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Economic News Release
ATUS ATUS Program Links

American Time Use Survey Technical Note

Technical Note

    The estimates in this news release are based on annual average data from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS).
The ATUS, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is a 
continuous survey about how individuals age 15 and over spend their time.

    If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications
relay services. 

Survey methodology

    Data collection for the ATUS began in January 2003. Sample cases for the survey are selected monthly, and
interviews are conducted continuously throughout the year. In 2022, approximately 8,100 individuals were
interviewed. Estimates are released annually.

    ATUS sample households are chosen from the households that completed their eighth (final) interview for the
Current Population Survey (CPS), the nationís monthly household labor force survey. ATUS sample households
are selected to ensure that estimates will be nationally representative.

    One individual age 15 or over is randomly chosen from each sampled household. This "designated person" is 
interviewed by telephone once about his or her activities on the day before the interview--the "diary day."

    All ATUS interviews are conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing. Procedures are in place
to collect information from the small number of households that did not provide a telephone number during
the CPS interview.

    ATUS designated persons are preassigned a day of the week about which to report. Preassignment is designed
to reduce variability in response rates across the week and to allow oversampling of weekend days so that
accurate weekend day measures can be developed. Interviews occur on the day following the assigned day. For
example, a person assigned to report about a Monday would be contacted on the following Tuesday. Ten percent
of designated persons are assigned to report about each of the five weekdays. Twenty-five percent are
assigned to report about each weekend day. Households are called for up to 8 consecutive weeks (for example,
8 Tuesdays) in order to secure an interview.

About the questionnaire

    In the time diary portion of the ATUS interview, survey respondents sequentially report activities 
they did between 4 a.m. on the day before the interview until 4 a.m. on the day of the interview. For each 
activity, respondents are asked how long the activity lasted. For activities other than personal care activities
(such as sleeping and grooming), interviewers also ask respondents where they were and who was in the room
with them (if at home) or who accompanied them (if away from home). If respondents report doing more than 
one activity at a time, they are asked to identify which one was the "main" (primary) activity. If none can
be identified, then the interviewer records the first activity mentioned. After completing the time diary,
interviewers ask respondents additional questions to clearly identify work, volunteering, eldercare, and
secondary childcare activities. Secondary childcare is defined as having a child under age 13 in oneís care
while doing other activities.

    In addition, the ATUS includes an update of the household composition from the last CPS interview (2 to 
5 months prior to the ATUS interview), the labor force status of the respondent, and the employment status
of his or her spouse or unmarried partner.  For respondents who became employed or changed jobs between the
last CPS interview and the ATUS interview, information also is collected on industry, occupation, class of
worker, and earnings. Finally, a question about current school enrollment status is asked of all respondents
ages 15 to 49.

    After completing the interview, primary activity descriptions are assigned a single 6-digit code using the
ATUS Coding Lexicon. The 3-tier coding system consists of 17 major activity categories, each with multiple
second- and third-tier subcategories. These coding lexicon categories are then combined into composite
categories for publication, such as in this news release. Descriptions of categories shown in this release
can be found in the Major activity category definitions section of this Technical Note. The ATUS Coding
Lexicon can be accessed at

    Because of the complexity of coding everyday activities into narrowly defined lexicon categories, coders
use a comprehensive set of rules to guide their decisions. In order to capture useful and detailed 
information, travel activities are coded according to the purpose of travel. For more information about
coding travel, see Exhibit 5.1 of the ATUS Userís Guide at

Concepts and definitions

    Average day. The average day measure reflects an average distribution across all persons in the reference
population and all days of the week. The ATUS collects data about daily activities from all segments of
the population age 15 and over, including persons who are employed and not employed. Activity profiles 
differ based upon age, employment status, sex, and other characteristics. For example, in 2022, persons
in the United States age 15 and over spent 3.2 hours per day working. By comparison, on an average weekday
they worked, full-time employed persons spent 8.4 hours working. Many activities typically are not done
on a daily basis, and some activities only are done by a subset of the population.

    Average hours per day. The average number of hours spent in a 24-hour day (between 4 a.m. on the diary day
and 4 a.m. on the interview day) doing a specified activity.

 --Average hours per day, population. The average number of hours per day is computed using all responses
   from a given sample of the population, including those of respondents who did not do a particular
   activity on their diary day. These estimates reflect how many persons engaged in an activity and the
   amount of time they spent doing it.

 --Average hours per day, persons who did the activity. The average number of hours per day is computed
   using only responses from those who engaged in a particular activity on their diary day.

    Diary day. The diary day is the day about which the respondent reports. For example, the diary day of
a respondent interviewed on Tuesday is the preceding Monday.


