Program Overview


Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

Local Area Unemployment Statistics Methodology (BLS)

The civilian labor force are estimates of all persons in the civilian noninstitutional population, 16 years of age or older and are either employed or unemployed. The published estimates; labor force, employment, unemployment and unemployment rate, are produced monthly and revised annually for the following areas:

United States
North Carolina State
15 North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Areas
27 North Carolina Micropolitan Statistical Areas
Nine North Carolina Combined Statistical Areas
100 North Carolina Counties
35 North Carolina Cities (population of 25,000 or more) 17 Towns and Nine City Parts
23 Workforce Development Boards
Eight Prosperity Zones

Data from 1976 to the current month can be found on this website.

Monthly labor force estimates for the United States are computed from data collected through the Current Population Survey (CPS). This survey is compiled by the Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Approximately 60,000 households across the nation are sampled on a rotating basis. Of the 60,000 households, about 1,500 are surveyed in North Carolina. Two data series, seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted are provided. In the seasonally adjusted series, normal seasonal fluctuations have been smoothed so the monthly estimates can be more meaningfully compared to each other. Not seasonally adjusted is not smoothed so the data is more difficult to compare since changes could be due to seasonal and/or economic changes.

Statewide labor force estimates are calculated using the State Time-series Analysis and Review System (STARS) developed and approved by BLS. This model is used by all states but is tailored to the economic makeup of each individual state. Key elements in the STARS model are monthly state CPS employment and unemployment data mentioned above. Once data is entered for all states, the total employment and unemployment estimates are adjusted to match the CPS national estimates and individual state estimates are produced. As with the United States, statewide estimates are published as seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted data series.

Labor force estimates for counties and other areas below the state level are developed using a building block approach called the Handbook method. This BLS developed and approved method is also used by all states and produces not seasonally adjusted data only. Employment estimates are calculated using industry or place of work employment data from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) or Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) programs. They are adjusted to a place of residence estimate by applying a dynamic residency ratio (DRR) provided by BLS. The DRR is derived by using commuting patterns existing during the decennial census to determine the employment relationships between areas. Two additional ratios are also provided by BLS to capture agricultural and other (self-employed, unpaid family workers, domestic workers, etc.) employment that may not covered by industry employment.

Unemployment estimates include all individuals who are unemployed in an area regardless of whether they filed claims for unemployment benefits. Key elements in estimating unemployment include counts of individuals filing unemployment insurance (UI) claims, exhaustees (persons who have exhausted their unemployment insurance benefits or are not filing for them), new entrants to the labor market, and reentrants who are returning after an extended absence from the labor force. Exhaustees, new entrants and reentrants are calculated using ratios provided by BLS.

Usually the sum of the employment and unemployment estimates for all areas do not match the statewide totals, so factors called additivity adjustments are applied to the area estimates to compensate. The estimates are then disaggregated to all counties and some cities using population controls extracted from census data and claims data.

All estimates are revised annually during a process called benchmarking to include new population controls, revised UI claims, revised CES estimates and updated QCEW data.