In the United States, a furlough (pron.: //; from Dutch: "verlof") is a temporary unpaid leave of some employees due to special needs of a company, which may be due to economic conditions at the specific employer or in the economy as a whole. These involuntary furloughs may be short or long term, and many of those affected may seek other temporary employment during that time.
Federal government 
In the United States, involuntary furloughs concerning federal government employees may be of a sudden and immediate nature. Such was the case in February 2010, when a single Senate objection prevented emergency funding measures from being implemented. As a result, 2000 federal workers for the Department of Transportation were immediately furloughed as of March 1, 2010. The longest such shutdown was December 16, 1995, to January 6, 1996, which affected all non-essential employees, shutting down a wide array of services including National Institutes of Health, visa and passport processing, parks, and many others.
The United States Congress failed to pass a re-authorization of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, and as a result, furloughed about 4,000 workers at midnight on July 22, 2011.
Board members of various school districts as well as universities implemented "furlough days" in 2009. This made students pay the same rate, if not more for their education while providing fewer educational days by forcing educators and staff members to take the day off. In states such as Georgia, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia included a clause so that mandatory furlough days are implemented but no classes are lost during the 2009-2010 academic year.
In California, the State Employee Trades Council (SETC) voted to implement a mandatory two-day per month furlough policy for the staff and faculty of the CSU system. The furloughs, intended to prevent layoffs, began in August 2009, and ended in June 2010. The 10% cut saved about $270 million of the CSU's $564 million dollar budget deficit.
Armed Services 
The term can also be applied to members of an armed service who have been given an extended period of leave from front line service in order to return home. For example, during World War 2 New Zealand soldiers who had served overseas for long periods (usually 3 or more years) were granted a "furlough" for a visit home. These soldiers on leave were called "furlough men" 
Potential furlough in 2011 
Congress was on the verge of forcing a government shutdown on April 8, 2011, if their plan to reduce the federal budget deficit was not resolved, which would have caused the furlough of 800,000 out of 2 million civilian federal employees.
See also 
- abcnews, Sen. Bunning Single-handedly Causes 2,000 Federal Worker Furloughs, March 1, 2010
- Furlough Information - Human Resources - University System of Georgia
- Members of State Employees Trades Council Ratify Tentative Agreement for 2009-2010 | CSU | Public Affairs
- Furloughs over for schools in the CSU - Education - Modbee.com
- Shutdown: 800,000 federal workers in the dark - Apr. 6, 2011
- Government Prepares for Shutdown - WSJ.com
- Guidance and Information on Furloughs from the United States Office of Personnel Management.
- Furlough: The worst cockpit terror of them all! What if it happens to you? by Patrick Smith.
- CNNMoney special report: Enjoy your forced vacation, March 11, 2009.