Article

April 2014

Unemployment continued its downward trend in 2013

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The CPS and the CES

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces two monthly employment series that are independently obtained: the estimate of total nonfarm jobs, derived from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, also called the establishment or payroll survey; and the estimate of total civilian employment, based on the Current Population Survey (CPS), also called the household survey. The two surveys use different definitions of employment, as well as different survey and estimation methods. The CES survey is a survey of employers that provides a measure of the number of payroll jobs in nonfarm industries. The CPS is a survey of households that provides a measure of employed people ages 16 years and older in the civilian noninstitutional population. Employment estimates from the CPS give information about workers in both the agricultural and nonagricultural sectors and in all types of work arrangements: workers with wage and salary jobs (including employment in a private household), those who are self-employed, and those doing unpaid work for at least 15 hours a week in a business or farm operated by a family member. CES payroll employment estimates are restricted to nonagricultural wage and salary jobs and exclude private household workers. As a result, employment estimates from the CPS are higher than those from the CES survey. In the CPS, however, employed people are counted only once, regardless of whether they hold more than one job during the survey reference period. By contrast, because the CES survey counts the number of jobs rather than the number of people, each nonfarm job is counted once, even when the same person holds two or more jobs.

The reference periods for the surveys also differ. In the CPS, the reference period is generally the calendar week that includes the 12th day of the month. In the CES survey, employers report the number of workers on their payrolls for the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. Because pay periods vary in length among employers and may be longer than 1 week, the CES employment estimates can reflect longer reference periods.

For purposes of comparison, however, CPS employment estimates can be adjusted to make them more similar in definitional scope to CES employment figures. BLS routinely adjusts these estimates to evaluate how the two employment series are tracking. The long-term trends in the employment measures of the two surveys are quite comparable. Nonetheless, throughout the history of the surveys, periods have occurred when the short-term trends diverged or when growth in one series significantly outpaced growth in the other. For example, following the end of the 2001 recession, CPS employment began to trend upward while CES employment continued to decline for a number of months.

BLS publishes a monthly report with the latest trends and comparisons of employment as measured by the CES survey and the CPS. (See “Employment from the BLS household and payroll surveys: summary of recent trends” [Bureau of Labor Statistics], on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/ces_cps_trends.pdf.) This report includes a summary of possible causes of differences in the surveys’ employment trends, as well as links to additional research on the topic.

Unemployment rates for the major race and ethnicity groups declined in 2013.2 The unemployment rate for Blacks fell by 1.4 percentage points to 12.4 percent in the fourth quarter, yet their rate remained in double digits for the sixth consecutive year since their prerecession low of 8.1 percent in the first quarter of 2007.3 (See figure 2.) In comparison, the unemployment rates for Hispanics and Whites fell by 1.1 percentage points and 0.8 percentage point, respectively, to 8.7 percent and 6.1 percent in the fourth quarter. The unemployment rate for Asians (not seasonally adjusted) declined by 1.0 percentage point to 4.9 percent in the fourth quarter of the year.

The unemployment rate also declined for people across all levels of educational attainment in 2013. (See table 2 and figure 3.) Workers with less education continued to experience a substantially higher unemployment rate than did better educated members of the labor force. Among workers 25 years and older, the jobless rate of people with less than a high school diploma dropped by 1.5 percentage points to 10.4 percent in the fourth quarter, yet their rate remained in double digits for the sixth year in a row. The unemployment rate for high school graduates fell 1.0 percentage point over the year to 7.2 percent, while the rate for those with some college declined by 0.4 percentage point to 6.3 percent. The jobless rate for those with at least a bachelor’s degree fell 0.3 percentage point to 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter.

