Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kind of information does Geographic Profile provide?

It provides annual average data from the CPS for census regions and divisions, the 50 States and the District of Columbia, 50 large metropolitan areas, and 17 central cities. These data include employment and unemployment by selected demographic and economic characteristics.

How are the labor force components (i.e., civilian noninstitutional population, civilian labor force, employed, unemployed, and unemployment rate) defined?

The official concepts and definitions used in the Current Population Survey (CPS) are followed. For a complete description, see Definitions of Labor Force Concepts (PDF).

  • Civilian noninstitutional population. Included are persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, who are not inmates of institutions (e.g., penal and mental facilities, homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.
  • Civilian labor force. Included are all persons in the civilian noninstitutional population classified as either employed or unemployed (see the definitions below).
  • Employed persons. Employed persons are all persons who, during the reference week (week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of their family, or (b) were not working but had jobs from which they were temporarily absent. Each employed person is counted only once, even if he or she holds more than one job.
  • Unemployed persons. All persons who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work (except for temporary illness), and had made specific efforts to find employment some time during the 4 week-period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.
  • Unemployment rate. The ratio of unemployed to the civilian labor force expressed as a percent (i.e., 100 times (unemployed/labor force)).

Why are the labor force estimates for areas and cities different between the LA (Local Area Unemployment Statistics) and GP (Geographic Profile) series?

The data in the LA series are the official data used for Federal fund allocations and are based on a statistical methodology which uses data from a variety of sources. Data for approximately 6,880 geographic areas are developed in this manner and included in this database, including for all counties and cities of 25,000 or more, thus meeting the data needs of other Federal programs. The methodology is consistent across states, so areas can be compared to one another. Data are available on a monthly and annual basis, with preliminary estimates published within two months from the reference period. No demographic data are available from this series.

The GP series provides data for only 50 large metropolitan areas (MAs) and 17 cities. These annual average data come directly from the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS sample is not large enough to provide reliable data for all areas (in fact, many areas contain no sample), nor is the reliability consistent among the areas published. These CPS estimates are the only current source of information on demographic and detailed economic characteristics for these areas.

What is the difference between job losers and the unemployed?

People who have lost a job make up a large but varying portion of those classified as unemployed each month. There are also persons who have voluntarily left jobs, persons who have newly entered or re-entered the labor force but not yet found a job, and persons who have recently completed temporary jobs and are looking for employment. For a more detailed description of these labor force concepts, see Definitions of Labor Force Concepts (PDF).

What is the Current Population Survey (CPS)?

The CPS is a monthly sample survey of approximately 60,000 households (nationally) conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is the source of much key labor market data, including the U.S. unemployment rate. For more information see Current Population Survey.

What are "household" and "establishment" data, and how do they differ?

"Household" data, as from the Current Population Survey (CPS), pertain to individuals and relate to where they reside. "Establishment" data, such as those from the Current Employment Statistics, a survey of businesses, pertain to jobs (persons on a payroll) and where those jobs are located. The data developed through the LAUS program are based on the household concept of the CPS. For information on these surveys and how they differ, see Household vs. Establishment Series.

Why are some of the detailed data available at the national level not also available at the state, metropolitan area, county, and city level?

National data come from all 60,000 household in the Current Population Survey. The survey sample size is not large enough at the local, or even state, level to provide the same level of detail in the estimates. Note that National data are NOT the sum of local area estimates.

Why is the sum of the Black, White, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity data different from that for the Total group?

Detail for race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity groups will not add to totals because data for the "other races" group are not presented and because Hispanics (an ethnic category, rather than a race) are included in both the Black and White population groups.

Where can I obtain this type of demographic and economic data for areas not in Geographic Profile?

The best source for detailed data for small areas is the U.S. Census Bureau. Data from Census 2000 and the 1990 Census can be accessed through American FactFinder.

Whom should I contact if I have additional questions?

Contact the information staff at, via FAX to at (202) 691-6459, or by telephone at (202) 691-6392.


Last Modified Date: July 16, 2010