Basic Facts on Unemployment
Key data points on the nation's unemployment rates, demographics of those looking for work, and historical trends.
The official unemployment rate is based on the number of people without jobs who have been actively seeking work in the previous four weeks.
- In April 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent, or 15.3 million people.
- Only in 1982 and 1983 was the unemployment rate higher than 2009's annual rate of 9.3 percent (since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began compiling statistics from the Current Population Survey).
- Of those unemployed, 45.9 percent had been out of work for over 26 weeks, officially putting them in the ranks of the long-term unemployed.
- Unemployment lasting six months or longer is higher than any year since 1946; this and other statistics suggest the current recession differs fundamentally from those of the 1980s and 1990s. In 2009, permanent job loss was the highest ever in the 43 years since reasons for unemployment have been tracked.
- Men had especially high unemployment rates in 2009. Unemployment increased 119 percent between 2007 and 2009. Unemployment for women during that period increased 81 percent. (Construction and manufacturing jobs were particularly hard hit.)
- In April 2010, the unemployment rate for whites was 9.0 percent; for blacks, 16.5 percent; and for Hispanics, 12.5 percent.
(See charts and references in the full report available in PDF format.)