BLS Handbook of Methods

In This Chapter

Chapter 1.
Labor Force Data Derived from the Current Population Survey

Description of the Survey

The CPS collects information on the labor force status of the civilian noninstitutional population 15 years of age and older, although labor force estimates are reported only for those 16 and older. Persons under 16 years of age are excluded from the official estimates because child labor laws, compulsory school attendance, and general social custom in the United States severely limit the types and amount of work that these children can do. Persons on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces are excluded from coverage. The institutional population, which also is excluded from coverage, consists of residents of penal and mental institutions and homes for the aged and infirm.

The CPS is collected each month from a probability sample of approximately 60,000 households. Respondents are assured that all information obtained is completely confidential and is used only for the purpose of statistical analysis. Although the survey is conducted on a strictly voluntary basis, refusals to cooperate amount to only about 4 percent each month. (Another 3 to 4 percent of eligible households are not interviewed because of other failures to make contact.)

A calendar week was selected as the survey reference period because the period used must be short enough so that the data obtained are "current," but not so short that such occurrences as holidays or bad weather might cause erratic fluctuations in the information obtained. In addition, the reference period should not be so long that it challenges the recall of the respondent. A calendar week fulfills these conditions. Since July 1955, the calendar week, Sunday through Saturday, that includes the 12th day of the month has been defined as the reference week. The actual survey is conducted during the following week, the week containing the 19th day of the month.

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Last Modified Date: April 17, 2003

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