The Bureau of Labor Statistics added questions to the Current Population Survey (CPS) to help gauge the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the labor market. One set of questions was asked each month from May 2020 through September 2022 and a second set of questions was asked each month beginning in October 2022 through November 2023.
All of these supplemental questions referred to activities at any time during the "last 4 weeks" and followed the monthly labor force questions.
Variables for the special COVID-19 questions are available in microdata extract files from the Census Bureau. (Personally identifiable information is removed from all CPS microdata.)
"At any time in the last 4 weeks, did you telework or work at home for pay because of the coronavirus pandemic?" (The question was asked of people 16 years or older who were employed at the time of the survey.)
These data refer to employed people who teleworked or worked at home for pay at some point in the last 4 weeks specifically because of the coronavirus pandemic. People did not have to telework for the entire time that they worked to be counted among those who telework. By design, people whose telework was unrelated to the pandemic, such as employed people who worked entirely from home before the pandemic, should not be included in this measure.
"At any time in the last 4 weeks, were you unable to work because your employer closed or lost business due to the coronavirus pandemic?" (The question was asked of all people 16 years or older.)
This question was designed to capture information on both those who were unable to work because their business closed entirely due to the pandemic, as well as those who were unable to work or worked reduced hours because of partial cutbacks in business operations. This includes people whose hours had been reduced because of the pandemic but continued to work for the same employer.
These data do not include all people who were unable to work because of the pandemic. For example, it may exclude people who are unable to work now because of the pandemic but were unemployed before it started. It may exclude people who are unable to work because of health concerns or fear of getting ill. It may exclude people who were not working before but might want to work now, like a student who planned to get a summer job.
The fact that someone is employed at the time of the survey does not necessarily mean they are working for the same employer that closed or lost business. For example, someone who worked two jobs before the pandemic, but lost one because that business closed, would still be employed on the other job. Someone who lost a job at a business that closed but then began working at another job may also be counted in this measure.
"Did you receive any pay from your employer for the hours you did not work in the last 4 weeks?" (The question was asked of people 16 years or older who reported they were unable to work in the above question.) No information was collected about how much pay they received, such as whether they were paid for all of the time not worked. Also, no information was collected about the source of the pay from the employer, such as whether or not it was tied to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or other program participation.
"Did the coronavirus pandemic prevent you from looking for work in the last 4 weeks?" (The question was asked of people 16 years or older who were not in the labor force at the time of the survey—that is, they were neither employed nor unemployed. To be counted as unemployed, by definition, people must either be actively looking for work or on temporary layoff.)
Beginning in October 2022, supplemental questions were introduced that focus on telework or work at home for pay. Please see the telework or work at home for pay page to find data tables, highlights from these data, and the concepts and questions.
Last Modified Date: January 17, 2024