 --Usual weekly earnings. Estimates represent the earnings of full-time wage and salary workers with
   one job only (both incorporated and unincorporated self-employed are excluded), before taxes and
   other deductions. They include any overtime pay, commissions, or tips usually received. Usual
   weekly earnings are updated in the ATUS for about 40 percent of wage and salary workers--if the 
   respondent changed jobs or employment status between the CPS and ATUS interviews, or if the CPS
   weekly earnings value was imputed. This means that the earnings information could be out of date
   because the CPS interview was done 2 to 5 months prior to the ATUS interview. Respondents are asked
   to identify the easiest way for them to report earnings (hourly, weekly, biweekly, twice monthly,
   annually, or other) and how much they usually earn in the reported time period. Earnings reported on
   a basis other than weekly are converted to a weekly equivalent. The term "usual" is as perceived by
   the respondent. If the respondent asks for a definition of usual, interviewers are instructed to define
   the term as more than half the weeks worked during the past 4 or 5 months.

 --Weekly earnings quartiles. The ranges used for the quartiles represent approximately 25 percent of full-
   time wage and salary workers (both incorporated and unincorporated self-employed are excluded) who held 
   only one job. For example, 25 percent of full-time wage and salary workers with one job only had weekly
   earnings of $760 or less in 2022. These dollar values vary from year to year.

Employment status

 --Employed. All persons who:

   1) At any time during the 7 days prior to the interview did any work at all as paid employees, or worked
      in their own business or profession or on their own farm; or 

   2) Were not working during the 7 days prior to the interview but had jobs or businesses from which they
      were temporarily absent because of illness, bad weather, vacation, childcare problems, labor-management
      disputes, maternity or paternity leave, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or
      not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs; or

   3) Usually worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in a family-operated enterprise.

 --Employed full time. Full-time workers are those who usually worked 35 or more hours per week at all jobs

 --Employed part time. Part-time workers are those who usually worked fewer than 35 hours per week at all
   jobs combined.

 --Not employed. Persons are not employed if they do not meet the conditions for employment. Those who are
   not employed include individuals classified as unemployed as well as those classified as not in the labor
   force (using CPS definitions).

    The numbers of employed and not employed persons in this release do not correspond to published totals
from the CPS for several reasons. First, the reference population for the ATUS is age 15 and over, whereas
it is age 16 and over for the CPS. Second, ATUS data are collected continuously, the employment reference
period being the 7 days prior to the interview. By contrast, CPS data are usually collected during the week
including the 19th of the month and generally refer to employment during the week containing the 12th of
the month. Finally, the CPS accepts answers from household members about other household members whereas
such proxy responses are not allowed in the ATUS. While the information on employment from the ATUS is 
useful for assessing work in the context of other daily activities, the employment data are not intended
for analysis of current employment trends. Compared with the CPS and other estimates of employment, the
ATUS estimates are based on a much smaller sample and are only available with a substantial lag since ATUS
data and estimates are published during the year following data collection.

    Household children. Household children are children under age 18 residing in the household of the ATUS
respondent. The children may be related to the respondent (such as his or her own children, grandchildren,
nieces or nephews, or brothers or sisters) or not related (such as foster children or children of roommates
or boarders).

    Primary activity. A primary activity is the main activity a respondent was doing at a specified time.
With the exception of secondary childcare in table 10, the estimates presented in this release reflect time
spent in primary activities only.

    Secondary activities. A secondary (or simultaneous) activity is an activity done at the same time as a
primary activity. With the exception of the care of children under age 13, information on secondary activities
is not collected in the ATUS.

    Secondary childcare. Secondary childcare is care for children under age 13 that is done while doing an 
activity other than primary childcare, such as cooking dinner. Secondary childcare estimates are derived by 
summing the durations of activities during which respondents had at least one child under age 13 in their
care while doing other things. The time individuals spend providing secondary childcare is further restricted
to the time between when the first household child under age 13 woke up and when the last household child
under age 13 went to bed. It is also restricted to times the respondent was awake. If respondents report 
providing both primary and secondary care at the same time, the time is attributed to primary care only.

    Weekday, weekend, and holiday estimates. Estimates for weekdays are an average of reports about Monday
through Friday, excluding holidays. Estimates for weekend days and holidays are an average of reports about
Saturdays, Sundays, and the following holidays:  New Yearís Day, Easter, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July,
Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. Data were not collected about the Christmas Day in 2022.

