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During the middle of any month, specialists from the Bureau of the Census survey over 50,000 households all over the country taking count of the number of unemployed. After the Census workers collect their data, they turn it over to the Bureau of Labor Statistics for analysis and publication. Unemployment also is expressed in the terms of the unemployment rate, the number of unemployed the civilian labor force.

Types of Unemployment

Partially from the data collected by the Bureau of the Census, economists have identified several different kinds of unemployment. One kind is frictional unemployment, which accounts for workers who are "between" jobs. If these workers do not work for one week between jobs, they can be classified as unemployed.

A second type of unemployment is structural unemployment, which occurs when a fundamental change in the operations of the economy reduces the demand for workers and their skills. Sometimes consumer tastes change and certain goods and services are no longer required. Also, industries may change the way they operate. During the 1990-1991 recession, a series of mergers and cost reductions trimmed the white-collar labor forces in the banking and computer industries. Sometimes the government contributes to structural unemployment when it changes the way it does business. An example would be the closing of a military base.

A third kind of unemployment is cyclical unemployment, which is directly related to swings in the business cycle. During a recession many people put off buying certain durable goods resulting in durable goods industries laying off workers until the economy recovers.

A fourth kind of unemployment is seasonal unemployment, which results from changes in the weather of changes in the demand for certain products. Construction is one of those industries affected, where carpenters and builders have less work during the winter than in the summer. Other workers for retail stores are in demand during the holiday season.

A fifth kind of unemployment is technological unemployment, which is caused when workers with less skills, talent, or education are replaced by machines that do their jobs. This process is often referred to as automation.

Full Employment

Contrary to popular belief, full unemployment does not mean zero unemployment, it instead means the lowest possible unemployment rate with the economy growing and all factors of production being used as efficiently as possible. There has been no percentage that has been classified as the lowest unemployment rate because over time the rate of unemployment has fluctuated from 4% to 6% to 9% and then down to 5.1%. If I remember correctly, today our economy has a 3% unemployment rate- one of the best ever. However, economists believe that full employment is reached when the unemployment rate drops below 5%.

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