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December 2010, Vol. 133, No. 12
Duration of unemployment in States, 2007–09
Sally L. Anderson
Sally L. Anderson is an economist in the Division of Local Area Unemployment Statistics at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. E-mail: email@example.com.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes statistics on the duration of unemployment at the national level, derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS), on a monthly basis. Unemployed persons at the State level also can be classified by duration. In this article, which utilizes CPS data at the State level, those jobless for a period of less than 5 weeks are referred to as short-term unemployed, while those jobless for 15 weeks or more are referred to as long-term unemployed.1
Duration of unemployment measures are affected by economic cycles. In a strong economy, the largest share of the unemployed is generally found in the short-term category. The unemployed then would consist largely of the frictionally unemployed—those who are jobless for short periods as they are changing jobs. Increases in the number of short-term unemployed can indicate a weakening economy. If the economy continues to deteriorate over an extended period of time, and people continue to struggle to find jobs, the distribution of unemployment by duration will begin to shift from short term to medium term and then finally to the long-term category.2
Recently, CPS annual average estimates for 2007–09 were tabulated for all States and the District of Columbia for the same unemployment duration categories that are published at the national level. The estimation procedure used for the subnational sample-based CPS data allows for the development of statistics on economic characteristics of the labor force, such as duration of unemployment, based on specific responses to the survey questionnaire.3 In contrast, the official statewide unemployment estimates from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program are model-based measures and are designed to produce reliable total employment and unemployment estimates. Further breakdowns of LAUS data by economic or demographic characteristics are not available.
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2 The duration of unemployment represents the length of time (through the current reference week) that individuals classified as unemployed have been looking for work and refers to job searches in continuous progress rather than the duration of a completed spell.
3 Statewide estimates on the economic characteristics of the unemployed (e.g., duration of unemployment) are based on annual averages of monthly data obtained from the CPS and are, therefore, subject to sampling error. For more information on using and interpreting CPS subnational data, see “Notes on Using Current Population Survey (CPS) Subnational Data,” on the Internet at www.bls.gov/gps/notescps.htm. For additional information and sampling error tables, see the appendices of the Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment publications, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/opub/gp/laugp.htm.
Current Population Survey
Decade of economic change and population shifts in U.S. regions, A.—Nov. 1996.
Analysis of regional employment growth, 1973-85, An.—Jul. 1986.
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