unemployment trends

30 Statistics that Explain the Latest Unemployment Trends

Unemployment trends are what make or break a country’s economy. Because unemployment is so crucial, laws and regulations are constantly made to lower or modify rates.

There are many types of unemployment, and these different rates show the quality of life in a specific country or region.

This single factor can predict the health and longevity of a population and even the possibility of a war outbreak. 

Labor force demographics, together with economic circumstances, are what most influence both US unemployment trends and foreign unemployment fluctuations.

The following facts and stats dissect the relationship between workforce demographics, location, and unemployment rates in order to make their oscillations more coherent.

However, the healthcare sector’s ability to resist every major recession defies explanation, making it a leading combatant against unemployment in the US throughout history.  

The Top 10 Facts and Stats on Unemployment Trends

  • Boston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta had the highest number of job openings in 2019.
  • 9.1% of US youth (16–24 years) were unemployed as of January 2019.
  • In 2018, the unemployment rates of high school graduates and dropouts were very close.
  • Qatar and Cambodia have the lowest unemployment in the world (0.10%).
  • A natural unemployment rate below 4% actually prevents the expansion of companies.
  • Newly licensed medical specialists in Canada have unemployment rates of over 20%.
  • Chinese women lead in labor force activity in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • A 2018 research paper concluded that automation-induced unemployment will eventually drop down to zero.
  • Ambulatory services represented the leading employment sector in healthcare as of September 2019.
  • The most common occupation for women in the US is that of a registered nurse.

Unemployment Trends by US Region

1. In 2019, the highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was recorded in Alaska (6.1%).


Seasonal adjustment of unemployment data means removing the typical seasonal component of the analyzed time series. Put simply, the usual seasonal changes, which are already calculated, are used to adjust the unemployment numbers for a clearer picture. 

When this method was used to determine the unemployment rate in 2019, the highest unemployment was recorded in Alaska (6.1%), just above Mississippi (5.6%) and the District of Columbia (5.3%). In contrast to this, the US states that marked the lowest unemployment rates for 2019 were Vermont (2.3%), South Carolina (2.4%), and Utah (2.4%). 

2. Alaska has also led in natural unemployment rate by year for the last 40 years.

(King Economics Group) (BLS)

Historically, Alaska is the state with the highest natural unemployment rate in the US. This means that the population in Alaska spends longer periods searching for work or between jobs than the population in any other US region. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Alaska’s unemployment rate is 1.5 percentage points above the national average. Since 2009, the lowest-ever unemployment rate in Alaska was 5.5%, recorded in August 2015, and the highest in January 2009 (8%). Seasonal jobs create a great deal of fluctuation in this state—as much as 2.7 percentage points in a year.

3. Maryland and South Carolina had the smallest unemployment rate gap between the black and white population in 2019, statistics on the current unemployment rate in the US show.


The unemployment rate among the black population is the highest among other racial groups in the US, with a national average of 6%. In November 2019, the unemployment rate of this group was 5.5%, with the highest values in the District of Columbia (11.3%) and Illinois (9.6%). The lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Virginia (3.0%) and Massachusetts (3.7%).

The gap in the unemployment rate between whites and blacks in 2019 was smallest in Maryland and South Carolina, with ratios of 1.1:1 and 1.2:1. Meanwhile, in the District of Columbia, this gap was most prominent, with a ratio of 6:1.

4. Boston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta had the most job openings in 2019.

(Market Watch)

The US unemployment rate chart from 2019 shows that the job market was strong throughout the year, with regional differences across the country. Glassdoor shows that the top three cities contributing to the low unemployment rate for this year were Boston with 152,683 available jobs; Philadelphia with 112,692; and Atlanta with 192,889. Furthermore, the BLS found that Ocean City, NJ, had the highest annual job growth at 7%, followed by Reno, NV (5.5%), and Ogden-Clearfield, Utah (4.6%).

