On January 8, 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its unemployment data for December 2020. The unemployment rate for December was 6.7%, the same rate that was reported for November 2020. The year’s highest unemployment rate was recorded in April 2020 at 14.8%; the year’s lowest reported rate was 3.5% in both January and February 2020.
The average yearly unemployment rate for 2020 was 8.1%. This is the highest average yearly rate since 2012 when it also equaled 8.1%. The highest average yearly rate over the past decade (2010-2020) was 9.6% in 2010. The lowest average rate over the past decade was 3.7% in 2019.
The BLS began collecting monthly unemployment data in 1948. The bureau classifies people as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for a job in the past four weeks, and are available for work—or if they are waiting to be recalled to a job from which they were temporarily laid off. The BLS uses data from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the United States Census Bureau. The survey collects data each month from 60,000 households—approximately 110,000 individuals—selected from a sample of 800 geographic areas designed by the Census Bureau to represent each state and the District of Columbia.