Why do we measure unemployment?

Unemployment has well-documented negative effects on physical and mental health.(1) People who are unemployed often report feeling a sense of low self-worth, which can lead to depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem, and feeling demoralized.(2,3) Unemployment is also linked to unhealthy coping behaviors, such as increased smoking and alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, and unhealthy dietary habits, which can contribute to future chronic diseases.(3,4) Those who are unemployed often do not have a steady income or health insurance, which are essential to maintaining good health. People who are unemployed are less likely to have access to health services and more likely to delay care because of financial concerns.(2) 

How do we measure unemployment?

This metric includes the labor force population, aged 16 and older, that is unemployed and actively seeking work.

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

Knowing the rate of unemployment allows district officials to understand the vitality of their district’s labor market, as well as potential related health issues.  

Monitoring unemployment is important because its related health impacts become more severe over time.(2)

This metric does not include workers who are unemployed and have given up on finding work.(3) 

Unemployment rates do not provide information on under-employment. Underemployment is when individuals work in jobs that do not fully use their skills or that provide inadequate hours or compensation. Underemployment is also associated with adverse health effects.(4)


Unemployment is calculated by the following formula:

unemployment calculation

This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information on the calculation, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.  

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from American Community Survey data using the S2301 table. 

Years of Collection

Calculated by the Dashboard Team using data from 2022, 5 year estimate


  1. Wilson SH, Walker GM. Unemployment and health: a review. Public health. 1993;107(3):153-162.

  2. Pharr JR, Moonie S, Bungum TJ. The Impact of Unemployment on Mental and Physical Health, Access to Health Care and Health Risk Behaviors. ISRN Public Health. 2012;2012:7.

  3. Dooley D, Fielding J, Levi L. Health and unemployment. Annu Rev Public Health. 1996;17:449-465.

  4. Rosenthal L, Carroll-Scott A, Earnshaw VA, Santilli A, Ickovics JR. The importance of full-time work for urban adults' mental and physical health. Soc Sci Med. 2012;75(9):1692-1696.

Last updated: February 20, 2024