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(ECONOMICS) Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate). Does not include discouraged workers. Also referred to as "U-3" by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The BLS regularly publishes six estimates of unemployment. The others are U-1, U-3, U-4, U-5, and U-6. Eurostat publishes one monthly estimate of unemployment for the European Union, which is approximately midway between U-3 and U-4.

The unemployment statistics for the USA are collected through a monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) (also known as the household survey) and an establishment survey.
Given the way the government's headline unemployment rate is calculated, it can never reach 14%. This is because the civilian labor force includes only people who are working or have looked for a job in the previous four weeks. When the economy gets really bad (like now), unemployed workers get discouraged and give up looking for jobs. This causes the civilian labor force to decline as fast or faster than total employment.

{Louis Woodhill, "On Track for 14% Unemployment," RealClearMarkets (12 Jan 2010)}
by Abu Yahya July 17, 2010