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Employment Status

Variable Definitions:
Labor Force Participation Rate: The percentage of the population over the age of 16 that is in the civilian labor force, meaning they are either employed or unemployed and looking for work

Unemployment Rate: The percentage of people in the civilian labor force that are unemployed

American Community Survey, 5-year estimates, Table B23001

Years Available:
2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

*Note: Each year of available data shown above is a 5-year estimate, or an average of data collected over a five year period. 5-year estimates are used to increase the reliability of the data at small geographies like neighborhoods and census tracts. The years shown on the NDSC map represent the final year of the five year average (e.g. “2010” represents 2006-2010 data, “2011” represents 2007-2011 data, and so on). For the most impactful comparison of data over time, the ACS recommends comparing non-overlapping years (e.g. 2010-14 with 2015-19).

Why are these variables important to measure?

Labor Force Participation Rates

The term civilian labor force encompasses all people of working age (16 and over) who live in the United States, including employed people and unemployed people looking for work. The labor force does not include “discouraged workers,” people who are unemployed but have given up looking for work, or active military members. 

It is important to understand the proportion of a community that is participating in the labor force, either actively working or looking for a job, in order to understand how a community is connected to the broader economy. Further, the relative size of a community’s labor force indicates its economic potential, helpful for considering how much economic production is actually taking place within an area. Labor force participation is also helpful in designing government programs, maximizing social services surrounding employment, and evaluating the economic needs of people in a community.

Unemployment Rate
The unemployment rate represents the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed and looking for work.

The percentage of unemployed people in the labor force is essential to understanding a community’s overall level of employment and economic health. This proportion indicates a community’s access to the benefits of work, like a consistent wage and possible benefits. A higher unemployment rate likely suggests that a community is underserved by and disconnected from the local economy, and thus can be used in developing social services to meet a community’s economic needs.

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