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Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
Bureau of Labor Statistics > Current Population Survey > About > Labor Force Characteristics

Labor Force Characteristics (CPS)

This page contains information on the labor force data on characteristics of employed and unemployed persons and persons not in the labor force. Data on hours of work, earnings, and demographic characteristics also are available.

Labor force information for States, counties, and cities are available separately from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program. Contact LAUS by e-mail or call (202) 691-6392.


See also Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for a discussion of people not at work in the monthly impact summary.


Annual labor market summary

Each year a summary of the labor market is published in the Monthly Labor Review.


Class of worker

See Self-employed persons.


Computer and Internet use

These data on computer and Internet use at work come from a special supplemental survey last conducted in October 2003.


Contingent and alternative employment arrangements

Contingent workers are people who do not expect their jobs to last or who reported that their jobs are temporary. They do not have an implicit or explicit contract for continuing employment. Alternative employment arrangements include people employed as independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers, and workers provided by contract firms. See also Electronically mediated employment.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Beginning with the publication of data for March 2020, reports highlighted the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. See also Absences.


Discouraged workers

Discouraged workers are a subset of persons marginally attached to the labor force. The marginally attached are those persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months, but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Among the marginally attached, discouraged workers were not currently looking for work specifically because they believed no jobs were available for them or there were none for which they would qualify. See also Not in the labor force and Alternative measures of labor underutilization.


Displaced workers

Data on displaced workers are collected from a special supplementary survey conducted every 2 years. Displaced workers are defined as persons 20 years of age and older who lost or left jobs because their plant or company closed or moved, there was insufficient work for them to do, or their position or shift was abolished.


Electronically mediated employment (EME)

BLS added four new questions to the May 2017 Contingent Worker Supplement. These questions were designed to measure an emerging type of work—electronically mediated employment, generally defined as short jobs or tasks that workers find through mobile apps that both connect them with customers and arrange payment for the tasks.


Employed persons

Employed persons consist of: persons who did any work for pay or profit during the survey reference week; persons who did at least 15 hours of unpaid work in a family-operated enterprise; and persons who were temporarily absent from their regular jobs because of illness, vacation, bad weather, industrial dispute, or various personal reasons. The employment-population ratio represents the proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population that is employed. Data are also available for Demographics, Earnings, Hours of work, and other employment characteristics. See also Labor force and Unemployment.


Full- or part-time status

Full time is 35 hours or more per week; part time is 1 to 34 hours per week.

See also Hours of work, Work experience, and Work schedules (flexible and shift schedules).


Part time for economic reasons (involuntary part time)

This category includes people who indicated that they would like to work full time but were working part time (1 to 34 hours) because of an economic reason, such as their hours were cut back or they were unable to find full-time jobs. (Learn more about how this category is defined.)


Flexible and shift schedules

See Work schedules.


Hours of work

Data measure average hours at work per week and distributions of employed persons by hours at work. See also Full- or part-time status.



See Occupation and industry.


Labor force

The labor force is the sum of employed and unemployed persons. The labor force participation rate is the labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population. Browse various labor force characteristics. Data also are available by demographic characteristics. See also Not in the labor force.


Labor force status flows


Marginally attached to the labor force

See: Discouraged workers.


Multiple jobholders

Data on employed persons with more than one job.


Not in the labor force

Persons who are neither employed nor unemployed are not in the labor force. This category includes retired persons, students, those taking care of children or other family members, and others who are neither working nor seeking work. Information is collected on their desire for and availability for work, job search activity in the prior year, and reasons for not currently searching. See also Labor force and Discouraged workers.


Occupation and industry

Employed persons are classified by occupation (what kind of work they do) and industry (what kind of work their employer or business does). Unemployed persons are classified according to their last job. See also Earnings by occupation and industry.

Part-time workers

See: Full- and part-time status.


Self-employed persons (class of worker)

Employed persons are categorized by class of worker based on their relationship to their employer. The class-of-worker categories include private and government wage and salary workers, self-employed workers, and unpaid family workers.


Shift work

See Work schedules.


Summer work

Information on the April to July labor force participation of youth 16 to 24 years old is published each August. See also Youth.



NEW monthly estimates of people who telework or work at home for pay are available back to October 2022.

See also Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for a measure of people who teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic (data from May 2020 through September 2022). Learn more about how the COVID-19 pandemic telework question differs from the current monthly telework question introduced in October 2022.

See also Work at home for historical supplemental survey measures of work at home (last conducted in May 2004).



Data on employee tenure, which measure how long workers had been with their current employer at the time they were surveyed, come from a special supplemental survey conducted every 2 years.



Persons are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior 4 weeks, and are currently available for work. Persons who were not working and were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been temporarily laid off are also included as unemployed. Receiving benefits from the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program has no bearing on whether a person is classified as unemployed.

The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force. Unemployment data also are available by demographic characteristics. See also Labor force and Employment.


Alternative measures of labor underutilization (U-1 through U-6)

This range of measures encompasses concepts both broader and narrower than the definition of unemployment. See also State estimates.


Characteristics of Unemployment Insurance Applicants and Benefit Recipients

A special supplemental survey conducted in 2018 and 2022 provided information on people who applied for or received unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. This information is not available from the basic monthly labor force survey that is the source of national estimates of unemployment.


Union members

Data measure union membership and representation of employed wage and salary workers. See also Union earnings.


Work at home

NOTICE See Telework for new monthly estimates of people who telework available back to October 2022.

Data in the Work at Home news release, which measure persons who work at home as part of their job, come from a special supplemental survey last conducted in May 2004.

See also Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for a measure of people who teleworked because of the coronavirus pandemic (data from May 2020 through September 2022).


Work experience during the year

Data measure employment and unemployment experience throughout the calendar year. See Tenure for how long people have worked for their current employer.


Work schedules (flexible and shift schedules)

These data, which measure flexible schedules and shift work among full-time wage and salary workers, come from a special supplemental survey last conducted in May 2004.


Worklife estimates

BLS has not produced worklife estimates since February 1986. This report contains estimates of the number of years individuals would spend in the labor force based on mortality conditions, labor force entry and exit rates, and demographic characteristics.

  • Report: Worklife Estimates: Effects of Race and Education (February 1986) (PDF)


Last Modified Date: May 22, 2024