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Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

Employment Characteristics of Families Technical Note

Technical Note

   The estimates in this release are based on annual average data from the Current
Population Survey (CPS). The CPS, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for
the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), is a monthly survey of about 60,000 eligible
households that provides information on the labor force status, demographics, and
other characteristics of the nation's civilian noninstitutional population age 16
and over.

   The data presented in this release are not strictly comparable with data for
earlier years due to the introduction of updated population estimates, or controls,
used in the CPS. The population controls are updated each year in January to reflect
the latest information about population change. Additional information is available
from the BLS website at 

   Upon request, the information in this release will be made available to individuals
who are sensory impaired: Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service:(800) 877-8339.

Reliability of the estimates

   Statistics based on the CPS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error. When
a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed, there is a chance that the
sample estimates may differ from the true population values they represent. The exact
difference, or sampling error, varies depending on the particular sample selected, and
this variability is measured by the standard error of the estimate. There is about a 
90-percent chance, or level of confidence, that an estimate based on a sample will differ
by no more than 1.6 standard errors from the true population value because of sampling
error. BLS analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent level of confidence.

   The CPS data also are affected by nonsampling error. Nonsampling error can occur for
many reasons, including the failure to sample a segment of the population, inability to
obtain information for all respondents in the sample, inability or unwillingness of
respondents to provide correct information, and errors made in the collection or processing
of the data.

   Information about the reliability of data from the CPS and guidance on estimating
standard errors is available at

   Definitions of the principal terms used in this release are described briefly below.
   Householder. The householder is the family reference person. This is the person (or
one of the persons) in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented. The relationship
of other individuals in the household is defined in terms of their relationship to the
householder. The race and Hispanic ethnicity of the family is determined by that of the
   Family. A family is a group of two or more persons residing together who are related by
birth, marriage, or adoption; all such individuals are considered members of one family. The
count of families is for "primary" families only. A primary family consists of a householder
and all other persons related to and residing with the householder. Sub-families are excluded
from the count of families. A sub-family is a family that does not maintain their own household,
such as a married couple living in the home of a friend and their family. In this example,
the report would include only one family (the householder's or primary family), not two. 
Families include those with and without children under age 18. Families are further categorized
as follows:

   --Married-couple families refer to opposite-sex married couples residing together and any
     of their family members residing in the household.
   --Families maintained by women or men are made up of householders residing with one or
     more family members, but not an opposite-sex spouse. The household may or may not include
     a same-sex spouse or an unmarried domestic partner of either sex.
   This release presents data for two marital status categories, defined below. Marital status is
based on a person's status at the time of the survey.
   Married, spouse present. Married, spouse present, includes persons in opposite-sex marriages
living together in the same household, even though one may be temporarily absent on business, on
vacation, on a visit, in a hospital, or for other reasons.
   Other marital status. Other marital status includes persons who are never married; widowed;
divorced; separated; and married, spouse absent; as well as persons in same-sex marriages.
Separated includes persons with legal separations, those living apart with intentions of obtaining
a divorce, and other persons permanently or temporarily separated because of marital discord.
Married, spouse absent, includes opposite-sex married persons living apart because either the
husband or wife was employed and living at a considerable distance from home, was serving away
from home in the Armed Forces, had moved to another area, or had a different place of residence
for any other reason except separation as defined above.
   Children. Data on children refer to own children under age 18 that live in the household.
Included are sons, daughters, step-children, and adopted children of the husband, wife, or person
maintaining the family. Not included are nieces, nephews, grandchildren, other related children,
and all unrelated children living in the household.
   Employed. Employed persons are all those who, during the survey reference week, (a) did any
work at all as paid employees; (b) worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm;
or (c) worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family.
Persons who were temporarily absent from their jobs because of illness, vacation, labor disputes,
or another reason also are counted as employed.
   Full-time workers. Full-time workers are those who usually work 35 hours or more per week at
all jobs.
   Part-time workers. Part-time workers are those who usually work fewer than 35 hours per week
at all jobs.
   Unemployed. The unemployed are persons who had no employment during the reference week, were
available for work at that time, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during
the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a
job from which they had been laid off need not be looking for work to be classified as unemployed.
   Civilian labor force. The civilian labor force comprises all persons classified as employed or
   Labor force participation rate. The labor force participation rate is the labor force as a
percent of the population.
   Employment-population ratio. The employment-population ratio is the employed as a percent of
the population.
   Unemployment rate. The unemployment rate is the number unemployed as a percent of the civilian
labor force.

Table of Contents

Last Modified Date: April 21, 2020