July 31, 2000
Comparative unemployment rates are an important measure of U.S. economic performance relative to other countries. Adjustment to common labor force concepts makes for a more meaningful unemployment rate comparison.
In 1998, for example, the U.S. rate was 4.5 percent, Canada’s was 8.3 percent, and the rate for the European union was 9.9 percent. Adjusting some of these statistics to more closely match U.S. labor force concepts reduces the gap, however.
In the spring of 1998, the reported rate of 12.1 percent in France, for example, adjusts to 11.4 percent. Similarly, the rate for Italy adjusts from 12.4 percent to 11.7 percent. Even after the adjustments, as these numbers suggest, the unemployment rate in the European Union was quite a bit higher than in the United States.
Unemployment rate comparisons are produced by the BLS Foreign Labor Statistics program. Learn more about adjusting unemployment statistics to U.S. labor force concepts in "International unemployment rates: how comparable are they?" by Constance Sorrentino in Monthly Labor Review, June 2000.