The unemployment rate, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, is the percentage of people in the labor force who do not have a job (the labor force is the sum of those who have a job and those who are looking for a job). Unemployment rates are frequently used to report on the state of the economy: a high unemployment rate can indicate a shrinking economy. Furthermore, unemployment rates give an idea of the portion of a community’s population that is financially insecure because they do not have a job. It should be noted that because unemployment rates are calculated based on a percentage of the people who are looking for work, it is actually an undercount of the total number of unemployed people who may actually wish to be employed. The unemployment rate does not include people who left the official labor force. This too is a significant factor as it underscores the growing portion of the population who are no longer considered employable for any number of reasons.

The Pioneer Valley experienced a significant drop in unemployment between 2015 and 2016, with the number of unemployed people decreasing 25.4% in one year. All three counties in the region experienced similar and significant drops. Franklin County and Hampden County had the largest proportional decreases, each of decreasing just over 26 percent.