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March 2008, Vol. 131, No. 3
Household survey indicators weaken in 2007
James Marschall Borbely
Unemployment rose in 2007 and employment, as measured by the Current Population Survey (CPS), grew at a slower pace than in the previous year.1 Both the rate and level of unemployment increased in 2007. In the fourth quarter of 2007, 7.4 million people were unemployed and the unemployment rate was 4.8 percent. The labor force grew over the year at a slightly slower pace than the population; as a result, the labor force participation rate declined in 2007. Reflecting the relatively weak employment growth, the employment-population ratio trended down during the year, from 63.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006 to 62.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.
Unemployment levels and rates—both overall and for most major worker groups—were higher in 2007. The unemployment rate for persons aged 16 years and older was 4.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, up from 4.4 percent in the same quarter a year earlier; it remained below the 10-year averages for the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. (See chart 1.) The unemployment rate held at 4.5 percent for the first two quarters of 2007 before rising to 4.7 percent in the third quarter. The number of unemployed persons, at 7.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2007, increased by 600,000 over the year. (See table 1.)
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1 The data in this article are based on information collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS), also called the household survey, a sample survey of about 60,000 households nationwide sponsored jointly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau. (For more information about the household survey, see the box on page 8.) Although the CPS is a monthly survey, the data analyzed throughout this article are seasonally adjusted quarterly averages, unless otherwise noted. All over-the-year changes are comparisons of fourth quarter data from 2006 to 2007.
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
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