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June 2017 Unemployment Data

July 10, 2017

By Timothy S. Sullivan, Ph.D.

The national June 2017 unemployment figures were released last week, and they contain a few interesting tidbits. Historical data for the US seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics web page for Series LNS14000000. (County-level data won't be released until July 21st.)

The headline of course is that unemployment continues to be quite low. The seasonally-adjusted rate of 4.4% means that the US has now gone 14 consecutive months with unemployment below 5%. The number 5% represents a special psychological threshold for economists, since most feel that the "natural rate" of unemployment is about 5%. I'll discuss what economists mean by the "natural" rate of unemployment in a future blog post, but the short explanation is that it's the "normal" rate of unemployment that exists even when the economy is growing. (Even in a strong economy, there are workers who are temporarily between jobs, new graduates still looking for the right fit, and people re-training for new careers.)

The June value of 4.4% represents a slight increase from the seasonally-adjusted May rate of 4.3%, but I'm unaware of any economist who sees this as cause for concern. First, since the unemployment rate remains well below the "natural" rate, most economists are more concerned about the labor market being too tight. Second, the increase seems to reflect more workers stepping off of the sidelines to look for work as opposed to workers losing their jobs. In fact total nonfarm payroll employment increased by about 222,000 jobs in June, which is a very healthy number. (Total nonfarm employment data can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics page for Series CES0000000001.) Finally both the April and May employment were revised upwards. April was revised from 174,000 to 207,000 and May was revised up from 138,000 to 152,000.

Timothy S. Sullivan, Ph.D. is an Instructor in the Department of Economics & Finance and the Director of the Office of Regional Economic Analysis in the School of Business at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He can be reached at

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