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March 2011, Vol. 134, No. 3
Unemployment remains high in 2010
Eleni Theodossiou and Steven F. Hipple
Eleni Theodossiou and Steven F. Hipple are economists in the Division of Labor Force Statistics, Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics. E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
At 9.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, the Nation’s unemployment rate was slightly below its year-earlier level; the number of long-term unemployed reached a record high
The U.S. labor market remained weak in 2010 in the wake of the marked economic deterioration that had taken place the previous 2 years. Although both the level and rate of unemployment fell during the first quarter of 2010—the first improvement since the 2007–09 recession1—unemployment showed little or no change during the remainder of the year.
In the fourth quarter of 2010, 14.8 million persons were unemployed and the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, down from a 26-year high of 10.0 percent a year earlier. During 2010, the number of employed persons 16 years and older, as measured by the Current Population Survey (CPS), increased by 751,000, to 139.1 million.2 The rise in the number of employed persons in 2010 followed a sharp decline of 5.7 million in the prior year. (For a comparison of the employment measures available from the household and establishment surveys, see the box on page 4.) The employment-population ratio,3 58.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, was little changed over the year. The labor force—the sum of the employed and the unemployed—held steady during 2010, but a rise in the population resulted in a decline in the proportion of the population in the labor force: the labor force participation rate was 0.4 percentage point lower in the fourth quarter than a year earlier.
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1 The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the generally recognized arbiter of recessions in the United States, has determined that June 2009 was the endpoint of the recession that began in December 2007.
2 The data in this article are based on information collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS)–also called the household survey–a sample survey of about 60,000 households nationwide conducted for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Census Bureau. (For more information about the household survey, see the box on page 4.) Although the CPS is a monthly survey, the data analyzed throughout the article are seasonally adjusted quarterly averages, unless otherwise noted. All over-the-year changes are comparisons of fourth-quarter data from 2009 with those from 2010.
3 The employment-population ratio is the proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and older that is employed.
Current Population Survey
The labor market in 2009: recession drags on.—Mar. 2010.
U.S. labor market in 2008: economy in recession.—Mar. 2009.
Household survey indicators weaken in 2007.—Mar. 2008.
Household survey data show labor market improvements in 2006.—Mar. 2007.
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