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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

discuss advantages and disadvantages of international trade.
Ram Reply
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What are the reasons of demand pull inflation
the reasons behind pull inflation are high rate of interest
in other hand when demand of specific commodity is high and its supply is low there will be inflation of price
Thank you
you are welcome
thank you
what is barter system
twinkel Reply
a system in which goods are exchanged for other goods
Barter system is said to be the process whereby goods are being exchange for goods
a system in which money have not play any role
goods and services are exchanged .. problem is finding equitable or agreeable value for the exchange of the goods or services.. I teach maths privately and love home made cake, I decided 4 home made cakes was worth an hour of private maths 😁
ok.thank u
thanks a lot to everyone .
accounts in balance of trade
Kamuyu Reply
What is fiscal policy and intrest rates
Attah Reply
fiscal policy is the use of govt. revenue collection and expenditure to influence the economy.
income and expenditure
Bittu Reply
Macro economics : it is the study of all aggregate of all economic activities of an economic as whole.
Rajat Reply
what is macro economics
Sarah Reply
it is study of all aggregate of all economic activities of an economic as whole.
Macro economics is the aggregate study of national income, investment, price level, changes in economic activities, GDP and economic inflation.
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what is comparative and superlative advantage? give an example
Xanaan Reply
Methods used to correct trade deficits?
David Reply
what is role capitalism unemployment?
Mafsuud Reply
being unemployment look job but not achieved their being out labor force is person can't work
being unemployment look job but not achieved their being out labor force is person can't work
themes studied in economics include?
Patrick Reply
Financial accounting GDP and GNP
Samson Reply
can u explain
this means that the demand curve have negative relationship with the price ..which means that when high price low demand of the product and vice versa so higher price will shirnk the demand of product
Ahsan Reply
Higher price level ∴Real value of household wealth increase ∴Net export decrease ∴More money needed, interest rate increase, investment decrease
net export decrease
a person has 60birr to buy two commodities,x and y the price of x is four birr unit the price of y is two birr unit his utility functio given by u=xy+2x determine the budget equation
Mohammed Reply
the budget equation will be- 60 birr= 4x+2y

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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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