Current U.S. Unemployment Rate Statistics and News

Explanation, with Data Since 1929

unemployed worker
The unemployment rate rose to 4.9% in June.. Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images

The September unemployment rate rose to 5.0%. That's very close to the 4% natural rate of unemployment. The real unemployment rate is 9.7%.  Both are reported monthly in the Jobs Report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The labor force participation rate also rose, to 62.9%. That means more people are returning to the job market. Why didn't the unemployment rate fall when the current employment report says 156,000 jobs were added?

They are taken from two different surveys. Also, there are often small variations of a tenth of a point here and there. Those are not a cause for alarm. These are estimates, and they are revised as more data comes in. Pay more attention to longer-term trends, which appear over the course of several months.

Also, keep in mind that the unemployment rate is a lagging indicator. That's because employers resist hiring new workers until they are absolutely sure the economy will stay strong. Although it's not good for predicting trends, it's useful for confirming them. 

The September report contained more good news. The number of discouraged workers fell again, to 553,000. The number of long-term unemployed also fell, to 1,974 million. In May, it fell below 2 million for the first time since the recession but rose above it again in July and August.

Here are the unemployment rate statistics for every month since March 2007.

There's also a link to annual unemployment rates since 1929. These are a better way to put the most recent report into perspective.

2016 Unemployment by Month

  • January and February: The unemployment rate fell to 4.9%. Losses in mining and manufacturing were offset by gains in construction, retail, health care, and the leisure / hospitality industry.
  • March and April: Unemployment rose slightly to 5.0%.
  • May: The jobless rate fell to 4.7%.
  • June, July, and August: The unemployment rate was 4.9%.


  • January: Unemployment rose to 5.7%
  • February and March: The rate fell to 5.5%.
  • April: Unemployment fell slightly, to 5.4%, as more people become employed, and around 20,000 left the labor force. 
  • May: The unemployment rate rose a bit, to 5.5%
  • June and July: Unemployment fell to 5.3%.
  • August and September: The rate fell to 5.1%.
  • October, November and December: The rate was 5.0%.


  • January: 6.6% - Retail lost 12,900 seasonal workers since the holiday shopping season disappointed. Second, health care lost 6,000 jobs, after losing 4,000 in December. The lower rate was surprising, since more people went back into the labor force, and the participation rate improved to 63%. 
  • February: 6.7% - The labor force participation rate remained at 63%.  The stock market was mixed. Many investors think that economic data won't be clear until after the winter storms subside. However, economic growth was sluggish starting with Halloween retail sales. Other investors thought the Fed would beef up its Quantitative Easing purchases if the economy falters. Even though new Fed Chair Janet Yellen is more concerned about unemployment than inflation, the Fed knows it must withdraw liquidity while times are relatively good if it's to have any dry powder ready for another recession.
  • March: 6.6% - The LFPR improved to 63.25.
  • April: 6.2% - There were 9.8 million Americans actively searched for a job, and a third have been looking for more than 6 months. Another 2.1 million people haven't looked for work in the past month, including 697,000 who are discouraged. There's 7.3 million who work part-time, but prefer full-time. The LFPR dropped to 62.8%
  • May: 6.3% - The LFPR remained at 62.8%.
  • June: 6.1% - Of the 9.5 million Americans still looking for work, 3.1 million have been looking for more than 6 months. An additional 7.5 million are working part-time, but would prefer a full-time job. There's another 2 million people who are jobless, but haven't looked for work in the past month. Of those, 676,000 have just given up. 
  • July: 6.2% - The LFPR rose to 62.9% as 200,000 people started looking for a job. There are 3.1 million long-term unemployed (looking more than six months), nearly a third of the total 9.7 million. There 741,000 discouraged workers. 
  • August: 6.1% - There were 2.96 million long-term unemployed, and 775,000 discouraged workers, which sent the real unemployment rate to 12% even. 
  • September: 5.9% - This was the first time unemployment fell below 6% since the recession. The participation rate fell slightly, to 62.7%, while the real unemployment rate dropped to 11.8%.
  • October: 5.7% - People returned to the labor force. The participation rate rose to 62.8%, and the real unemployment rate fell to 11.5%. 
  • November: 5.8% - The LFPR rose to 62.9%.
  • December: 5.6% - The LFPR dropped to 62.7%.

Past U.S. Unemployment Statistics

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