adjustment. This benchmarked data is then released with the January estimates.

Sub-state LAUS estimates follow the same pattern as the statewide estimates for “preliminary” and “final” months, though there are some differences with benchmarking. MSAs, Counties, and other sub-state areas can have as many as five or as few as two years of data benchmarked (re-estimated), depending on need and availability of updated input data. Additionally, benchmarked sub-state data is released in stages: The most recent previous year is released with January data, while any other benchmarked years are released upon completion at a later date. Updated seasonal adjustment factors for all benchmarked years are typically released with the prior years of data, but have occasionally been delayed and given their own release.