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June 1984, Vol. 107, No. 6
The Current Population Survey:
a historical perspective and the BLS role
The Current Population survey is probably the oldest continuous monthly sample survey of households in the world. Its roots go back to March 1940, when the Works Progress Administration, an independent agency established during the Great Depression of the 1930's, initiated a small, household survey that would measure the level and change in the size of the labor force, employment, and unemployment. In the ensuing period, the survey has grown to its present size of 60,000 households, and more information is now collected. But the 44 years have seen few changes in the basic concepts used to measure employment and unemployment, and a remarkably comparable set of historical data is available for public use. This article describes the history of the Current Population Survey, with particular emphasis on its development in the past quarter century, over which time the Bureau of Labor Statistics has had primary responsibility for the survey.
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