Labor force characteristics

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.


Absences

Absences from work of employed full-time wage and salary workers (employee absences).


Annual labor market summary

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

  • Unemployment continued its downward trend in 2013 (April 2014)
  • U.S. labor market continued to improve in 2012 (March 2013) (PDF)
  • U.S. labor market shows gradual improvement in 2011 (March 2012) (PDF)
  • Unemployment remains high in 2010 (March 2011) (PDF)
  • The labor market in 2009: recession drags on (March 2010) (PDF)
  • U.S. labor market in 2008: economy in recession (March 2009) (PDF)
  • Household survey indicators weaken in 2007 (March 2008) (PDF)
  • Household survey data show labor market improvements in 2006 (March 2007) (PDF)
  • Lower unemployment in 2005 (March 2006) (PDF)
  • Household survey indicators show some improvement in 2004 (March 2005) (PDF)
  • The US labor market in 2003: signs of improvement by year’s end (March 2004) (PDF)
  • US labor market in 2002: continued weakness (February 2003) (PDF)
  • US labor market in 2001: economy enters a recession (February 2002) (PDF)
  • The job market in 2000: slowing down as the year ended (February 2001) (PDF)

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.

  • News release: Computer and Internet Use at Work
    (HTML) (PDF) (Archives)


  • Article: Computer and Internet use at work in 2001 (February 2003) (PDF)

Contingent and alternative employment arrangements

Contingent workers are persons 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 ongoing employment. Alternative employment arrangements include persons employed as independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers, and workers provided by contract firms. These data come from a special supplemental survey last conducted in February 2005.

  • News release: Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements
    (HTML) (PDF) (Archives)


  • Articles:
    • Contingent work in the late-1990s (March 2001) (PDF)
    • Characteristics of and preference for alternative work arrangements, 1999 (March 2001) (PDF)

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.

  • News release: Employment Situation (Monthly), Table A-16
    (HTML) (PDF) (Archives)


  • Database: Retrieve historical data series


  • Annual table: Persons not in the labor force by desire and availability for work, age, and sex (HTML) (PDF)
  • Monthly table: Persons not in the labor force by desire and availability for work, age, and sex (HTML) (PDF)


  • Articles:
    • Ranks of discouraged workers and others marginally attached to the labor force rise during recession (April 2009)
      (PDF)
    • Persons outside the labor force who want a job (July 1998) (PDF)

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.


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).

  • Database: Retrieve historical data series


  • Annual tables:
    • Full- or part-time status by age, sex, race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity (HTML) (PDF)
    • Full- or part-time status by detailed Hispanic or Latino group (HTML) (PDF)
  • Monthly tables:
    • Full- or part-time status by sex and age, seasonally adjusted (HTML) (PDF)
    • Full- or part-time status by age, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity (HTML) (PDF)
  • Quarterly tables:
    • Full- or part-time status by sex and age, seasonally adjusted (HTML) (PDF)
    • Full- or part-time status by race (HTML) (PDF)
    • Full- or part-time status by detailed Hispanic or Latino group (HTML) (PDF)

Part time for economic reasons (involuntary part time)

This category includes persons 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.


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.

  • Annual tables:
    • Persons at work by hours of work (HTML) (PDF)
    • Average hours at work by industry (HTML) (PDF)
    • Average hours at work by age, sex, race, and Hispanic ethnicity (HTML) (PDF)
    • Average hours at work by occupation (HTML) (PDF)
  • Monthly tables:
    • Persons at work by hours of work (HTML) (PDF)
    • Average hours at work by industry (HTML) (PDF)
    • Average hours at work by age, sex, race, and Hispanic ethnicity (HTML) (PDF)
    • Average hours at work by occupation (HTML) (PDF)
  • Articles:
    • Seasonally adjusted hours series from the Current Population Survey (July 2010)
      (HTML) (PDF)
    • Are managers and professionals really working more? (May 2000)
      (PDF)

Industry

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.

  • News release: Employment Situation (Monthly)
    (HTML) (PDF) (Archives)
  • Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation (Monthly)
    (HTML) (PDF) (Archives)


  • Database: Retrieve historical data series
  • Annual tables:
    • Labor force status by age, sex, and race (HTML) (PDF)
    • Labor force status by Hispanic or Latino ethnicity (HTML) (PDF)
    • Labor force status by detailed Hispanic or Latino group (HTML) (PDF)
    • Labor force status by educational attainment (HTML) (PDF)
  • Monthly tables:
    • Labor force status by age and sex, seasonally adjusted (HTML) (PDF)
    • Labor force status by age, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, seasonally adjusted (HTML) (PDF)
    • Labor force status by educational attainment, seasonally adjusted (HTML) (PDF)
  • Charts: Charting the labor market (monthly)



  • Articles: See also Annual labor market summary, Employment, and Unemployment
    • Trends in labor force participation of married mothers of infants (February 2007) (PDF)
    • Trends in labor force participation in the United States (October 2006) (PDF)
    • The labor force and unemployment: three generations of change (June 2004) (PDF)
    • Labor force participation during recent labor market downturns (September 2003)
      (PDF)
    • The labor force experience of women from ‘Generation X’ (March 2002) (PDF)
    • Who was affected as the economy started to slow (November 2001)
      (PDF)
    • Looking for a ‘better’ job: job-search activity of the employed (September 2000) (PDF)
    • Labor supply in a tight labor market (June 2000)
      (PDF)

Labor force status flows



Marginally attached to the labor force

See: Discouraged workers.


Multiple jobholders

Data on employed persons with more than one job.

  • Database: Retrieve historical data series
  • Annual table: Multiple jobholders by demographic and economic characteristics (HTML) (PDF)


  • Monthly table: Multiple jobholders by demographic and economic characteristics (HTML) (PDF)


  • Chart: Demographics of multiple jobholding (August 2010)


  • Articles:
    • Multiple jobholding during the 2000s (July 2010) (PDF)
    • Twenty-first century moonlighters (September 2002)
      (PDF)

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.


Tenure

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.


Unemployment

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.


Union members

Data measure union membership and representation of employed wage and salary workers.


Work at home

These data, which measure persons who work at home as part of their job, come from a special supplemental survey last conducted in May 2004.


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.

  • News release: Workers on Flexible and Shift Schedules
    (HTML) (PDF) (Archives)


  • Articles:
    • A time to work: recent trends in shift work and flexible schedules (December 2007) (PDF)
    • Flexible schedules and shift work: replacing the '9-to-5' workday (June 2000) (PDF)

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: December 8, 2014