U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: How are the labor force components (i.e., civilian noninstitutional population, civilian labor force, employed, unemployed, and unemployment rate) defined?
Answer: The official concepts and definitions of the labor force components used in the Current Population Survey (CPS) are described below. For a complete description, see Definitions of Labor Force Concepts (PDF 102K).
Civilian noninstitutional population: Persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, who are not inmates of institutions (e.g., penal and mental facilities, homes for the aged), and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.
Civilian labor force: All persons in the civilian noninstitutional population classified as either employed or unemployed.
Employed persons: All persons who, during the reference week (week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of their family, or (b) were not working but who had jobs from which they were temporarily absent. Each employed person is counted only once, even if he or she holds more than one job.
Unemployed persons: All persons who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment some time during the 4 week-period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.
Unemployment rate: The ratio of unemployed to the civilian labor force expressed as a percent [i.e., 100 times (unemployed/labor force)].