Table 2. Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population 25 years and older, by educational attainment, quarterly averages, seasonally adjusted, 2012–2013 (levels in thousands)
CharacteristicFourth quarter, 20122013Change, fourth quarter 2012 to fourth quarter 2013
First quarterSecond quarterThird quarterFourth quarter

Less than a high school diploma

      

Civilian labor force

11,14511,22211,10010,90110,789–356

Participation rate (percent)

45.346.244.645.144.2–1.1

Employed

9,8219,9389,8729,7179,667–154

Employment–population ratio

39.940.939.740.239.6–.3

Unemployed

1,3231,2841,2281,1831,122–201

Unemployment rate (percent)

11.911.411.110.910.4–1.5

High school graduate, no college

      

Civilian labor force

36,66636,31236,31636,63936,149–517

Participation rate (percent)

59.458.559.059.058.2–1.2

Employed

33,67333,45433,60433,87933,540–133

Employment–population ratio

54.653.954.654.554.0–.6

Unemployed

2,9932,8582,7112,7602,610–383

Unemployment rate (percent)

8.27.97.57.57.2–1.0

Some college or associate’s degree

      

Civilian labor force

37,40037,33237,34937,33037,155–245

Participation rate (percent)

68.668.368.367.167.3–1.3

Employed

34,88034,84134,96835,05934,824–56

Employment–population ratio

64.063.863.963.063.1–.9

Unemployed

2,5202,4902,3812,2712,331–189

Unemployment rate (percent)

6.76.76.46.16.3–.4

Bachelor’s degree and higher

      

Civilian labor force

48,83449,18549,41749,14149,673839

Participation rate (percent)

75.675.675.675.475.2–.4

Employed

46,95947,31447,51747,35447,949990

Employment–population ratio

72.772.772.772.672.6–.1

Unemployed

1,8761,8701,8991,7871,724–152

Unemployment rate (percent)

3.83.83.83.63.5–.3

Note: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

Jobless rates continued to decline in 2013 for all five of the major occupational categories. The rate continued to be lowest in the management, professional, and related occupational group, falling by 0.7 percentage point over the year to 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter. The jobless rate for sales and office occupations fell 0.3 percentage point to 6.8 percent, compared with a 1.1 percentage point decline in the rate for those in service occupations (7.8 percent). Unemployment rates continued to be higher in 2013 for those employed in production, transportation, and material moving occupations and in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations. The jobless rate for the production-related occupational group dropped by 0.7 percentage point to 8.4 percent, compared with a 1.8 percentage-point decline in the natural resources-related occupational group, to 9.0 percent.4 (See table 3.)

Table 3. Unemployment rates, by occupational group, quarterly averages, not seasonally adjusted, 2012–2013 (in percent)
Occupational groupTotalMenWomen
Fourth quarter, 2012Fourth quarter, 2013Change, fourth quarter 2012 to fourth quarter 2013Fourth quarter, 2012Fourth quarter, 2013Change, fourth quarter 2012 to fourth quarter 2013Fourth quarter, 2012Fourth quarter, 2013Change, fourth quarter 2012 to fourth quarter 2013

