Virginia's Career and Workforce Labor Market Information

Frequently Asked Questions

The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program provides a monthly estimate of an area's labor force, employment , unemployment, and unemployment rate. Data is taken from surveys and unemployment claims recorded during the monthly reference week, which is usually the week including the 12th day of each month. Statistics are an estimate of persons by place of residence, not jobs or where a person works. In order to be considered unemployed an individual must have had no employment during the reference week, been available for work, and have made an effort to find employment for four weeks leading up to the reference week.
The Current Employment Statistics (CES) program provides a monthly count of persons on non-farm establishments payrolls (including employees on paid sick leave, paid holiday, or paid vacation) who work or receive pay for any part of the week that includes the 12th of the month. It is a count of jobs by place of work, not people. Individuals could be counted multiple times if they hold more than one job. Self-employed, unpaid volunteer or family workers, domestic workers in households, military personnel, and persons who are laid off, on leave without pay, or even on strike for the entire reference period are not included in the data.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change in the prices paid by urban consumers for a fixed basket of goods and services. Through the Consumer Expenditure Survey, the U.S. Department of Labor surveys consumers to find out what consumers buy and what share of consumer incomes are spent on each item. This survey is used to create a basket of goods purchased by the average consumer. The price of the basket of goods becomes the base period cost. The U.S. Department of Labor then surveys stores to determine the price and quantity of goods sold to consumers. The monthly CPI indicates the increase in the price of the basket of goods since the base period. The price is indexed to make it easier to understand by setting the price in the base period equal to 100. Any price increases are represented as a percentage increase since the base period. A 3% price increase since the base period would result in an index of 103.

There are different types of CPIs published. The most commonly used index is the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, or the CPI-U. The CPI-U represents about 87 percent of the total U.S. population, but excludes consumers in rural areas, in the armed forces, and those living in institutions (such as prisons or mental institutions). The CPI-U can be broken down into the Energy Index, the Food Index, and the All Items Less Food and Energy Index (also referred to as core inflation). Each of these categories can be disaggregated further to more specific products.

The Department of Labor also publishes another index that only includes consumers who are wage earners and clerical workers, called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical workers (the CPI-W). Consumers that are earning a wage often purchase different items than consumers who are retired or earning a degree, so the CPI-W is slightly different than the CPI-U. The CPI-W represents about 32 percent of the U.S. population.

The third price index published is the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U). The C-CPI-U is exactly the same as the CPI-U, but it uses different mathematical techniques that better represent changes in what consumers buy, rather than measuring prices in the same basket of goods. More information on the Consumer Price Index can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at

Developed in cooperation with Canada and Mexico, the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) represents one of the most profound changes for statistical programs focusing on emerging economic activities. NAICS uses a production-oriented conceptual framework to group establishments into industries based on the activity in which they are primarily engaged. Establishments using similar raw material inputs, similar capital equipment, and similar labor are classified in the same industry. In other words, establishments that do similar things in similar ways are classified together. NAICS was introduced in 1997 and is periodically revised to reflect changes in the industrial structure of the U.S. and North American economy.  For more information please see
The 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is a federal statistical standard used by federal agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. All workers are classified into one of 867 detailed occupations according to their occupational definition. To facilitate classification, detailed occupations are combined to form 459 broad occupations, 98 minor groups, and 23 major groups. Detailed occupations in the SOC with similar job duties, and in some cases skills, education, and/or training, are grouped together. For more information, please see

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