5. El Centro, CA, was the metro area with the highest unemployment rate in 2018 (18.1%).


US unemployment trends point to El Centro, CA (18.1%); Yuma, AZ (17%); and Visalia-Porterville, CA (9.6%), as the metro areas with the highest unemployment rate in 2018.

US Unemployment & Demographics

6. The unemployment rate of foreign-born individuals in the US was 3.5% in 2018.


In 2018, 17.4% of the US labor force was represented by foreign-born individuals (28.2 million people). These US unemployment trends follow national unemployment rates. 2018’s unemployment rate for those born outside the US was 4.1%, and the average rate for those born in the US was 4% that year. These stats are, however, different in relation to gender-participation: foreign-born men are more likely to be employed than native-born men, but in contrast to this, foreign-born women are less active in the labor market than native-born women.

7. Women with children under 6 years old had the highest employment rates in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota.


The United States unemployment rate statistics collected by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2018 show the participation of women in the labor force based on the age of their children. Women participated in the labor force at the highest rates in Alaska (68.3%), Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These are also the regions where women with young children have the highest participation rates. In contrast to this, almost half (49.3%) of women weren’t working in West Virginia, the highest rate in the nation. The unemployment rates are also very low in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Kentucky.

8. Unemployment statistics show that US female veterans who’ve served in major wars have lower unemployment rates than male veterans who served in the same periods.


US veterans from the periods of WWII, the Korean War, and Vietnam have the biggest gender gap in unemployment rates, which is in favor of female veterans. Of those who served in this period, 1.7% of female and 3.6% of male veterans were unemployed in 2018. The gender gap is smaller for veterans of the Gulf War Era I, at 2.1% and 2.9% for female and male veterans, accordingly.

9. 9.1% of US youth (16–24 years) were unemployed in January 2019.


The seasonally adjusted US unemployment rate from 2019 for youth was at its highest in January (9.1%). In 2019, Americans aged 16–24 counted the lowest unemployment in October (7.9%). These trends are comparable to the annual unemployment rate of the total workforce for the same year, being highest at the beginning of the year and reaching the lowest point in autumn. The median annual youth unemployment rate for this year was approximately 8.43%.

10. In 2018, the unemployment rates of high school graduates and dropouts were very similar.


The unemployment rate trend following young Americans aged 16–24 years has been historically different in accordance with their educational outcome, with lower values for those who graduated from high school and higher rates for those who dropped out. 2009 saw the highest difference between these two unemployment rates, when they reached a difference of 26.7 percentage points in favor of graduates. However, the two rates converged in 2018 with the lowest-ever difference of only 0.4 percentage points.

11. US unemployment trends show higher rates for recent college graduates.

(Statista) (HuffPost)

While US unemployment dropped to a 50-year record low in September 2019 (3.5%), recent college graduates are not that lucky. Starting September 2018, a constant upward trend in their unemployment rate reached 4% in 2019. This newly observed phenomenon exposes the population aged 22–27 to unfavorable economic conditions that are not eased by the burden of their student loans. The main reason behind this is suspected to be, among others, the longer hiring periods.

Worldwide Unemployment

12. Women are more employed than men in the United Kingdom, unemployment rate statistics from 2017 through 2019 show.

(Statista) (ONS)

The UK’s statistical data for the last two years show a growing unemployment rate for UK men, counting 4% in September 2019. In comparison, women had a 3.5% unemployment rate that same month. The difference was noted almost every month during this two-year period, where female unemployment had consistently lower values, with a maximum difference of 0.5 percentage points registered in May 2019.

13. In France, the unemployment rate in 2019 dropped to its lowest (8.1%) for the last decade.

(Trading Economics) (The Local)

At the beginning of 2019, the unemployment rate in France was 8.7%, which was a 10-year record itself, before falling to an even lower 8.1% in the fourth quarter. The average unemployment rate for the past 20 years in France was 9.24%, reaching as high as 10.7% at the beginning of 2008, following the global economic crisis. The recent drop in unemployment isn’t yet directly attributed to the recent political measures of French president Macron, but some believe it’s a direct effect of the politics that aimed to cut the unemployment benefits of some 200,000 job seekers.

