In This Chapter

Chapter 1.
Labor Force Data Derived from the Current Population Survey

Presentation and Uses

The CPS provides comprehensive information on the social, demographic, and economic characteristics of the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years of age and older.

Each month, the employment and unemployment data are published initially in The Employment Situation news release about 2 weeks after they are collected. The release includes a narrative summary and analysis of the major employment and unemployment developments, together with tables containing statistics for the principal data series. The news release is available on the Internet and can be accessed via the World Wide Web. The Universal Resource Locator is: The news release also is available on the BLS fax-on-demand service.

More detailed statistics are subsequently published in Employment and Earnings, a monthly periodical. The detailed tables provide information on the labor force, employment, and unemployment by a number of characteristics, such as age, sex, race, marital status, industry, and occupation. In addition, the January issue of Employment and Earnings provides annual averages for employment and earnings by detailed occupational categories and union affiliation, as well as estimates of employee absences.

Thousands of labor force data series are maintained in LABSTAT, the BLS public database on the Internet. They can be accessed at,, and

The CPS also is used to obtain detailed information on particular segments of the population and labor force. Generally, these "supplemental" inquiries are repeated annually or biennially in the same month and include topics such as annual earnings and total incomes of individuals and families (published by the Census Bureau); the extent of work experience of the population during the prior calendar year; the employment of school-age youths, high school graduates, and dropouts; contingent workers; job tenure; displaced workers; and disabled veterans. Some additional supplements that are unrelated to labor force issues, such as those on smoking and voting, also are conducted through the CPS. Supplemental questions are asked following the completion of the regular monthly labor force questions.

Generally, the persons who provide information for the monthly CPS questions also answer the supplemental questions. Occasionally, the kind of information sought in the special survey requires the respondent to be the person about whom the questions are asked. Results of these special surveys usually are published in news releases and in the Monthly Labor Review or BLS reports.

In addition to the regularly tabulated statistics described above, special data can be generated from the public-use versions of CPS individual record (microdata) files. These files contain records of the responses to the survey questionnaire for all individuals in the survey, edited to protect the confidentiality of the respondents. While the files can be used simply to create additional cross-sectional detail, an important feature of their use is the ability to match the records of specific individuals at different points during their participation in the survey. By matching these records, data files can be created that lend themselves to some limited longitudinal analysis and the investigation of short-run labor market dynamics. Microdata files are available for all months since January 1976 and for various months in prior years. These data are made available on CD-Rom. Address inquiries regarding these files to: Division of Data Development and Publications, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Room 4965, 2 Massachusetts Ave., NE., Washington, DC 20212-0001, telephone 202-691-6345; e-mail

Next: Limitations of the Data


Last Modified Date: April 17, 2003