Let's talk about jobs, and how the nation measures them.
Every month, the federal government releases its preliminary jobs report, which offers the earliest indicator as to how many people in the US are employed or unemployed. What these jobs reports show can often have a huge impact on the country's overall economy and the policies and decisions that are driving it.
It starts with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is part of the US Department of Labor. This agency uses a monthly survey of 60,000 households, called the Current Population Survey (CPS), to determine these numbers.
The BLS releases its employment situation summary on the first Friday of each month.
The unemployment rate is a simple percentage of the labor force that is classified on this survey as unemployed. To be unemployed, you must meet all of the following criteria:
There's a whole subset of definitions on what counts as an "active" job search.
There have been critiques of the BLS data over the years, with questions about everything from accuracy of surveys based on sampling size, to how the BLS makes seasonal adjustments, and who actually counts as unemployed versus no longer on the job hunt. (As the list above indicates, there are people who may be technically unemployed, but they wouldn't count because they didn't meet all three criteria.)
But either way, the CPS is still the most widely accepted way for the government, economists, and businesses, and all of us, to understand the overall health of our job market and what it means for the country.
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