Article

April 2014

Unemployment continued its downward trend in 2013

This article uses data from the Current Population Survey to examine the U.S. labor market in 2013. The analysis suggests that the labor market continued to improve gradually during the year. Both the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate fell over the year, with much of the improvement occurring among women. Household survey employment expanded over the year, while the labor force participation rate continued to decline.

The U.S. labor market continued to improve gradually in 2013 as unemployment declined and employment expanded. In the fourth quarter of the year, 10.8 million people were unemployed and the unemployment rate was 7.0 percent, 0.8 percentage point lower than a year earlier. Total civilian employment expanded by 900,000 in 2013, reaching 144.2 million in the fourth quarter of the year. Employment growth, however, was weaker than in the prior 2 years.1 (For a comparison of the employment measures available from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, see the box that follows.) The employment–population ratio showed little definitive change in 2013 on net, ending the year at 58.5 percent in the fourth quarter. In 2013, the civilian labor force—the sum of the employed and the unemployed—dropped to 154.9 million by the fourth quarter, and the labor force participation rate fell by 0.9 percentage point over the year, to 62.8 percent.

This article examines key labor market measures from the CPS in 2013 for various population groups. Among the characteristics covered are age, gender, race and ethnicity, and educational attainment. The article also explores changes in earnings and in the duration of unemployment and reviews the employment situations of veterans, people with a disability, and the foreign born.

Unemployment

Both the number of unemployed people and the unemployment rate for all the major demographic groups dropped in 2013. Over the year, the number of unemployed declined by 1.4 million to 10.8 million in the fourth quarter. The decline in unemployment picked up speed during the year, falling by 129,000 in the first quarter of the year, compared with declines of 316,000, 418,000, and 512,000 in each of the subsequent three quarters. The decline in the unemployment rate also picked up pace during the year, edging downward by 0.1 percentage point in the first quarter, compared with a 0.2 percentage-point decline in each of the second and third quarters and a 0.3 percentage-point decline in the fourth quarter. The rate was 7.0 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, versus its year-earlier level of 7.8 percent. (See table 1 and figure 1.)

Table 1. Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and older, by age and selected characteristics, quarterly averages, seasonally adjusted, 2012–2013 (levels in thousands)
CharacteristicFourth quarter, 20122013Change, fourth quarter 2012 to fourth quarter 2013
First quarterSecond quarterThird quarterFourth quarter

Total, 16 years and older

      

Civilian labor force

155,424155,437155,597155,534154,949–475

Participation rate (percent)

63.763.563.463.262.8–.9

Employed

143,271143,414143,890144,245144,171900

Employment–population ratio

58.758.658.658.658.5–.2

Unemployed

12,15212,02311,70711,28910,777–1,375

Unemployment rate (percent)

7.87.77.57.37.0–.8

Men, 20 years and older

      

Civilian labor force

79,63479,87179,86379,74679,477–157

Participation rate (percent)

72.972.972.772.471.9–1.0

Employed

73,88574,15274,18874,15674,216331

Employment–population ratio

67.767.767.567.367.2–.5

Unemployed

5,7505,7195,6755,5905,261–489

Unemployment rate (percent)

7.27.27.17.06.6–.6

Women, 20 years and older

      

Civilian labor force

69,95669,73969,91270,00069,785–171

Participation rate (percent)

59.258.958.958.858.5–.7

Employed

64,94864,84765,27065,59965,464516

Employment–population ratio

55.054.855.055.154.9–.1

Unemployed

5,0084,8924,6414,4024,320–688

Unemployment rate (percent)

7.27.06.66.36.2–1.0

Total, 16 to 19 years

      

Civilian labor force

5,8345,8275,8225,7885,687–147

Participation rate (percent)

34.534.634.634.534.0–.5

Employed

4,4394,4154,4324,4904,49152

Employment–population ratio

26.326.226.426.826.9.6

Unemployed

1,3941,4121,3901,2981,196–198

Unemployment rate (percent)

23.924.223.922.421.0–2.9

White

      

Civilian labor force

123,679123,704123,697123,362122,850–829

Participation rate (percent)

63.863.863.763.463.1–.7

Employed

115,169115,224115,488115,458115,346177

Employment–population ratio

59.459.459.559.459.2–.2

Unemployed

8,5108,4808,2087,9047,504–1,006

Unemployment rate (percent)

6.96.96.66.46.1–.8

Black or African American

      

Civilian labor force

18,53518,59518,64318,59918,475–60

Participation rate (percent)

61.761.561.561.160.5–1.2

Employed

15,97216,06616,14916,21416,179207

Employment–population ratio

53.153.253.353.353.0–.1

Unemployed

2,5632,5282,4952,3852,296–267

Unemployment rate (percent)

13.813.613.412.812.4–1.4

Asian(1)

      

Civilian labor force

8,3318,5188,5628,6308,626295

Participation rate (percent)

64.464.764.464.964.2–.2

Employed

7,8368,0198,1518,1688,206370

Employment–population ratio

60.660.961.361.561.0.4

Unemployed

496499410462420–76

Unemployment rate (percent)

5.95.94.85.44.9–1.0

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

      

Civilian labor force

24,54724,50424,73524,91624,923376

Participation rate (percent)

66.165.966.166.265.8–.3

Employed

22,14522,19022,48822,61622,765620

Employment–population ratio

59.659.760.160.160.1.5

Unemployed

2,4032,3152,2472,3002,158–245

Unemployment rate (percent)

9.89.49.19.28.7–1.1

Notes:

(1) Data for Asians are not seasonally adjusted.

Note: Race and Hispanic ethnicity totals do not sum to overall total, 16 years and older, because data are not presented for all races and because people of Hispanic ethnicity may be of any race and are also included in the race groups. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

A disproportionately large share of the decline in both the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate in 2013 occurred among adult women, whose jobless rate dropped by 1.0 percentage point to 6.2 percent in the fourth quarter, breaking a 2-year trend in which the over-the-year decline in unemployment had been more concentrated among men. By comparison, the rate for adult men declined by 0.6 percentage point to 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter. While the rate for men generally continued to be higher than that of women—a pattern that has been in place since the rates began to diverge in mid-2008—the gap widened over the year with the larger decline in women’s unemployment. Among teenagers 16 to 19 years of age, the jobless rate remained high in 2013 by historical standards, falling by 2.9 percentage points to 21.0 percent in the fourth quarter.

Notes

1 The data in this article are based on information collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS)—also called the household survey—a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households nationwide that the U.S. Census Bureau conducts for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although the CPS is a monthly survey, the data analyzed throughout the article are seasonally adjusted quarterly averages, unless otherwise noted. All over-the-year changes are comparisons of fourth-quarter data from 2012 with fourth-quarter data from 2013. Effective with the data for January 2013, updated population estimates were used in the household survey. Each year, the Census Bureau updates the population estimates to reflect new information and assumptions about the growth of the population during the decade. In accordance with usual practice, BLS did not revise the official household survey estimates for December 2012 and earlier months. For additional information on the population adjustments and their effect on national labor force estimates, see “Adjustments to Household Survey Population Estimates in January 2013” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2013), http://www.bls.gov/cps/cps13adj.pdf.

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About the Author

Catherine A. Wood
wood.catherine@ bls.gov

Catherine A. Wood is an economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.