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The unemployment rate is one of the standard data points issued as part of general national and local job news. The primary purpose of the employment data is to establish the percentage of individuals looking for work that cannot secure employment. The primary unemployment data most often cited is issued by the governmental office of Labor Statistics.

Calculations of the unemployment rate can be as controversial as they are varied. Critics of government calculations complain that the rates are artificially and craftily lowered, for political reasons by excluding those who have given up looking for work, those who benefits have expired or those who have ceased to report to unemployment offices.
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The unemployment rate is one part of the comprehensive labor data available and issued through economic study. The most watched employment numbers in the United States come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which regularly produces employment data through examination of weekly jobless claims. There is debate over how accurate the unemployment rate is, as the study does not include individuals that, due to extreme difficulty in finding employment, have taken themselves out of the active job market.

This employment data is used by private employers to predict talent availability, consumer demand, and to forecast economic strength or weakness. The stock market reacts to the unemployment rate mostly due to its effect on consumer sentiment and expected demand for goods and services. It is also used by economists, legal scholars, and social scientists to analyze and predict large demographic shifts, pay inequalities, and job trends, as the information is usually accompanied by a wealth of demographic and geographic data, including retirement and retention rates, worker mobility and average hiatus between jobs.

From a broader economic perspective, in classical economic terms and in some scenarios, the unemployment rate correlated inversely with inflation-the explanation being that "demand-pull" inflation-a steady and broad rise in prices due to unmet consumer demand-requires increased production and therefore increased hiring, which tends to bid prices up. This is part of the rationale underlying what has been called the "Phillips Curve", which has been used to map historical unemployment rates against inversely correlated inflation rates.

Because of the phenomenon of "stagflation"-high unemployment and high inflation, the Phillips curve is now regarded as too simplistic, in addition to being susceptible to shifts to higher levels of both unemployment and inflation. In any case, it's validity has been described as being limited to short-term relationships between unemployment and inflation.

Of course, "cost-push" inflation, e.g., a general increase in prices due to costlier factors of production, including raw materials, the cost of borrowing and of labor itself [e.g., because of training required or risk premiums for dangerous work], can create unemployment. One example is when profit margins become too thin, due to such rising costs, necessitating downsizing or company closure.