Labor Force Data Derived from the Current Population
The criteria used in classifying persons on the basis of their
labor force activity and some of the major statistics obtained
from the CPS are as follows:
Employed persons. All those who,
during the reference week, (1) did any work at all 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 a family-operated enterprise; and (2) all those who did not
work but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily
absent due to illness, bad weather, vacation, childcare problems,
labor dispute, maternity or paternity leave, or other family
or personal obligations — whether or not they were paid by their
employers for the time off and whether or not they were seeking
other jobs. Each employed person is counted only once, even if
he or she holds more than one job. Included in the total are
employed citizens of foreign countries who are residing in the
United States, but who are not living on the premises of an
embassy. Excluded are persons whose only activity consisted of
work around their own home (such as housework, painting,
repairing, and so forth) or volunteer work for religious,
charitable, and similar organizations.
Unemployed persons. All persons who: 1) had no
employment during the reference week; 2) were available for
work, except for temporary illness; and 3) had made specific
efforts, such as contacting employers, to find employment
sometime 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.
Duration of unemployment represents the length of time
(through the current reference week) that persons classified
as unemployed had been continuously looking for work. For
persons on layoff, duration of unemployment represents the
number of full weeks since the end of their most recent period
of employment. Thus, it is a measure of an in-progress spell of
joblessness, not a completed spell. Two useful measures of the
duration of unemployment are the mean and the median. Mean
duration is the arithmetic average computed from single weeks
of unemployment. Median duration is the midpoint of a distribution
of weeks of unemployment.
The reasons for unemployment are divided into four major
groups: (1) Job losers, defined as (a) persons on temporary
layoff, who have been given a date to return to work or who
expect to return within 6 months (persons on layoff need not
be looking for work to be classified as unemployed); (b)
permanent job losers, whose employment ended involuntarily
and who began looking for work; and (c) persons who completed
a temporary job, and who began looking for work after the job
ended; (2) Job leavers, defined as persons who quit or otherwise
terminated their employment voluntarily and immediately began
looking for work; (3) Reentrants, defined as persons who
previously worked but were out of the labor force prior to
beginning their job search; and (4) New entrants, defined
as persons who never had worked but were searching for work.
Civilian labor force. This is the total of all
civilians classified as employed and unemployed.
Unemployment rate. This represents
the proportion of the civilian labor force that is unemployed.
Participation rate. This represents
the proportion of the population that is in the labor force.
Employment-population ratio. This represents the proportion
of the population that is employed.
Not in the labor force. Included in this group are all
persons in the civilian noninstitutional population who are
neither employed nor unemployed. Information is collected on
their desire for and availability to take a job at the time of
the CPS interview, jobsearch activity in the prior year, and
reason for not looking for work in the 4-week period ending with
the reference week. Persons not in the labor force who want and
are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in
the past 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they
held one within the past 12 months), but who are not currently
looking, are designated as "marginally attached to the labor
force." The marginally attached are divided into those not
currently looking because they believe their search would be
futile — so-called discouraged workers — and those not currently
looking for other reasons such as family responsibilities, ill
health, or lack of transportation. For discouraged workers, the
reasons for not currently looking for work are that the
individual believes that: No work is available in his or her
line of work or area; he or she could not find any work; he or
she lacks necessary schooling, training, skills, or experience;
employers would think he or she is too young or too old; or he
or she would encounter hiring discrimination.
Multiple jobholders. These are employed persons who,
during the reference week, had two or more jobs as a wage and
salary worker, were self-employed and also held a wage and salary
job, or worked as an unpaid family worker and also held a wage
and salary job.
At work part time for economic reasons.
Sometimes referred to as involuntary part time, this category
refers to individuals who gave an economic reason for working 1
to 34 hours during the reference week. Economic reasons include:
Slack work or unfavorable business conditions, inability to find
full-time work, and seasonal declines in demand. Those who
usually work part time must also indicate that they want and are
available to work full time to be classified as part time for
At work part time for noneconomic reasons. This group
includes those persons who usually work part time and were at
work 1 to 34 hours during the reference week for a noneconomic
reason. Noneconomic reasons include: Illness or other medical
limitations, childcare problems or other family or personal
obligations, school or training, retirement or Social Security
limits on earnings, and being in a job in which full-time work
is less than 35 hours. This group also includes those who gave
an economic reason for usually working 1 to 34 hours but said
they do not want to work full time or were unavailable for such
Usual full- or part-time status. Full-time workers are
those who usually worked 35 hours or more (at all jobs combined).
This group includes some individuals who worked less than 35
hours in the reference week for either economic or noneconomic
reasons and those temporarily absent from work who usually work
at least 35 hours per week. Part-time workers are those who
usually work less than 35 hours per week (at all jobs),
regardless of the number of hours worked in the reference week.
This may include some individuals who actually worked more than
34 hours in the reference week, as well as those temporarily
absent from work who usually work less than 35 hours.
Usual weekly earnings for wage and salary workers. Data
are collected on earnings before taxes and other deductions,
and include any overtime pay, commissions, or tips usually
received (at the main job in the case of multiple jobholders).
Earnings reported on a basis other than weekly (such as annual,
monthly, or hourly) are converted to weekly. The term "usual"
is as perceived by the respondent. If the respondent asks for a
definition of usual, interviewers are instructed to define the
term as more than half the weeks worked during the past 4 or 5
Next: Recent Changes to the Survey