Management, professional, and related occupations

3.83.1–0.73.43.3–0.14.13.0–1.1

Management, business, and financial operations occupations

3.83.3–.53.33.2–.14.43.5–.9

Professional and related occupations

3.72.9–.83.53.3–.23.92.7–1.2

Service occupations

8.97.8–1.18.87.9–.98.97.7–1.2

Healthcare support occupations

6.26.7.55.210.55.36.36.30

Protective service occupations

5.24.1–1.14.43.9–.57.94.9–3.0

Food preparation and serving related occupations

10.28.4–1.810.28.7–1.510.28.2–2.0

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations

11.49.5–1.911.09.6–1.412.19.4–2.7

Personal care and service occupations

7.97.6–.38.37.4–.97.87.7–.1

Sales and office occupations

7.16.8–.36.76.6–.17.46.9–.5

Sales and related occupations

7.16.9–.25.85.5–.38.58.2–.3

Office and administrative support occupations

7.16.7–.48.18.2.16.76.1–.6

Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

10.89.0–1.810.68.8–1.815.812.3–3.5

Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

14.812.7–2.112.011.1–.923.017.5–5.5

Construction and extraction occupations

13.310.9–2.413.410.9–2.511.014.03.0

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

6.05.2–.85.95.2–.710.35.4–4.9

Production, transportation, and material moving occupations

9.18.4–.78.87.9–.910.210.1–.1

Production occupations

8.67.8–.87.87.1–.710.79.7–1.0

Transportation and material moving occupations

9.59.0–.59.68.6–1.09.210.91.7

Note: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

Despite some relief in 2013, the proportion of people unemployed for long periods remained high 4 1/2 years after the end of the 2007–2009 recession. The number of long-term unemployed (those who were jobless for 27 weeks or longer) fell by 863,000 over the year, to 4 million.5 This group made up 37 percent of the unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2013, down from 40 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012. (See table 4 and figure 4.)

Table 4. Unemployed people, by reason and duration of unemployment, quarterly averages, seasonally adjusted, 2012–2013 (levels in thousands)
Reason and durationFourth quarter, 20122013Change, fourth quarter 2012 to fourth quarter 2013
First quarterSecond quarterThird quarterFourth quarter

Reason for unemployment

      

Job losers and people who completed temporary jobs

6,4736,4976,1835,8615,753–720

On temporary layoff

1,0841,1241,1181,1161,210126

Not on temporary layoff

5,3905,3735,0654,7454,543–847

Permanent job losers

4,1624,0903,8033,5863,381–781

People who completed temporary jobs

1,2281,2831,2621,1601,161–67

Job leavers

982971945948865–117

Reentrants

3,4243,3443,2323,1723,068–356

New entrants

1,3171,2851,2581,2511,196–121

Percent distribution:

      

Job losers and people who completed temporary jobs

53.153.753.252.252.9–.2

On temporary layoff

8.99.39.69.911.12.2

Not on temporary layoff

44.244.443.642.241.7–2.5

Job leavers

8.18.08.18.47.9–.2

Reentrants

28.127.627.828.228.2.1

New entrants

10.810.610.811.111.0.2

Duration of unemployment

      

Less than 5 weeks

2,6482,6422,6202,5492,496–152

5 to 14 weeks

2,8342,9032,7782,7502,576–258

15 weeks or longer

6,6646,4716,2785,9775,713–951

15 to 26 weeks

1,8111,7941,9321,7641,723–88

27 weeks or longer

4,8534,6774,3464,2133,990–863

Average (mean) duration in weeks

39.236.436.436.836.7–2.5

Median duration, in weeks

18.817.216.816.216.9–1.9

Percent distribution:

      

Less than 5 weeks

21.822.022.422.623.11.3

5 to 14 weeks

23.324.223.824.423.9.6

15 weeks or longer

54.953.953.853.053.0–1.9

15 to 26 weeks

14.914.916.515.616.01.1

27 weeks or longer

40.038.937.237.437.0–3.0

Note: Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.

The number of people unemployed for a year or longer declined by 703,000 (not seasonally adjusted) in 2013, to 2.7 million in the fourth quarter. Their share of the unemployed was 26.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, down from 2012 but still very high by historical standards.6 The number of people who were jobless for 99 weeks or longer (1.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2013, not seasonally adjusted) declined by 380,000 over the year. Despite this decline, 1 in 8 unemployed people had been jobless for about 2 years or longer at the end of 2013.

Notes

2 People whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. About 90 percent of people of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity identify themselves as White race in the CPS.

3 The National Bureau of Economic Research determines the beginning and ending dates of recessions. The most recent recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Turning points for recessions are quarterly in this analysis.

4 Unemployment rates by occupation are based on the last job an individual held. Excluded are unemployed people who have no previous work experience.

5 The duration of joblessness is the length of time (through the current reference week) that people classified as unemployed have been looking for work. This measure refers to the duration of the current spell of unemployment, rather than to that of a completed spell.

6 For additional information, see Thomas Luke Spreen, “Ranks of those unemployed for a year or more up sharply,” Issues in Labor Statistics, Summary 10–10 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2010), www.bls.gov/opub/ils/pdf/opbils87.pdf.

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About the Author

Catherine A. Wood
wood.catherine@ bls.gov

Catherine A. Wood is an economist in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.