Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Economic News Release
CPS CPS Program Links

Work Experience Technical Note

Technical Note

   The data presented in this release were collected in the Annual Social and Economic 
Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly sample 
survey of about 60,000 eligible households, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Data from the CPS are used to obtain the monthly estimates
of the nation's employment and unemployment levels. The ASEC, conducted in the months of 
February through April, includes questions about work activity during the prior calendar
year. For instance, data collected in 2020 refer to the 2019 calendar year. Because the 
reference period is a full year, the number of persons with some employment or unemployment 
greatly exceeds the average levels for any given month, which are based on a 1-week reference
period, and the corresponding annual average of the monthly estimates. As shown below, for 
example, the number experiencing any unemployment was about twice the number unemployed in an
average month during the year.

					Employed	Unemployed
  2019 estimates (in thousands)
   Annual average of
    monthly estimates			157,538		6,001
   Annual supplement data		168,632		13,572

   In addition, estimates from the supplement differ from those obtained in the basic CPS 
because the questions used to classify workers as either employed or unemployed are 
different. More important, perhaps, is that the supplement contains fewer questions for 
categorizing respondents. In regard to unemployment in particular, the supplement has no
questions on the type of job search activity or on the respondent's availability to work.
Also, individuals can be counted as both employed and unemployed in the work experience 
supplement data, whereas, for a specific monthly reference week, each person is only 
counted in one category and employment activity takes precedence over job search activity.

   The data presented in this release are not strictly comparable with data for earlier 
years due to the introduction of updated population 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 at 

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 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. 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.

   A full discussion of the reliability of data from the CPS and information on estimating
standard errors is available at 

Concepts and definitions

   The principle concepts and definitions used in connection with the data in this release
are described briefly below. 

   Persons who worked. In the 2020 supplement, persons are considered to have worked if 
they responded "yes" to either the question "Did you work at a job or business at any 
time during 2019?" or "Did you do any temporary, part-time, or seasonal work even for a
few days during 2019?"

   Unemployed persons. Persons who worked during the year but not in every week are 
counted as unemployed if they also reported looking for work or being on layoff from a 
job during the year. Those who reported no work activity during the year are considered
unemployed if they responded "yes" to the question "Even though you did not work in 2019,
did you spend any time trying to find a job or on layoff?"

   Work-experience unemployment rate. 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.

   Labor force participants. Persons who either worked or were unemployed during the year.

   Usual full- and part-time employment. These data refer to the number of hours a worker
typically works during most weeks of the year. Workers are classified as full time if 
they usually worked 35 hours or more in a week; part-time employment refers to workers 
whose typical workweek was between 1 and 34 hours.

   Year-round and part-year employment. Workers are classified as year round if they 
worked 50 to 52 weeks. Part-year employment refers to workers who worked fewer than
50 weeks.

Other information

   Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals 
upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.

Table of Contents

Last Modified Date: December 09, 2020