Each month the MetroWest Economic Research Center (MERC) at Framingham State University calculates a composite unemployment rate for each region studied. The unemployment rate is household-based and reflects the labor market status of the residents of the regions. The information for the rate is obtained from the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development, Division of Unemployment Assistance which provides monthly estimates of the size of the local labor force, the number of employed and unemployed residents, and the unemployment rates for all Massachusetts cities and towns.

The unemployment rate is a measure of the amount of unutilized labor in the economy. The rate represents the proportion of unemployed individuals in the labor force. The labor force is defined as all civilian non-institutionalized persons age 16 and over who are either employed or unemployed. The employed are those individuals who work as paid employees, are self-employed, or who work 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family operated enterprise. Also included as employed are people who did not work but who had a job from which they were temporarily absent due to vacation, illness, childcare problems or other personal obligations, whether or not they were paid during their absence. The unemployed are those who did not hold a job during the survey period but were actively seeking employment. For example, the December 2007 unemployment rate in Framingham of 3.0% was based on the following information: the size of the labor force was estimated at 36,702 workers, the sum of 35,598 residents who were employed and 1,104 residents who were unemployed. The rate, expressed as a percentage, was obtained by dividing the unemployed (1,104) by the labor force (36,702) and multiplying by 100 to get the unemployment rate of 3.0%.

Not everyone in the working age population is included in the labor force. Individuals who were in the working age population but who could not be classified as employed or unemployed (a full time homemaker, for example) would not be counted in the labor force.

The local area unemployment rates for the cities and towns are not seasonally adjusted and are subject to periodic revision and re-bench marking. Whenever local unemployment rates are compared to state and national unemployment rates, those rates are likewise not seasonally adjusted.

The definitions of terms such as labor force, employed, and unemployed are based on those in The BLS Handbook of Methods, U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 2003.,