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December 1992, Vol. 115, No. 12
Job search methods of the unemployed, 1991
Steven M. Bortnick and Michelle Harrison Ports
Does the method of job search affect the likelihood of employment? In 1991, unemployed jobseekers most often contacted prospective employers directly. However, the most successful method was registering with a private employment agency.
This article examines the methods used by unemployed individuals to search for jobs in 1991. Data are from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly household survey, conducted for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Bureau of the Census. For the first time, this study combines job search information from a given month in the CPS with information from the following month.1 This matching of month-to-month data created a longitudinal perspective of the results of an individual's job search efforts.
Methodology and limitations
Since 1967, information about methods used to look for work has been obtained from persons identified as unemployed jobseekers in the CPS. This information is used to classify individuals as "actively searching for work." The CPS sample includes approximately 60,000 households. In each participating household, individuals are interviewed once a month for 4 consecutive months; are then dropped from the sample for the following 8 months; and are interviewed again for 4 consecutive months. This "4-8-4" rotation pattern ensures that nearly three-fourths of the sample is composed of common households across each 2-month period for this study. Ideally, about three-fourths of the individuals can be surveyed from month-to-month to track the results of their job search efforts.2
The job search questions currently asked in the CPS were originally recommended in 1962 by a presidentially appointed committee on employment and unemployment statistics. The group, known as the Gordon Committee, concluded that specific questions on job search activities were necessary for determining unemployment.3 After some period of testing, explicit job search questions were added to the CPS in 1967.
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1 This study is quite different from a BLS study on unemployed jobseekers actively searching for work in 1976. The earlier study surveyed unemployed jobseekers in the jobseeking activities, and other factors of employment, only once, while this study surveys such jobseekers in one month, and tracks these jobseekers in the following month. See Carl Rosenfeld, "Job Search of the Unemployed, May 1976" Monthly Labor Review, Nov. 1977, pp. 39-43.
2 The CPS covers 50 States and the District of Columbia. it is the main source of employment and unemployment statistics in the United States. Individuals who move out of a household between surveys cannot be tracked. Additional information regarding the sample of unemployed jobseekers is available from the authors.
3 See Robert A. Gordon, and others, Measuring Employment and Unemployment - president's committee to appraise employment and unemployment statistics (Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962), pp.50-51.
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