Factors that Determine the Rate of Unemployment

Unemployment refers to the condition of individuals who are capable of working, actively seeking employment, but are unable to find work. In an economic context, unemployment is often considered a key indicator of the health of the labor market and the overall economy. The rate of unemployment varies between countries, regions, and communities. One region can have a large number of unemployed people compared to other regions. For example, the rate of unemployment in Kenya is 4.9%, meaning that 4.9% of people who are in the working age category are without job and constantly looking for employment. On the other hand, the United States has a lower unemployment rate of 3%.

The rate of unemployment is influenced by a combination of economic, structural, and individual factors. Here are some key determinants:

1) Economic Conditions

Economic conditions are major factors that influence the rate of unemployment in a country. The two major economic conditions that affect unemployment rate are business cycles and economic growth.

  • Business Cycles: Economic downturns or recessions often lead to an increase in unemployment as businesses reduce their workforce to cut costs.
  • Economic Growth: Conversely, during periods of economic growth, businesses expand, leading to job creation and a decrease in unemployment.

2) Technological Changes

Another key factor that affects unemployment rate in a particular country is technological change. Advances in technology can lead to automation and job displacement, contributing to structural unemployment as workers may lack the necessary skills for newly created roles.

3) Globalization:

Globalization can be a negative and at the same time a positive factor affecting unemployment rate. Increased international trade and outsourcing can impact certain industries and jobs, leading to job losses in some regions or sectors. Nevertheless, globalization may lead to outsourcing of labor, which leads to reduced unemployment.

4) Educational Attainment

Another important factor that affects unemployment rate is the level of education that the citizens of a country have. Individuals with higher levels of education generally have lower unemployment rates. Lack of education or relevant skills can contribute to higher unemployment.

5) Labor Market Policies

Government policies, such as minimum wage laws, labor regulations, and unemployment benefits, can affect the dynamics of the labor market and influence the rate of unemployment. A policy that restricts child labor enables people of a working age to access more employment, leading to reduced unemployment.

6) Demographic Factors:

Some demographic factors can also affect the rate of unemployment. Population growth, age demographics, and workforce participation rates can impact the overall supply and demand for labor.

7) Mismatch of Skills

Structural unemployment can occur when there is a mismatch between the skills possessed by the workforce and the skills demanded by employers.

8) Discouraged Workers:

Frustrations and disillusionment can make an individual to stop looking for a job, hence leading to hidden unemployment. Some individuals may become discouraged and stop actively seeking employment. While they are not counted in official unemployment statistics, their presence reflects hidden or discouraged unemployment.

9) Natural Disasters and External Shocks

Natural disasters also have a major impact on the rate of unemployment. Unforeseen events, such as natural disasters or geopolitical tensions, can disrupt economies and lead to job losses.

10) Entrepreneurship and Business Environment:

The ease of starting and running businesses can impact job creation. A favorable business environment may lead to more entrepreneurial activities and job opportunities.


Understanding the interplay of these factors is crucial for policymakers, economists, and businesses in addressing unemployment and developing effective strategies for job creation and economic stability. Additionally, addressing educational and training needs to align with evolving job market demands is essential in reducing structural unemployment


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