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What it means: Posted monthly based on a survey of households by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this measures the percentage of the labor force that is currently without work, but seeking employment.
How it's used: The unemployment rate is an economic indicator about the strength of the job market and the status of household finances. Rising unemployment can lead to reduced levels of consumer spending and higher instances of delinquency, default, and bankruptcy. Low unemployment indicates a tight labor market, where employers have a tougher time finding people to fill jobs and often must pay more to attract them.