U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Computer and Internet Use At Work Technical Note
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These data and other information on computer and Internet use were
obtained from a supplement to the October 2003 Current Population Survey
(CPS). The CPS is a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households
conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics
(BLS), principally to gather information on employment and unemployment.
Respondents to the October 2003 supplement answered questions about com-
puter and Internet use at home, school, and work in addition to other in-
formation. In the survey, respondents were asked if they "connected to
the Internet or used e-mail or instant messaging." In this release, these
two tasks are collectively referred to as "Internet use." In addition, the
data in this release cover the incidence of computer and Internet use at
work and job search activity using the Internet. Since 1984, surveys of
computer and, later, Internet use have been conducted periodically by the
Data presented in this release incorporate changes associated with the
introduction of the 2002 Census Bureau industry and occupational classi-
fication systems into the CPS and changes to the race and ethnicity cate-
gories. In addition, the data for 2003 reflect revised CPS population
controls introduced in January 2003. For a discussion of the impact that
these changes had on CPS data, see "Revisions to the Current Population
Survey Effective in January 2003" in the February 2003 issue of Employment
and Earnings and available at http://www.bls.gov/cps/rvcps03.pdf on the BLS
Web site. The estimates from the September 2001 survey have been recalcu-
lated using the new Census 2000-based population controls. (See table A.)
The revised population controls raised the overall levels, but had little or
no impact on the rates.
Data on Internet job search are not directly comparable between the
September 2001 and October 2003 surveys because the reference periods for
job search differ. In the September 2001 survey, respondents were asked
if they had used the Internet to search for a job "that year"--from January
to September 2001. In the October 2003 survey, the reference period for
job search was from January to October 2003.
Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired
individuals upon request. Voice phone: 202-691-5200; TDD message referral
Reliability of the estimates
Statistics based on the CPS are subject to both sampling and nonsampling
error. When a sample, rather than the entire population, is surveyed, there
is a chance that the sample estimates may differ from the "true" population
values they represent. The exact difference, or sampling error, varies de-
pending on the particular sample selected, and this variability is measured
by the standard error of the estimate. There is about a 90-percent chance,
or level of confidence, that an estimate based on a sample will differ by
no more than 1.6 standard errors from the "true" population value because
of sampling error. BLS analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent
level of confidence.
The CPS data also are affected by nonsampling error. Nonsampling error
can occur for many reasons, including the failure to sample a segment of
the population, inability to obtain information for all respondents in the
sample, inability or unwillingness of respondents to provide correct infor-
mation, and errors made in the collection or processing of the data.
For a full discussion of the reliability of data from the CPS and for
information on estimating standard errors, see the "Explanatory Notes and
Estimates of Error" section of Employment and Earnings.
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Survey questions and concepts
Data discussed in this release on computer and Internet use at work and
job search using the Internet were obtained from the following questions:
Do you use a computer at your main job?
At your main job, what do you do on the computer?
Do you do word processing or desktop publishing?
Do you connect to the Internet or use e-mail or instant messaging?
(Respondents who answer "yes" to this question are considered to be
Internet users at work.)
Do you use a calendar or do scheduling on the computer?
Do you use spreadsheets or databases?
Do you do graphics and design?
Do you do programming?
The following questions on job search using the Internet were asked of all
individuals in the survey who used the Internet.
This year, have you used the Internet to search for a job?
("This year" refers to January to October 2003.)
How did you use the Internet to search for a job?
Did you read on-line job ads or search on-line job listings?
Did you research information about potential employers?
Did you submit a resume or application to an employer on-line?
Did you post a resume on a job listing site or with a service on-line?
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Internet job search
The above questions on job search were asked of all Internet users in
October 2003. The Internet job search questions in the supplement are
different from the job search questions that are asked in the basic labor
force section of the CPS and that are used in the classification of
unemployment. The supplement questions on Internet job search cannot be
used to determine the official classification of unemployment for several
reasons. In the basic CPS, job search questions are not asked of persons
with jobs, while in the October 2003 supplement, Internet job search
questions were asked of all Internet users, including employed persons.
Also, in the basic CPS, job search among the unemployed must have occurred
within the 4 weeks prior to the survey collection; by contrast, the Inter-
net job search activity recorded in the supplement could have occurred at
any time from January to October 2003. Moreover, there is no information
gathered in the supplement about respondents' labor force status during
this longer reference period. Finally, in the basic CPS, job search meth-
ods are divided into active and passive; only active methods--those that
can lead to a job offer--classify a person as unemployed. The Internet
job search methods in the supplement are not restricted to active methods.
For example, reading job ads or listings online and researching information
on potential employers are not considered to be active job search methods
in the basic CPS. However, tables 5 and 6 showing Internet job search
activity display both passive as well as active job search methods. Job
search activity as measured in the basic CPS may or may not have involved
Last Modified Date: August 10, 2005