Erie Vital Signs

Employment, Unemployment & Labor Force: Annual Unemployment Rate

Recent Performance

This trend is improving.

The annual unemployment rate for Erie County in 2014 was 6.1 percent, the lowest it has been since 2008. This was higher than the 2014 average unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in the thirteen Erie Vital Signs peer areas and the 5.8 percent rate in the State of Pennsylvania, but slightly lower than the 2014 U.S. unemployment rate of 6.2 percent.

The Basics

The labor force includes individuals who are employed as well as those who are unemployed. To be considered unemployed, an individual must be actively looking for a job. (Individuals who are on layoff but expecting recall need not be looking for work to be counted as unemployed.) The annual unemployment rate is the total number of individuals unemployed as a percent of the labor force in a given year.

Why is this important?

It is important to monitor unemployment rates because unemployment can produce economic losses. Unemployed workers suffer income loss, which results in lower consumption and possible negative health and other social consequences. Unemployment could also lead to economic losses since more goods and services could have been produced by those unemployed.

The Details

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases the latest civilian labor force data for the national economy, including the unemployment rate, on a monthly basis. The annual unemployment rate is calculated as the average of the monthly unemployment rates over the course of the year. The BLS also works cooperatively with state government agencies such as the Center for Workforce Information & Analysis of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry to provide state and local data through the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) and Current Employment Statistics (CES) programs.

Civilian labor force data include estimates of the number of individuals in the labor force (individuals aged 16 and above who are working or looking for work), the number employed, the number unemployed, and the unemployment rate. The statistics come from several sources, including the Current Population Survey (CPS), a sample survey of households that is conducted for the BLS by the U.S. Census Bureau; the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey; and state unemployment insurance claims data. The monthly data are seasonally adjusted in order to eliminate the influences of recurring seasonal events such as weather, holidays, and the opening and closing of schools, allowing month-to-month economic trends to be more discernable.

Labor Force Definitions:
The labor force: includes both the employed and unemployed (who are actively seeking work).

Employed persons: those who did any work at all for pay or profit in the survey reference week (the week including the 12th of the month) or worked 15 hours or more without pay in a family business or farm, plus those not working who have a job from which they were temporarily absent, whether or not paid, for such reasons as labor-management dispute, illness, or vacation.

Unemployed persons: those who did not work at all in the reference week, have actively looked for a job sometime in the 4-week period ending with the survey reference week, and are currently available for work. Note: persons on layoff expecting recall need not be looking for work to be counted as unemployed.

Annual unemployment rate: the total number of individuals unemployed as a percent of the labor force in a given year.

The Nitty-Gritty Details


This EVS indicator has no subcategories. The BLS does provide (monthly) data at the national level for subcategories based on sex, age, education, race, and other selected characteristics.

Peer Areas

These variables include data on all 13 of the standard peer areas, along with U.S. and PA data.




Other Related Data

Latest Erie Data from the Economic Research Institute of Erie, at the Black School of Business at Penn State Behrend

Additional Studies and Research

Alan S. Blinder, “The Challenge of High Unemployment,” American Economic Review, May 1988, pp. 1-15.

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