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Labor force participation rate

Another important statistic is the labor force participation rate    . This is the percentage of adults in an economy who are either employed or who are unemployed and looking for a job. So, using the data in [link] and [link] , those included in this calculation would be the 157 million individuals in the labor force. The rate is calculated by taking the number of people in the labor force, that is, the number employed and the number unemployed, divided by the total adult population and multiplying by 100 to get the percentage. For the data from February 2015, the labor force participation rate is 62.8%. Historically, the civilian labor force participation rate in the United States climbed beginning in the 1960s as women increasingly entered the workforce, and it peaked at around 68% in late 1999 to early 2000. Since then, the labor force participation rate has steadily declined.

The establishment payroll survey

When the unemployment report comes out each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also reports on the number of jobs created—which comes from the establishment payroll survey. The payroll survey is based on a survey of about 140,000 businesses and government agencies throughout the United States. It generates payroll employment estimates by the following criteria: all employees, average weekly hours worked, and average hourly, weekly, and overtime earnings. One of the criticisms of this survey is that it does not count the self-employed. It also does not make a distinction between new, minimum wage, part time or temporary jobs and full time jobs with “decent” pay.

How is the u.s. unemployment data collected?

The unemployment rate announced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics each month is based on the Current Population Survey (CPS), which has been carried out every month since 1940. Great care is taken to make this survey representative of the country as a whole. The country is first divided into 3,137 areas. The U.S. Bureau of the Census then selects 729 of these areas to survey. The 729 areas are then divided into districts of about 300 households each, and each district is divided into clusters of about four dwelling units. Every month, Census Bureau employees call about 15,000 of the four-household clusters, for a total of 60,000 households. Households are interviewed for four consecutive months, then rotated out of the survey for eight months, and then interviewed again for the same four months the following year, before leaving the sample permanently.

Based on this survey, unemployment rates are calculated by state, industry, urban and rural areas, gender, age, race or ethnicity, and level of education. A wide variety of other information is available, too. For example, how long have people been unemployed? Did they become unemployed because they quit, or were laid off, or their employer went out of business? Is the unemployed person the only wage earner in the family? The Current Population Survey is a treasure trove of information about employment and unemployment. If you are wondering what the difference is between the CPS and EPS, read the following Clear it Up feature.

What is the difference between cps and eps?

The Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the United States Census Bureau measures the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed. The establishment payroll survey (EPS) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a payroll survey that measures the net change in jobs created for the month.

Criticisms of measuring unemployment

There are always complications in measuring the number of unemployed. For example, what about people who do not have jobs and would be available to work, but have gotten discouraged at the lack of available jobs in their area and stopped looking? Such people, and their families, may be suffering the pains of unemployment. But the survey counts them as out of the labor force because they are not actively looking for work. Other people may tell the Census Bureau that they are ready to work and looking for a job but, truly, they are not that eager to work and are not looking very hard at all. They are counted as unemployed, although they might more accurately be classified as out of the labor force. Still other people may have a job, perhaps doing something like yard work, child care, or cleaning houses, but are not reporting the income earned to the tax authorities. They may report being unemployed, when they actually are working.

Although the unemployment rate gets most of the public and media attention, economic researchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics publish a wide array of surveys and reports that try to measure these kinds of issues and to develop a more nuanced and complete view of the labor market. It is not exactly a hot news flash that economic statistics are imperfect. Even imperfect measures like the unemployment rate, however, can still be quite informative, when interpreted knowledgeably and sensibly.

Click here to learn more about the CPS to read frequently asked questions about employment and labor.

Key concepts and summary

Unemployment imposes high costs. Unemployed individuals suffer from loss of income and from stress. An economy with high unemployment suffers an opportunity cost of unused resources. The adult population can be divided into those in the labor force and those out of the labor force. In turn, those in the labor force are divided into employed and unemployed. A person without a job must be willing and able to work and actively looking for work to be counted as unemployed; otherwise, a person without a job is counted as being out of the labor force. The unemployment rate is defined as the number of unemployed persons divided by the number of persons in the labor force (not the overall adult population). The Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted by the United States Census Bureau measures the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed. The establishment payroll survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the net change in jobs created for the month.


A country with a population of eight million adults has five million employed, 500,000 unemployed, and the rest of the adult population is out of the labor force. What’s the unemployment rate? What share of population is in the labor force? Sketch a pie chart that divides the adult population into these three groups.

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Questions & Answers

What is say's law of marketing?
goods once sold can't be returned
but thats not true at all goods are returned all the time
yah ur right, as a buyer, But in the marketing world, once a good is sold, its sold.
thanks @marvin
what does this saying in economics means "there is no such thing as a free lunch pls
Saibu Reply
autonomous consumption
consumption that is not related to level of income u hve.. eg consumption of basic necessities.
autonomous consumption is the consumption when income is zero or expenditure is not vary from income
what is investment function?
what is the relationship between demand and supply?
According to ijmb marking guide, Differentiate between capital expenditure and revenue expenditure.
elemi Reply
Sir please provide me notes on :-unemployment-the trade-off between inflation and unemployment
Swikrit Reply
what is income
reward for rendering a sercive the real income is after a taxt y-t = (y)
what are the components of trade?
Michelle Reply
whats is gdp
odell Reply
what is gdp per capita
GDP of state divided by its population: GDP per capita. it is one of the most relevant indicator of prosperity among its citizens.
which one is more advantageous or accurate to the other between GDP and GNP?
Both, GDP measures only the incomes generated within the country, irrespective of ownership. whereas,GNP measures the total income earned by nationals.
but which one is a better measure
what are supernormal profits
Caroline Reply
what are zero economic profits
under what circumstances may a firm continue operating even when it is making losses
why should government influence location of a firm
using an illustration,distinguish between breakeven and shutdown point of a firm
supernormal profits are profits beyond the normal profits a firm expects to have after the sale of all goods n services it produced
what are the differences between choice and scarcity
Primus Reply
what is the difference between choice and scarcity
choice means we have many options scarcity means limitation within the same option we chose among choices.
what the d/f production efficeincy and out put efficeincy
what is money?
Primus Reply
money is the material which used to exchange to buy or sell
What is the law of large numbers
Nana Reply
Can anybody provide Solow Growth Model?
Sakar Reply
compare and contrast the classical view and the Keynesian view of economic growth
idoko Reply
what are the objective of macroecnomics in shortrun and long run?
Kalpajyoti Reply
hmm to see how things wages and other economic i dicators adjust in short and long run
What economic values calculate the rate of inflation?
change in cpi
Thank you
how can i get a scholarship easily
I want to know that as well.
even me that's what I wnt to get easily
just contact the emmbasy of the country that u wish to study for more details
hmm NVR mind ogah tnx
what is budget constraints
'You can't compare apples to oranges' an old adage, yet GDP exactly does that, anyone please to show how?
Marvin Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Macroeconomics. OpenStax CNX. Jun 16, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11626/1.10
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