Teacher Resources: Economic Barometer
The unemployment rate is the ratio (expressed as a percentage) of unemployed individuals divided by the total number of persons in the civilian labor force. The civilian labor force is defined as persons over 16 years of age who are non-institutionalized and either holding or seeking a job. Unemployed is defined as those who do not have a job and are actively seeking a job.
The unemployment rate is one of the key measures of the health of the economy because as the unemployment rate rises it represents lost jobs and income to individuals and lost spending and production to the total economy. Unemployment levels over the last decade have ranged between 3.8 and 8.1 percent.