Employment Measurement Strategies

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) calculates six measures of unemployment:

  • U-1, persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
  • U-2, job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force;
  • U-3, total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (this is the definition used for the official unemployment rate);
  • U-4, total unemployed plus discouraged workers*, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers;
  • U-5, total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other marginally attached workers*, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers; and
  • U-6, total unemployed, plus all marginally attached workers, plus total employed part-time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all marginally attached workers.

Measures U-3 and U-4 are most commonly used.  

Another potential measure of unemployment looks at the number of people receiving unemployment compensation. This measure underestimates the number of people who are unemployed because not every worker has unemployment insurance and those who do are eligible only for a limited period of time, regardless of whether new employment is found.

*definitions of discouraged workers and marginally attached workers can be found here