Economic News Release

Work Experience Technical Note

Technical Note

   The data presented in this release were collected in the Annual Social and 
Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a 
monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households, conducted by the U.S. 
Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Data from the CPS 
are used to obtain the monthly estimates of the nation's employment and unemployment 
levels. The ASEC, conducted in the months of February through April, includes 
questions about work activity during the prior calendar year. For instance, data 
collected in 2014 refer to the 2013 calendar year. Because the reference period 
is a full year, the number of persons with some employment or unemployment greatly 
exceeds the average levels for any given month, which are based on a 1-week 
reference period, and the corresponding annual average of the monthly estimates. 
As shown below, for example, the number experiencing any unemployment was about 
twice the number unemployed in an average month during the year.


                                      Employed     Unemployed
  2013 estimates (in thousands)
   Annual average of
    monthly estimates                  143,929       11,460
   Annual supplement data              156,987       20,880


   In addition, estimates from the supplement differ from those obtained in the 
basic CPS because the questions used to classify workers as either employed or 
unemployed are different. More important, perhaps, is that the supplement contains 
fewer questions for categorizing respondents. In regard to unemployment in particular, 
the supplement has no questions on the type of job search activity or on the respondent's 
availability to work. Also, individuals can be counted as both employed and unemployed 
in the work experience supplement data, whereas, for a specific monthly reference 
week, each person is only counted in one category and employment activity takes 
precedence over job search activity.

   The 2013 data in this news release, collected in the 2014 ASEC, are based on fewer
sample responses than in recent years.  Approximately three-eighths of the 2014 CPS ASEC
sample was used to test redesigned questions on income and health insurance coverage; this
portion of the sample was not used to generate the estimates in this news release.

   The data presented in this release are not strictly comparable with data for 
earlier years due to the introduction of updated population controls used in
the CPS. The population controls are updated each year in January to reflect the 
latest information about population change. Additional information is available 
online at www.bls.gov/cps/documentation.htm#pop.

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 
component of this difference that occurs because samples differ by chance is known as 
sampling error, and its 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 information, and errors made in the collection or 
processing of the data.

   A discussion of the reliability of data from the CPS and information on estimating
standard errors is available at www.bls.gov/cps/documentation.htm#reliability.

Concepts and definitions

   The principle concepts and definitions used in connection with the data in this 
release are described briefly below.

   Persons who worked. In the 2014 supplement, persons are considered to have worked 
if they responded "yes" to either the question "Did you work at a job or business at 
any time during 2013?" or "Did you do any temporary, part-time, or seasonal work even 
for a few days during 2013?"

   Unemployed persons. Persons who worked during the year but not in every week are 
counted as unemployed if they also reported looking for work or being on layoff from a 
job during the year. Those who reported no work activity during the year are considered 
unemployed if they responded "yes" to the question "Even though you did not work in 
2013, did you spend any time trying to find a job or on layoff?"

   Work-experience unemployment rate. The number of persons unemployed at some time 
during the year as a proportion of the number of persons who worked or looked for work 
during the year.

   Usual full- and part-time employment. These data refer to the number of hours an
employed person typically works during most weeks of the year. Workers are classified
as full time if they usually worked 35 hours or more in a week; part-time employment
refers to workers whose typical workweek was between 1 and 34 hours.

   Year-round and part-year employment. Workers are classified as year round if they
worked 50 to 52 weeks. Part-year employment refers to workers who worked fewer than 50 
weeks.

Other information

   Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals 
upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.



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Last Modified Date: December 16, 2014
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