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15.7 percent of people who worked or looked for work experienced unemployment in 2020

December 17, 2021

The number of people who experienced unemployment at some point during 2020 was 26.4 million, up by 12.9 million from 2019. Overall, 168.6 million people worked or looked for work at some time in 2020, down by 2.1 million from 2019. These changes reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labor market in 2020.

The work-experience unemployment rate (those looking for work during the year as a percent of those who worked or looked for work during the year) nearly doubled, increasing from 8.0 percent in 2019 to 15.7 percent in 2020. This is the highest rate since 2010, when it was 15.9 percent.

Number of people unemployed at some time during the year as a percent of those who worked or looked for work during the year, 1958–2020
Year Total Men Women

1958

17.9% 19.6% 15.1%

1959

15.3 16.5 13.5

1960

17.2 18.4 15.3

1961

18.4 19.4 16.7

1962

18.2 18.8 17.1

1963

16.7 17.2 15.9

1964

16.2 16.3 16.1

1965

14.1 14.0 14.2

1966

13.0 12.5 13.8

1967

12.9 12.6 13.4

1968

12.4 11.7 13.4

1969

12.5 12.3 12.9

1970

15.3 15.5 15.0

1971

16.3 16.4 16.2

1972

15.5 15.3 15.8

1973

14.3 13.5 15.4

1974

17.9 17.3 18.7

1975

20.2 20.0 20.5

1976

19.1 18.8 19.5

1977

17.9 17.5 18.3

1978

15.9 15.4 16.5

1979

15.8 15.5 16.1

1980

18.1 18.5 17.6

1981

19.5 20.0 19.0

1982

22.0 23.3 20.4

1983

19.6 21.0 17.8

1984

17.4 18.1 16.5

1985

16.7 17.2 16.0

1986

16.2 16.9 15.3

1987

14.1 15.0 13.1

1988

12.9 13.7 12.0

1989

12.9 13.7 12.1

1990

14.7 15.7 13.6

1991

15.7 17.5 13.7

1992

15.8 17.7 13.6

1993

14.8 15.9 13.5

1994

13.5 14.2 12.7

1995

12.8 13.3 12.1

1996

11.7 12.0 11.3

1997

10.8 11.2 10.2

1998

9.6 9.5 9.7

1999

8.8 9.0 8.4

2000

8.6 9.0 8.1

2001

10.4 11.1 9.6

2002

11.0 11.9 9.9

2003

10.7 11.5 9.8

2004

9.7 10.1 9.3

2005

9.3 9.7 8.8

2006

9.1 9.6 8.5

2007

9.5 10.3 8.6

2008

13.2 14.5 11.7

2009

16.4 18.8 13.6

2010

15.9 17.7 13.8

2011

14.9 15.8 13.8

2012

13.9 14.5 13.1

2013

12.9 13.5 12.2

2014

10.9 11.4 10.3

2015

10.2 10.4 10.0

2016

9.4 9.5 9.2

2017

8.6 9.0 8.3

2018

7.8 8.2 7.4

2019

8.0 8.3 7.6

2020

15.7 15.6 15.8

Note: Data for 1966 and later refer to people 16 years and older. Data for 1958–65 are for people 14 years and older.

In 2020, the work-experience unemployment rates for men (15.6 percent) and women (15.8 percent) were little different from each other. The rates for both men and women rose sharply from the prior year.

These data are from the Current Population Survey. For more information, see "Work Experience of the Population — 2020."

SUGGESTED CITATION

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, 15.7 percent of people who worked or looked for work experienced unemployment in 2020 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2021/15-7-percent-of-people-who-worked-or-looked-for-work-experienced-unemployment-in-2020.htm (visited October 02, 2022).

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