Unemployment - Current, City-Level

Percentage of civilian labor force who are unemployed, by month

Local Area Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data from July 2023, 1 month modeled estimate.
Dashboard-City Average

Why do we measure unemployment – current, city-level?

Unemployment has well-documented negative effects on physical and mental health.1 Those who are unemployed often do not have a steady income or health insurance, which are essential to maintaining good health. People who are unemployed are less likely to have access to health services and more likely to delay care because of financial concerns.2 Overall, those who are unemployed report a greater number of days of poor mental or physical health than those who are employed. People who are unemployed often report feeling a sense of low self-worth, which can lead to depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and feeling demoralized.2,3 Unemployment is also linked to unhealthy coping behaviors, such as increased smoking and alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and unhealthy dietary habits, which can contribute to future chronic diseases.3,4

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., economic shocks have been felt across the country. A measure that reflects the fast-changing impact of COVID on the economy, and on local unemployment rates in particular, is more important than ever.

How do we measure unemployment – current, city-level?

This metric represents the monthly percentage of the civilian labor force, aged 16 and older, that is unemployed and actively seeking work. Actively seeking work is defined as networking, applying, or interviewing for prospective employment.

The Dashboard has two different unemployment metrics. Both are important for improving health, well-being and equity in U.S. cities. The table below shows how they are different and why we have two ways of showing unemployment.





Multi-Year Data

Update Schedule

Most Current Date

Data Source

Annual, Neighborhood-Level







American Community Survey

Current, City-Level






Updated monthly, from Jan. 2018

Local Area Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Strengths and Limitations

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

• This metric measures city-level unemployment and is updated monthly to reflect current COVID-related economic impact.

• Knowing the rate of unemployment allows city officials to understand the vitality of their city’s labor market, as well as the potential for health impacts of unemployment. 

• Monitoring unemployment is important because its health impacts become more severe the longer one is unemployed.2

• This metric is specific to those actively seeking work (i.e. interviewing, calling potential job contacts). It excludes individuals passively seeking work (i.e. reading help wanted ads) and excludes those who have exited the labor force (i.e., unemployed and no longer looking for work).

• Unemployment rates do not provide information on underemployment. Underemployment is when individuals work in jobs that do not fully use their skills or provide inadequate hours or compensation. Underemployment is also associated with adverse health effects.4



 Unemployment – current, city-level is calculated by the following formula:

unemployment current city level

For more information on the calculation, please refer to the City Health Dashboard Technical Documentation.   

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from Local Area Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from January 2018 to present. Multi-month data are available for this metric. For more information, please refer to Using Multi-Year Data: Tips and Cautions.


  1. Wilson SH, Walker GM. Unemployment and health: a review. Public health. 1993;107(3):153-162.

  2. Pharr JR, Moonie S, Bungum TJ. The Impact of Unemployment on Mental and Physical Health, Access to Health Care and Health Risk Behaviors. ISRN Public Health. 2012;2012:7.

  3. Dooley D, Fielding J, Levi L. Health and unemployment. Annu Rev Public Health. 1996;17:449-465.

  4. Rosenthal L, Carroll-Scott A, Earnshaw VA, Santilli A, Ickovics JR. The importance of full-time work for urban adults' mental and physical health. Soc Sci Med. 2012;75(9):1692-1696.

Last updated: January 7, 2021