Measuring the Health of the Economy

Read this section to understand more about economic growth. Looking at GDP alone does not give much of an indication of the health of an economy. It is the change in GDP that is relevant. If GDP goes up, the economy is growing. This positive movement is what we want as we leave behind the most recent recession. Complete the exercises at the end of the section.

Economic Goals

The Unemployment Rate

The U.S. Department of Labor tracks unemployment and reports the unemployment rate: the percentage of the labor force that's unemployed and actively seeking work. The unemployment rate is an important measure of economic health. It goes up during recessionary periods because companies are reluctant to hire workers when demand for goods and services is low. Conversely, it goes down when the economy is expanding and there is high demand for products and workers to supply them.

Figure 1.10 "The U.S. Unemployment Rate, 1970–2010" traces the U.S. unemployment rate between 1970 and 2010. If you want to know the current unemployment rate, go to the CNNMoney Web site and click on "Economy" and then on "Job Growth".

Figure 1.10 The U.S. Unemployment Rate, 1970–2010