14. In 2018, the unemployment trends for European youth showed the highest rates in Greece, at 39.9%.


The European youth population has been historically more exposed to unemployment than its seniors. Youths aged 15–24 in Greece, Spain, and Italy experienced the highest rates of unemployment in 2018, at 39.9%, 34.3%, and 32.2%, respectively. The lowest rates of youth unemployment for that year were recorded in Iceland (6.1%), Germany (6.2%), and Czechia (6.7%). The average European youth unemployment rate in 2018 was 15.2%, the lowest since 2002. In comparison, the rate of US unemployment for the same group was 8.6% in 2018.

15. In 2019, the unemployment rate in India was highest in the state of Tripura (28.6%).

(CMIE) (Reuters) (Intelligent Economist)

The unemployment rate in India varies greatly by geographic region. In general, urban areas had 8.5% unemployment, while rural areas had a lower rate of 6.92%. The problem of unemployment in this country is due to factors such as slow economic and industrial growth, the seasonality of agricultural occupations, the caste system, and, above all, the increased population growth. The youth in India (15–29 years) make up approximately one-third of the country’s population, and their unemployment rate was as high as 22.5% in March 2019.

16. Qatar and Cambodia have the lowest unemployment in the world (0.10%).

(Trading Economics)

The unemployment trends place Niger and Belarus next on the list with a 0.3% unemployment rate. The highest unemployment rates in 2018 and 2019 had the countries Namibia (33.4%), Bosnia and Herzegovina (32.71%), Angola (30.7%), and South Africa (29.1%). The unemployment rate in the EU was 80% higher (6.3%) than that of the US in 2019 (3.67%).

17. Chinese women lead in labor force activity in the Asia-Pacific region.


Historically, the worldwide unemployment graph shows that women are more affected by unemployment than men. In 2018, 48.5% of women aged 25–54 who were unemployed in the EU stated that it was for personal or family reasons. In 2018, a whopping 55.4% of Turkish women were outside the labor market for the same primary reason. However, the gender gap in the EU narrowed to a difference of 0.6 percentage points in 2018. On the other hand, the gender-related unemployment rate for 2008–2018 in China shows inverted ratios for men’s and women’s unemployment, with a difference of 1.1 percentage points in favor of Chinese women.

Unemployment Dynamics and Projections

18. Forecasted unemployment trends for the US project a near-constant rate increase up through 2029.


The unemployment rate in the US went into constant decline after the financial crisis of 2008. The record low in the last half-century was noted in September 2019 (3.5%). However, future projections are not so optimistic. According to data published in Statista, the rate of US unemployment is expected to rise by approximately 0.4 points, beginning in 2021. The forecast for 2020 is more positive, where the unemployment rate isn’t expected to surpass 3.6%.

19. Bill Clinton was the biggest job creator of all US presidents (18.6 million jobs), lowering the unemployment in America from 6.5% in 1993 to 3.9% in 2000.

(The Balance)

This impressive number represented a staggering job growth of 15.6%, counting as the third-largest increase in job growth in US history. During Clinton’s eight years of presidency, he also cut welfare spending by more than 60% through a reform that required welfare beneficiaries to obtain a job after two years. 

20. A natural unemployment rate below 4% can prevent the expansion of companies.

(The Balance)

The optimal natural unemployment rate calculation is estimated by the Federal Reserve and is usually in the range of 3.5%–4.5%. The policymakers use this rate as the target of full employment. The natural unemployment rate has always been present in a healthy, peace-time US economy. If this rate falls below this range, the economy will become overheated, and existing companies will struggle to find qualified workers. The US natural rate of unemployment rose after the 2009 recession and stayed elevated in the 4.9%–5.5% range until 2014, when it fell to 4.8%.

