The unemployment rate is the share of the labor force that is jobless, expressed as a percentage. It is a lagging indicator, meaning that it generally rises or falls in the wake of changing economic conditions, rather than anticipating them. When the economy is in poor shape and jobs are scarce, the unemployment rate can be expected to rise. When the economy is growing at a healthy rate and jobs are relatively plentiful, it can be expected to fall.
In the U.S., the U3 or U-3 rate, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases as part of its monthly employment situation report, is the most commonly cited national rate. It is not the only metric available, however, and it receives criticism for giving the impression that the labor market is healthier than alternative measures would indicate. For this reason some observers prefer to track the more comprehensive U6 rate
The official unemployment rate is known as U3. It defines unemployed people as those who are willing and available to work, and who have actively sought work within the past four weeks. Those with temporary, part-time or full-time jobs are considered employed, as are those who perform at least 15 hours of unpaid family work.
To calculate the unemployment rate, the number of unemployed people is divided by the number of people in the labor force, which consists of all employed and unemployed people. The ratio is expressed as a percentage.