Center for Labor Statistics

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Both governmental and private agencies routinely study labor statistics in order to provide insight into the health of the economy and forecast consumer and industry demand and sentiment. As part of the general employment news, labor stats serve to quantify employment numbers, and usually focus on generating employment data about particular demographic and geographic groups. This data is used by employers for hiring trends and operational planning and by economists and social scientists to produce studies, legislation, and to predict economic output.

Labor statistics are most commonly generated as a public service by governments and census bureaus. The resulting employment and demographic data influences legislation and elections by demonstrating concrete data regarding economic and employment concerns. Important data includes figures such as the unemployment rate, the labor participation rate, and compensation data.

Governments regularly announce employment statistics and data in order to demonstrate and forecast the state of the national economy and employer demand. However, international comparisons of labor statistics including economic and unemployment data are notoriously unreliable owing to different means of determining and assessing unemployment levels.

Despite the wide scale adoption of the International Labour Organization's definition of unemployment strong differences remain which make international comparisons difficult. Because of this, organizations like Eurostat, the OECD, and the International Labor Comparisons Program exist to make adjustments in the data and so facilitate such comparison.

Though most laboring people are concerned with the number of unemployed people, economists care more about the unemployment rate as such. This is not for lack of compassion, but because the statistical rate makes correction for normal increases in population growth and the relative increase in the nation's labor force. The unemployment rate consists of a percentage which is calculated by unemployed workers divided by the total labor force. In order to count as an "unemployed worker" according to the National Labour organization, one must be willing and able to work for pay, have actively sought work, and are currently available for work, but are at present unemployed (for whatever reason). The same organization names those as "actively seeking work" to be in contact with potential employers, submitting applications, sending out resumes, enrolling in job placement agencies, and responding to advertisements, and that one must have done so at least once in the preceding four weeks.

Another in-built inaccuracy in the statistical employment data is the fact that not all unemployment is open or public. To combat these and other difficulties, the International Labour Organization has identified four ways of calculating the unemployment rate. Of these, the preferred method are sample surveys which offer the most comprehensive picture of unemployment by demographic group. This is the method considered most internationally acceptable.
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