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February 1983, Vol. 106, No. 2
Estimating annual hours
of labor force activity
Shirley J. Smith
Today's labor force is characterized by high turnover, and a diversity of work schedules tailored to the needs and opportunities of employers and available workers. The dynamic composition of the work force makes it difficult to assess the true extent of labor force involvement or job attachment within various groups of the population. An intergroup comparison of labor force participation rates for a given year yields one set of differentials; a comparison of the proportions of persons economically active during the year gives an entirely different perspective; and, analysis of work schedules (as between full year, full time; part year, part time; and so forth) gives a third view of each group's relative contribution. Every statistic addresses a different aspect of the group's labor force involvement, but none successfully summarizes time input on a single, meaningful scale.
We know that different groups make varying portions of their year available for labor force activities. It is also clear that the economy uses some of these potential contributions more fully than it does others. But the diversity of work patterns within and between groups confounds our understanding of their respective work roles. For instance, annual earnings reports summarize the outcome of a group's job market involvement during a full year. But because individual time input varies so widely, it is hard to interpret the meaning of earnings differentials or changes over time, even when we limit our analysis to so-called year-round, full-time workers.
This article reports on experimentation with two new annual estimates, focusing on time in the labor force and time in employment (expressed in hours per year). These estimates are based on data drawn from the "work experience" supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), which is administered each March.
This excerpt is from an article published in the February 1983 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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Related BLS programs
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Nonfarm Payroll Statistics from the Current Employment Statistics (National)
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