Does the Unemployment Rate Matter?

The national unemployment rate gets a lot of attention, especially from job seekers who eye it nervously as they consider greener pastures. Yet when it comes to our individual lives, the national unemployment rate should not be a factor in our career decisions.

The figure is a composite of unemployment for every age group, in every industry, in every region. That means apple pickers in Washington and code developers in Austin and paralegals in Virginia are all lumped together to create a number that is meant to reflect our nation's economic health. Such a broad number may be useful for politicians, but there's no reason a developer in Austin should make decisions based on how many apples are growing in the northwest.

To see how the national unemployment rate may not apply to you, look at the June 2012 numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the government agency that monitors unemployment. The June total unemployment rate was 8.2%, but the rate for different age groups and education levels tells much more:

So if you're a professional with a Bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate for your demographic is 4.1%, not 8.2%. It's also important to be aware of what is happening in your specific industry. For example, the BLS report included industry-specific numbers that show how certain fields have very different employment levels.

By taking a deeper dive into unemployment statistics, job seekers are provided a clearer view of what they may face within their industry. In many cases, the numbers are also further refined for specific jobs and career paths within an industry. Dice, the largest IT sector focused job board, also analyzes BLS data for IT to determine more accurate unemployment rates for particular technology positions:

It's also important to consider that unemployment rate will vary by geographic location, particularly if you are a job seeker near a major technology hub.

Thinking about changing jobs? Skip the big-picture numbers and find out what's really happening in your field. Making an informed decision about your career begins by having the right information.

Topics: Employees