Current Unemployment Rate and Other Jobs Report Findings

The current unemployment rate is 3.4%.
Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski 
Edited by Laura McMullen

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Updated May 25 to reflect the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics employment data.

The unemployment rate for April was 3.4%, down from 3.5% in March, according to the jobs report released on March 10 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All signs still show the U.S. labor market is strong.

The new rate mostly mirrors that of the last 12 months. In that time, the unemployment rate ranged between 3.7% and 3.4%.

What are the weekly jobless claims?

Weekly jobless claims increased for the week ending May 20, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The weekly jobless claims, or initial claims, are the number of unemployment insurance claims filed in the past week.

In the previous week, jobless claims had declined largely due to fraudulent applications in Massachusetts, as revealed last week by the state's Department of Unemployment Assistance.

For the week ending May 25, the seasonally adjusted weekly initial claims was 229,000, Labor Department data released on May 25 shows. That's an increase of 4,000 from the revised level of 225,000 in the week ending May 13. The new four-week moving average was 231,750, unchanged from the prior week's unrevised average.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate — the rate of continuous covered unemployment claims divided by covered employment — was 1.2% for the week ending May 13, unchanged from the prior week.

States with the highest insured unemployment rates, week ending May 6:

  • California: 2.3%

  • New Jersey: 2.2%

  • Massachusetts: 2.0%

  • Alaska: 1.6%

  • New York: 1.6%

  • Oregon: 1.6%

  • Rhode Island: 1.5%

  • Washington: 1.5%

  • Illinois: 1.4%

States with the largest increases in initial jobless claims, week ending May 6:

  • Ohio: +1,608

  • Connecticut: +975

  • Illinois: +868

  • Tennessee: +640

  • Colorado: +599

States with the largest decreases in initial jobless claims, week ending May 6:

  • Missouri: -2,234

  • Massachusetts: -1,660 (we now know many of the prior weeks' increase in claims were likely fraudulent)

  • New Jersey: -1,016

  • Pennsylvania: -742

  • Virginia: -715

How many jobs were added in April?

The economy added 253,000 (nonfarm) jobs in April, compared to 165,000 in March, 248,000 in February, and 472,000 in January.

What is the current unemployment rate?

The current unemployment rate is 3.4%, a slight decrease to what it was in February and January, and not dramatically different from unemployment rates during 2022. In March, the number of unemployed from layoffs, firings and temporary jobs ending topped 3 million. That number dropped to just over 2.6 million in April.

Is unemployment rising or falling?

The unemployment rate has remained low and stable, fluctuating between 3.4% and 3.7% since April 2022. It decreased slightly from March to April.

How to calculate the unemployment rate

The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed people by the number of people in the labor force. (The labor force is considered the sum of those who are currently working or looking for work.) The result is then multiplied by 100 to get a percentage:

Number of unemployed people / Labor force x 100 = X%, which is the unemployment rate

What is the labor force participation rate?

While the labor force participation rate didn't budge since last month, at 62.6%. That remains the highest rate since before the pandemic. The labor force participation rate is the percentage of the population that is working or looking for work.

The rate is calculated as the labor force divided by the total population that’s eligible to work. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the total population that’s eligible to work as the “civilian noninstitutional population,” which refers to people ages 16 and older who are not in military service or incarcerated.) The result is multiplied by 100 to get a percentage:

Labor force / Civilian noninstitutional population x 100 = X%, which is the labor force participation rate

Since October 2002, the labor force participation rate was lowest in April 2020 (60.1%) and highest in June 2003 (66.5%), according to BLS data.

How is the job market right now?

Key labor market indicators — job openings, quit rate and layoffs — show the tight labor market may be loosening slightly. Openings are starting to decline and layoffs are increasing, but quit rates changed little.

What does the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary report show?

The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, or JOLTS, released on May 2 shows job openings are declining, hitting 9.6 million in March compared to the most recent previous periods: 9.9 million openings in February; 10.8 million in January; and 11.2 million in December. The job openings rate was 5.8% in March — a 1.0% decline from December.

The number of job openings in March declined most in transportation, warehousing and utilities. In the previous month, the most significant declines were in professional and business services; health care and social assistance; and transportation, warehousing and utilities.

In March, job openings increased in education services. In the previous month, the largest increase in construction and in arts, entertainment and recreation.

The rate of layoffs increased from February (1.0%) to March (1.2%), according to the JOLTS report. Despite recent high profile layoffs in tech, finance and media industries, the report shows the majority of March layoffs increased in construction; accommodation and food services; and health care and social assistance.

What is the quit rate?

The JOLTS report also showed the quit rate changed little from month to month: 2.5% in March compared with 2.6% in February. Economists say quit rates are a key factor in the health of employment prospects since quitting shows that workers feel safe making a job switch within their sector or outside it entirely.

Compared with the previous month, March quit rates declined most in accommodation and food services.

Are wages increasing?

Wages are starting to moderate, though there was little change when comparing quarterly data in the BLS Employment Cost Index, which measures wage and salary growth. The April 28 report shows compensation costs increased by 1.2% in the first three months of 2023, compared with 1.0% in the fourth quarter of 2022 and 1.2% in the third quarter.

A more significant downward trend is seen when measuring year-over-year. For the 12-month period ending March 2023, compensation costs increased 4.8%; the previous two quarters, when measured year-over-year, showed an increase of 5.1% and 5.2%, respectively.

Will unemployment rise?

With a labor market this tight it’s hard to see significant slackening anytime soon. Even so, multiple forecasts are predicting job losses in 2023.

The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates 10 times since March 2022 in an effort to bring down inflation, which is expected to eventually lead to a higher unemployment rate.

When is the next jobs report?

The next jobs report will show data for April and will be released on June 2.