21. The lowest US unemployment rate in history since 1929 was 1.2% in 1944.

(The Balance)

During the Second World War in 1944, the US economy thrived with a GDP growth of 8% and an inflation rate of only 2.3%. All this under the so-called wartime economy, which consisted mostly of the production of wartime goods. In 1946, after the war’s end, the unemployment rate increased to 3.9% (the same rate as in 2018). Another significant drop in US unemployment was in 1952 (reaching a rate of 2.7%), following US expansion.

22. In November 2019, there were 1.2 million long-term unemployed individuals in the US.

(The Balance) (OECD) (Trading Economics)

The US unemployment rate from 2018 shows a decrease in the rate of long-term unemployment—this rate covers people who searched for work for six months or more. In 2019, around 21.1% of the US’s unemployed population was categorized as long-term job seekers. The long-term unemployed made up 13.3% of the total unemployed population in 2018. In 2019, 0.77% of the total US population was unemployed for the long term. This is lower than 2018’s rate (0.83%).

23. 2018’s research concludes that automation-induced unemployment will eventually drop down to zero.

(Vox EU)

The fear that automation will influence unemployment trends has been present in the public consciousness ever since the industrial revolution. However, the research paper of two economics professors made a bold statement that this fear will never materialize. Their theoretical model explains that the increase in automated tasks will also improve wages and help reduce unemployment through several mechanisms. The study concludes that the dynamics of unemployment depend primarily on the share of labor.

Unemployment & Healthcare

24. Unemployment trends show that the healthcare sector is recession-resistant.


Even when unemployment reached a record-breaking high of 10% in October 2009, this seemed to have no effect on the healthcare sector, which recorded a constant increase in employment at a total rate of 31.6%, or 3.5 million new jobs, during the 2001–2014 period. Estimations show that during this 13-year period, 56.1% of all national job growth occurred in healthcare.

25. The unemployment trends of physicians over 65 years of age are diminishing as most of them don’t retire until the age of 69.

(ONS) (Statista)

Continued employment among the world’s population aged 65 and up has been increasing in Western countries since 2000. In the UK, the employment rate for this group was 4.7% in 2000, whereas in 2018, it was as high as 11.4%. Similarly, in the US, the unemployment rates for those over the age of 45 also dropped drastically, reaching 2.9% in 2018. The average retirement age in the US is 63, but physicians, on average, tend to work until the age of 69. In 2016, over 30% of physicians were older than 60, and their average age was 51.

26. Newly licensed medical specialists in Canada have over 20% unemployment rates.


Unemployment trends among Canadian medical specialists are growing. In 2016, over 20% of young surgeons described themselves as unemployed. The main reason behind this trend is because from 2010 to 2015, the number of surgeons grew by 9.3% while population growth only marked a 5.4% increase. Consequently, the number of training positions for these medical students has dropped by more than 24% since 2010. In addition to this worrisome national unemployment rate, 23% of the employed young surgeons in Canada described themselves as underemployed.

27. The most common occupation for women in the US is that of registered nurse.


The results of the American community survey conducted in 2017 show that the occupation of registered nurse counts around 2.1 million female employees and thus is the most common occupation among US women. The highest employment levels for registered nurses in 2018 were in California, Texas, and New York. With 87.3% of this workforce being female, the occupation contributes significantly to the lowering of women’s unemployment rates. There’s still a nation-wide shortage for this profession according to BLS data.

28. Ambulatory services represented the leading employment sector in healthcare for September 2019.

(Healthcare Dive)

The US unemployment rate in September 2019 reached a record low after the last 50 years (3.5%). Education and healthcare were the leading industries that contributed to this record, with high hiring and job creation rates. Healthcare contributed 37,200 new jobs in August and a staggering 38,800 new jobs in September. Of this, ambulatory services accounted for 28,700, hospitals created an additional 8,100 jobs, and residential care and other nursing facilities produced another 2,000 positions.

29. Optometrists, veterinarians, physicians, and surgeons are among the positions with the highest job security and the lowest unemployment rate.

