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How to Calculate the National Unemployment Rate

Each month, the United States Government conducts a sample survey to measure the extent of unemployment in the country. To calculate the national unemployment rate, the survey places people in three categories: employed, unemployed, or out of the labor force.


  • Step 1: Determine number employed Determine how many people are employed. You can find this number from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.
  • TIP: People are considered to be employed if they did any work at all for pay or profit during the survey week.
  • Step 2: Determine number unemployed Determine how many people are unemployed. This number is also available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Step 3: Calculate unemployment rate Add the number of employed and unemployed people together. Calculate the unemployment rate as the ratio of the number of people unemployed over the total number of people in the labor force. In other words, divide the number unemployed by the total -- the decimal value answer is the percentage of unemployed individuals.
  • FACT: The unemployment rate in the United States reached 25 percent during the Great Depression.

You Will Need

  • Number employed
  • Number unemployed
  • Calculator

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