Unemployment data is watched closely by economists, investors and business people, since it is a measure of general economic activity and has an impact on the financial markets (see The Unemployment Rate as an Economic Indicator). The best source for locating unemployment data and tracking changes in the data over time,is the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at http://www.bls.gov/ . At the BLS site, place your cursor over the Unemployment menu selection and you’ll display options for locating the National Unemployment Rate, State and Local Unemployment Rates, International Unemployment Rates, Mass Layoffs, Unemployment Research and an Unemployment Overview. Selecting the National Unemployment Rate takes users to a page explaining the source of the data (the Current Population Survey) and CPS News Releases on the Employment Situation and other topics. Selecting the Employment Situation presents an expanded explanation of the data, an announcement of the date of the next release with September’s data (October 8, 2010), and answers to frequently asked questions about employment/unemployment data. This page also includes links to more tables with data broken down more specifically (e.g., Unemployed persons by duration of unemployment and Unemployed persons by reason for unemployment).
The right side of the Unemployment section of the BLS page (background is grey) displays the most recent unemployment data with a link to historical data tables and charts (indicated by the green dinosaur). A critical number here is the Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate (64% in August 2010) that shows the percentage of workforce participation. Displaying the historical data allows users to view a table of data for 2000-2010, but these display dates can be expanded to display data back to 1981.
Other great sites for unemployment data include Economagic (click on the Most Requested Series link) which provides monthly data displayed back to 1948 and the Conference Board ‘s Economics Watch Monthly Report (arrow to bottom of page to see report links) which provides an Economic Forecast for the United States with 3 years of annual unemployment data and 2 years of forecasted quarterly data.