(USA Today)

Veterinary assistants and animal caretakers have an unemployment rate lower than 0.1%, and the number of new positions is projected to grow by over 19.4% from 2016 to 2026. Consequently, these are some of the most prosperous job positions. Optometrists had 0.1% unemployment and over 17.9% job growth in the same period, and physicians and surgeons had a 0.4% unemployment rate with over 12.8% job growth.

30. As of September 2019, healthcare was the top industry supporting the current, historically low unemployment rate.


In September 2015, the BLS recorded the lowest unemployment rate in US history since WWI (when the statistics show unemployment was as low as 1%). In September 2019, healthcare added 39,000 jobs, contributing more to the low unemployment rate (3.5%) than every other industry. The average job creation in healthcare throughout 2019 was an estimated 35,000 jobs per month. However, this number is lower than that of 2018, when this industry counted 47,000 new jobs monthly.


What is the unemployment rate in the US today?

The unemployment rate in the US in December 2019 was 3.5%. The projected rate for March 2020 is 3.7%. These figures show that the American labor market will remain stronger than it has been over the last 50 years. 

However, there was a sudden spike in the number of unemployment benefits claims filed in the first week of December 2019. December and January usually witness the most significant US labor market turnover. However, the American economy for the time being stays strong, although figuring out future trends is very tricky.

Is US unemployment at an all-time low?

In September 2019, the unemployment rate fell down to its lowest in 50 years (3.5%), but the previous big drop in US history was recorded in May of 1953, when it reached 2.5%. However, the BBC stated that regardless of this 50-year record, the wage growth has remained the same. What’s more, the number of manufacturing jobs fell in September last year. Still, December 2019 was the 22nd consecutive month where the unemployment rate was lower than 4%.

What is the real unemployment rate in the United States for 2019?

In the US, the unemployment rate is a percentage based on the number of people actively looking for a job, in relation to the number of the working-age population who are either employed or looking for work, also known as the national labor force. In 2019, the real median unemployment rate was registered as 3.67%. The trend of unemployment has decreased since the beginning of 2019, until it reached a constant of 3.7% in the summer months and dropped again in September (3.5%).  

Is unemployment going to be down in 2019 and 2020?

The unemployment rate for 2019 was relatively low, dropping to 3.5% in September. Unemployment is generally affected by factors such as job creation and the total demand for goods and services, international competition, level of education, and automation, as well as the labor force demographics. These factors can affect the number of active workers, the duration of unemployment, and wage rates. The projections for the beginning of 2020 are more optimistic than last year, with an unemployment rate of 3.7% for January, 0.3 percentage points lower than January 2019’s rate. 

What is the lowest unemployment rate in US history?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded the all-time low since the end of WWII as taking place in May 1953, when it was 2.5%. Other statistics go as far back as 1912. Following the historical data, the lowest rate of unemployment in the US was noted during WWI (1%). On the other hand, the record-high unemployment rate in US history took place during the Great Depression, affecting one-quarter of the labor force (25%). In recent history, the highest unemployment rate was 10.8%, registered in November of 1982.

What is the unemployment rate today?

Recent global reports find that the world’s unemployment rate in 2019 was below 5%, the lowest measured since the worldwide economic crisis in 2008. However, the data reported from different regions differs in the date of collection and some is missing. The International Labor Organization (ILO) reports that the jobs being created are in majority with poor quality, keeping more than 10% of the world’s population in extreme poverty. More than 172 million people worldwide were unemployed in 2018. The unemployment rate in the US in 2019 was 3.7%, or around 6 million unemployed people.


Today’s US unemployment trends indicate an optimal period for workers. However, job quality remains unchanged. Nowadays, the US has the lowest unemployment rate since half a century ago. Similarly, other Western countries note the lowest numbers in decades.

However, certain issues in regards to diversity are still creating obvious gaps in unemployment in the US and worldwide. For example, women’s unemployment rates are regularly higher than those of men, especially for mothers of young children, leaving room for improvement. Nevertheless, projections point out that unemployment rates might change direction. In fact, the US history of unemployment trends assures us of one thing—unemployment rates in the healthcare sector will remain low and undisturbed.


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