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Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

Work Experience Summary

For release 10:00 a.m. (ET) Thursday, December 9, 2021 			       USDL-21-2100

Technical information:  (202) 691-6378  *  *
Media contact:          (202) 691-5902  *  


The number of persons who experienced unemployment at some point during 2020 was 26.4 
million, up by 12.9 million from 2019, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 
today. The proportion of the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over who
worked at some time during 2020 was 63.5 percent, a decrease of 1.4 percentage points
from 2019. These changes reflect the effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on
the labor market.

These data are based on information collected in the Annual Social and Economic 
Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly survey
conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ASEC
collects information on employment and unemployment experienced during the prior 
calendar year. Additional information about the CPS and the ASEC, including concepts 
and definitions, is provided in the Technical Note.

Highlights from the 2020 data:

   --A total of 165.7 million persons worked at some point during 2020, down by 3.0
     million from the pre-pandemic level in 2019. (See table 1.)

   --The proportion of workers who worked full time, year round fell from 70.2 percent
     in 2019 to 63.1 percent in 2020. (See table 1.)

   --The "work-experience unemployment rate"--defined as the number of persons 
     unemployed at some time during the year as a proportion of the number of persons 
     who worked or looked for work during the year--nearly doubled to 15.7 percent in
     2020. (See table 3.)

   --About 2.9 million individuals looked for a job but did not work at all in 2020, up
     from 2.0 million in 2019. (See table 3.)

Persons with Employment

Overall, 63.5 percent of the population worked in 2020, down from 64.9 percent in 2019,
prior to the pandemic. The proportion of men who worked at some time during 2020 was 68.6
percent, a decline of 1.5 percentage points from the prior year. The proportion for women
decreased by 1.4 percentage points to 58.7 percent in 2020. (See table 1.)

Among the major race and ethnicity groups, the proportions who worked at some time during
2020 declined for Whites (63.5 percent), Asians (64.3 percent), and Hispanics (65.7 
percent). The proportion for Blacks (62.2 percent) showed little change from 2019. 
(See table 2.)

Among those with work experience in 2020, 80.9 percent usually worked full time, little 
different from a year earlier. The proportion of both men and women who usually worked 
full time was little changed in 2020, at 86.3 percent and 75.0 percent, respectively. 
Among those who worked at some point in 2020, Asians (83.1 percent) were more likely to
usually work full time than Blacks (81.9 percent), Hispanics (80.7 percent), and Whites
(80.7 percent). (See tables 1 and 2.)

Of the total who worked during 2020, 71.0 percent were employed year round (working 50 to
52 weeks, either full or part time), down 9.4 percentage points from 2019. The share of
men working year round declined to 73.4 percent in 2020, and the percentage of women
working year round fell to 68.3 percent. (See table 1.)

Persons with Unemployment

Overall, 168.6 million persons worked or looked for work at some time in 2020, down by 
2.1 million from the prior year. The number who experienced some unemployment during 
2020 nearly doubled to 26.4 million. (See table 3.)

The work-experience unemployment rate (those looking for work during the year as a 
percent of those who worked or looked for work during the year) nearly doubled, 
increasing from 8.0 percent in 2019 to 15.7 percent in 2020. This is the highest rate
since 2010, when it was 15.9 percent. (See table 3.)

In 2020, the work-experience unemployment rates for men and women were little different
from each other, at 15.6 percent and 15.8 percent, respectively. The rates for both men
and women rose sharply from the prior year. (See table 3.)

The work-experience unemployment rate increased among all the major race and ethnicity
groups in 2020. The rate rose to 14.8 percent for Whites, 15.9 percent for Asians, 19.4
percent for Blacks, and 19.6 percent for Hispanics. Among Asians, the rate for men was
lower than the rate for women, while the rate for Black men was higher than for Black 
women. (See table 4.)

The number of individuals who both worked and experienced unemployment in 2020 more 
than doubled, rising to 23.5 million. Among these workers, 54.9 percent looked for work
for 15 weeks or more, and 14.1 percent had two or more spells of unemployment. In 2020,
men and women were about equally likely to experience multiple spells of unemployment 
(14.3 percent and 13.9 percent, respectively). Asians were less likely than Whites, 
Blacks, or Hispanics to experience two or more spells of unemployment in 2020. 
(See tables 3 and 4.)

Last Modified Date: December 09, 2021