What Is the Unemployment Rate and Other Jobs Report Findings

The current unemployment rate is 3.6%.
Anna Helhoski
By Anna Helhoski 
Edited by Laura McMullen

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Updated March 10, 2023, 7:56 a.m. PT to reflect the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report.

Unemployment increased slightly to 3.6% in February compared with the month prior, according to the jobs report released on March 10 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But all signs still show the U.S. labor market is strong.

The new rate is not quite the 54-year unemployment low seen last month or the 50-year low in January, but it’s not much different from where unemployment rates were for much of 2022.

How many jobs were added in January?

The economy added 311,000 in February, a decline compared with the January (517,000), but still higher than the gains in the final months of 2022: December (223,000) and November (256,000).

What is the current unemployment rate?

The current unemployment rate is 3.6%, a slight increase compared with January and December, but not dramatically different from unemployment rates during 2022. The number of unemployed from both layoffs, firings and temporary jobs ending increased by 223,000 in February to 2.8 million.

Is unemployment rising or falling?

The unemployment rate has remained low and stable, fluctuating between 3.5% and 3.7% since March 2022. It increased slightly from January to February.

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?

The labor force participation rate barely budged since last month: 62.5% in February compared with 62.4% in January. 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?

Two key indicators — job openings and quit rate — show that job seekers still have opportunities across fields. There was a small bump in layoffs reported among all employment sectors in January, but the rate has changed little from previous months.

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

The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, or JOLTS, showed job openings remained strong, hitting 10.8 million in January. However, it's a slight decline compared with the increase of 11 million jobs openings reported for December.

The largest increase in job openings in January were found in transportation, warehousing and utilities, and in nondurable goods manufacturing. In the previous month, accommodation and food services, retail trade and construction had the largest number of job openings. The most significant decreases were in accommodation and food services, and finance and insurance.

Despite some recent high profile layoffs in tech and media industries, the rate of layoffs (1.1%) remained relatively unchanged from December to January, according to the JOLTS report.

What is the quit rate?

The JOLTS report also showed the quit rate declined only slightly: 2.5% in January compared with 2.7% in December. 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, January quit rates declined most  in professional and business services, educational services and federal government. 

Are wages increasing?

Wages are starting to moderate. The  Employment Cost Index measures wage and salary growth. The Jan. 31 report shows the index for labor costs increased by 1.0% in the final quarter of 2022 compared with 1.2% in the previous quarter. The costs in the fourth quarter when measured year-over-year show an increase of 5.1%; the previous quarter showed a 5.2% increase year-over-year.

Will unemployment rise?

With a labor market this tight it’s hard to see it slackening anytime soon. Even so, multiple forecasts are predicting job losses in 2023. In September, the Federal Reserve projected unemployment would reach 4.4% next year. Bank of America, meanwhile, projects an even higher unemployment rate of 5.5%.

The Federal Reserve hiked interest rates nine times since March 2022 in an effort to bring down inflation, which is expected to eventually lead to a higher unemployment rate. Fed. Chair Jerome Powell said after the hike on Feb. 1 that “a couple more” increases would be prudent. The Federal Reserve increased rates again in March 2023.

Jobs report: What is employment like in your field?

Workers wondering if it’s time to make a move in their jobs might want to consider what’s happening with employment in their industry.

Here’s what you need to know, based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, seasonally adjusted, over time:


Employed in February: 7,918,000

Employed in January: 7,894,000

Employed in February 2020: 7,646,000

% change since January: +0.3%

% change since February 2020: +3.6%

Private education services

Employed in February: 3,899,800

Employed in January: 3,888,400

Employed in February 2020: 3,838,100 

% change since January: +0.3%

% change since February 2020: +1.6%

Financial activities

Employed in February: 9,105,000

Employed in January: 9,106,000

Employed in February 2020: 8,850,000

% change since January: -0.01%

% change since February 2020: +2.9%


Employed in February: 22,495,000

Employed in January: 22,449,000

Employed in February 2020: 22,775,000

% change since January: +0.2%

% change since February 2020: -1.2%

Health care and social assistance

Employed in February: 21,108,600

Employed in January: 21,045,800

Employed in February 2020: 20,753,300

% change since January: +0.3%

% change since February 2020: +1.7%


Employed in February: 3,075,000

Employed in January: 3,100,000

Employed in February 2020: 2,898,000

% change since January: -0.8%

% change since February 2020: +6.1%

Leisure and hospitality

Employed in February: 16,535,000

Employed in January: 16,430,000

Employed in February 2020: 16,873,000

% change since January: +0.6%

% change since February 2020: -2%


Employed in February: 12,983,000

Employed in January: 12,987,000

Employed in February 2020: 12,861,000

% change since January: -0.03%

% change since February 2020: +0.9%

Mining and logging

Employed in February: 631,000

Employed in January: 631,000

Employed in February 2020: 717,000

% change since January: 0%

% change since February 2020: -12%

Professional and business services 

Employed in February: 22,912,000

Employed in January: 22,867,000

Employed in February 2020: 21,569,000

% change since January: +0.2%

% change since February 2020: +6.2%

Retail trade

Employed in February: 15,561,800

Employed in January: 15,511,700

Employed in February 2020: 15,659,400

% change since January: +0.3%

% change since February 2020: -0.6%

Transportation and warehousing 

Employed in February: 6,699,700

Employed in January: 6,721,200

Employed in February 2020: 5,681,700

% change since January: -0.3%

% change since February 2020: +18%

Wholesale trade

Employed in February: 6,048,800

Employed in January: 6,037,700

Employed in February 2020: 5,936,200

% change since January: +0.2%

% change since February 2020: +1.9%

When is the next jobs report?

The next jobs report will show data for March and will be released on April 7.