Major activity category definitions

    The following definitions describe the activity categories shown in this report. All major time-use 
categories in this release include related travel time and waiting time. For example, time spent "driving
to the stadium" and time spent "waiting to get into the stadium to play ball" are included in Leisure and 

    Personal care activities. Personal care activities include sleeping, grooming (such as bathing or
dressing), health-related self-care, and personal or private activities. Receiving unpaid personal care 
from others (for example, "my sister put polish on my nails") also is captured in this category. In general,
respondents are not asked who they were with or where they were for personal care activities, as such 
information can be sensitive.

    Eating and drinking. All time spent eating or drinking (except eating and drinking done as part of a 
work or volunteer activity), whether alone, with others, at home, at a place of purchase, or somewhere else,
is classified here.

    Household activities. Household activities are activities done by individuals to maintain their 
households. These include housework; cooking; lawn and garden care; pet care; vehicle maintenance and 
repair; home maintenance, repair, decoration, and renovation; and household management and organizational
activities (such as filling out paperwork or planning a party). Food preparation, whether or not reported
as done specifically for another household member, is always classified as a household activity unless it
was done as a volunteer, work, or income-generating activity. For example, "making breakfast for my son" 
is coded as a household activity, not as childcare.

    Purchasing goods and services. This category includes time spent purchasing consumer goods, professional
and personal care services, household services, and government services. Consumer purchases include most
purchases and rentals of consumer goods, regardless of the mode or place of purchase or rental (in person,
online, via telephone, at home, or in a store). Gasoline, grocery, other food purchases, and all other 
shopping are further broken out in subcategories.

    Time spent obtaining, receiving, and purchasing professional and personal care services provided by
someone else also is classified in this category. Professional services include childcare, financial services
and banking, legal services, medical and adult care services, real estate services, and veterinary services.
Personal care services include day spas, hair salons and barbershops, nail salons, and tanning salons. 
Activities classified here include time spent paying, meeting with, or talking to service providers, as well
as time spent receiving the service or waiting to receive the service.

    Time spent arranging for and purchasing household services provided by someone else also is classified
here. Household services include housecleaning; cooking; lawn care and landscaping; pet care; tailoring,
laundering, and dry cleaning; vehicle maintenance and repairs; and home repairs, maintenance, and construction.

    This category also captures the time spent obtaining government services--such as applying for food
assistance and purchasing government-required licenses or paying fines or fees.

    Caring for and helping household members. Time spent doing activities to care for or help any child (under
age 18) or adult in the household, regardless of relationship to the respondent or the physical or mental health
status of the person being helped, is classified here. Caring for and helping activities for household children
and adults are coded separately in subcategories.

    Primary childcare activities include time spent providing physical care; playing with children; reading with
children; assisting with homework; attending children's events; taking care of children's health needs; and 
dropping off, picking up, and waiting for children. Passive childcare done as a primary activity (such as
"keeping an eye on my son while he swam in the pool") also is included. A child's presence during the activity
is not enough in itself to classify the activity as childcare. For example, "watching television with my child"
is coded as a leisure activity, not as childcare.

    Secondary childcare occurs when persons have a child under age 13 "in their care" while doing activities
other than primary childcare. For a complete definition, see the Concepts and definitions section of this
Technical Note.

    Caring for and helping household members also includes a range of activities done to benefit adult members
of households, such as providing physical and medical care or obtaining medical services. Doing something as a
favor for or helping another household adult does not automatically result in classification as a helping
activity. For example, a report of "helping my spouse cook dinner" is considered a household activity (food
preparation), not a helping activity, because cooking dinner benefits the household as a whole. By contrast, 
doing paperwork for another person usually benefits the individual, so a report of "filling out an insurance 
application for my spouse" is considered a helping activity.

    Caring for and helping nonhousehold members. This category includes time spent in activities done to care
for or help others--both children (under age 18) and adults--who do not live in the household. When done for 
or through an organization, time spent helping nonhousehold members is classified as volunteering, rather than
as helping nonhousehold members. Care of nonhousehold children, even when done as a favor or helping activity
for another adult, is always classified as caring for and helping nonhousehold children, not as helping another

    Working and work-related activities. This category includes time spent working, doing activities as part of
one's job, engaging in income-generating activities not as part of one's job, and job search activities. 
"Working" includes hours spent doing the specific tasks required of one's main or other job, regardless of
location or time of day. "Work-related activities" include activities that are not obviously work but are done
as part of one's job, such as having a business lunch and playing golf with clients. "Other income-generating
activities" are those done "on the side" or under informal arrangement and are not part of a regular job. Such 
activities might include selling homemade crafts, maintaining a rental property, or having a yard sale. These
activities are those for which individuals are paid or will be paid. 

    Travel time related to working and work-related activities includes time spent traveling to and from work,
as well as time spent traveling for work-related, income-generating, and job search activities.

