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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey

How is the unemployment rate related to unemployment insurance claims?

Some people think that to get these figures on unemployment the Government uses the number of persons filing claims for unemployment insurance (UI) benefits under State or Federal Government programs. But some people are still jobless when their benefits run out, and many more are not eligible at all or delay or never apply for benefits. So, quite clearly, UI information cannot be used as a source for complete information on the number of unemployed.

The number of unemployed persons in the United States and the national unemployment rate are produced from data collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of over 60,000 households. A person's unemployment status is established by responses to a series of questions on whether they have a job or are on layoff, whether they want a job and are available to work, and what they have done to look for work in the preceding 4 weeks. The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed persons as a percent of the labor force (employed and unemployed persons). See "Who is counted as unemployed?" for more information.

Statistics on persons receiving unemployment insurance benefits (sometimes called insured unemployment) in the United States are collected as a byproduct of unemployment insurance programs. Workers who lose their jobs and are covered by these programs typically file claims which serve as notice that they are beginning a period of unemployment. Claimants who qualify for benefits are counted in the insured unemployment figures. More information about the Unemployment Insurance program is available from the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, including weekly data on UI claims.

While not related to the national unemployment rate, UI claims data do serve as inputs into the calculation of state and local area unemployment estimates. See the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program for more information.


Last Modified Date: October 16, 2001