    Educational activities. Time spent taking classes for a degree or for personal interest (including attending
school virtually and taking internet or other distance-learning courses), time spent doing research and homework,
and time spent taking care of administrative tasks related to education (such as registering for classes or
obtaining a school ID) are included in this category. For high school students, before- and after-school
extracurricular activities (except sports) also are classified as educational activities. Educational activities
do not include time spent for classes or training received as part of a job. Time spent helping others with their
education-related activities is classified as an activity involving caring for and helping others.

    Organizational, civic, and religious activities. This category captures time spent volunteering for or through
an organization, performing civic obligations, and participating in religious and spiritual activities. Civic
obligations include government-required duties, such as serving jury duty or appearing in court, and activities
that assist or influence government processes, such as voting or attending town hall meetings. Religious activities
include those normally associated with membership in or identification with specific religions or denominations, 
such as attending religious services; participating in choirs, youth groups, or unpaid teaching (unless identified
as volunteer activities); and engaging in personal religious practices, such as praying.

    Leisure and sports. The leisure and sports category includes time spent in sports, exercise, and recreation;
socializing and communicating; and other leisure activities. Sports, exercise, and recreation activities include 
participating in--as well as attending or watching--sports, exercise, and recreational activities. Recreational
activities include yard games like croquet or horseshoes, as well as activities like billiards and dancing.
Socializing and communicating includes face-to-face social communication and hosting or attending social functions.
Leisure activities include watching television; reading; relaxing or thinking; playing computer, board, or card
games; using a computer or the internet for personal interest; playing or listening to music; and other activities, 
such as attending arts, cultural, and entertainment events.

    Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail. This category captures time spent in telephone communication and household or
personal mail or e-mail. This category also includes texting and internet voice and video calling. Telephone and
internet purchases are classified in Purchasing goods and services. Telephone calls, mail, or e-mail identified
as related to work or volunteering are classified as work or volunteering.

    Other activities, not elsewhere classified. This residual category includes security procedures related to traveling,
traveling not associated with a specific activity category, ambiguous activities that could not be coded, and 
missing activities. Missing activities result when respondents did not remember what they did for a period of time,
or when they considered an activity too private or personal to report. 

Processing and estimation

    After ATUS data are collected, they go through an editing and imputation procedure. Responses to CPS questions
that are re-asked in the ATUS go through the regular CPS edit and imputation procedures. Some item nonresponses for
questions unique to the ATUS (such as where an activity took place or how much time was spent doing secondary
childcare) also are imputed. Missing activities and missing values for who was present during an activity are never

    ATUS records are weighted quarterly to reduce bias in the estimates due to differences in sampling and response
rates across subpopulations and days of the week. Specifically, the data are weighted to ensure the following:

 --Weekdays represent about 5/7 of the weighted data, and weekend days represent about 2/7 of the weighted data for
the population as a whole and for selected subpopulations. The actual proportions depend on the number of weekdays
and weekend days in a given quarter.

 --The sum of the weights is equal to the number of person-days in the quarter for the population as a whole and
for selected subpopulations.

Reliability of the estimates

    Statistics based on the ATUS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error. When a sample, rather than the
entire population, is surveyed, estimates differ from the true population values they represent. The component of
this difference that occurs because samples differ by chance is known as sampling error, and its variability is
measured by the standard error of the estimate.

    Sample estimates from a given survey design are unbiased when an average of the estimates from all possible
samples would yield, hypothetically, the true population value. In this case, the sample estimate and its standard
error can be used to construct approximate confidence intervals, or ranges of values that include the true population
value with known probabilities. If the process of selecting a sample from the population were repeated many times,
an estimate made from each sample, and a suitable estimate of its standard error calculated for each sample, then
approximately  90   percent   of   the   intervals   from   1.645 standard errors below the estimate to 1.645 standard
errors above the estimate would include the true population value. BLS analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent
level of confidence.

    The ATUS data also are affected by nonsampling error, which is the average difference between population and sample
values for samples generated by a given process. Nonsampling error can occur for many reasons, including failure to
sample a segment of the population, inability to obtain information for all persons in the sample, inability or 
unwillingness of respondents to provide correct information, and errors made in the collection or processing of the data.
Errors also could occur if nonresponse is correlated with time use.

Publication requirements

    Estimates of average hours per day and participation rates are not published unless there are a minimum number of
respondents representing the given population. Additional publication criteria are applied that include the number of
respondents who reported doing a specified activity and the standard error or coefficient of variation for the estimate.
Estimates that are considered "close to zero" or that round to 0.00, are published as approximately zero or "z". For a
detailed description of the statistical reliability criteria necessary for publication, please contact ATUS staff at

Last Modified Date: June 22, 2023