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Placed or checked ads to find work


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FWKADS identifies respondents who reported placing or answering ads to find work during the last four weeks. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only classifies persons as "unemployed" if they did not hold a job during the preceding week and had actively sought work through specific "active" methods (such as answering want ads) during the preceding month. The open-ended question, "What has [this person] been doing in the last four weeks to find work?" is designed to determine whether individuals who said that they were looking for work had recently taken action (such as placing or answering ads) to find a job and thus officially qualified as unemployed. FWKADS indicates whether one specific method (placing or answering want ads) had recently been used by non-employed persons who identified themselves as looking for work.

Other job search methods recognized by the BLS to define the unemployed population include checking with a public employment agency (see FWKPUBAG), checking with a private employment agency (see FWKPVTAG), checking with an employer (see FWKEMPLR), checking with friends and relatives (see FWKRELAT), or "something else" such as checking union or professional registers (see FWKOTHER). Persons who wanted work but who did not take such active steps to find a job would officially be considered "not in the labor force" rather than unemployed. Potential workers who only engaged in "passive" activities that did not put them in touch with prospective employers (such as simply reading the want ads or attending a job training program) did not count as unemployed. Persons who wanted work but had last taken active steps to find it more than four weeks ago (e.g., "discouraged workers") also did not count as unemployed.

The various active methods of seeking employment recorded by the CPS are not mutually exclusive; individuals who received a code of 1 (method used) in FWKADS could report using any or all of the other search methods as well (i.e., could receive a code of 1 in FWKPUBAG, FWKPVTAG, FWKEMPLR, FWKRELAT, and/or FWKOTHER). All individual receiving a code of 1 for any of these variables would, however, receive a code of 2 (method not used) in FWKNOT, and all individuals who "did nothing" to find work (i.e., were coded 1 in FWKNOT) would receive a code of 2 (method not used) in all of the aforementioned variables (FWKADS, FWKPUBAG, FWKPVTAG, FWKEMPLR, FWKRELAT, and FWKOTHER).

For 1976 on, the original public use files of the ASEC CPS did not distinguish between a) those not in the universe for these questions about methods of finding work (e.g., children, members of the armed forces, and currently employed persons) and b) those who were asked what they had been doing to find work and did not mention a particular method (such as placing or answering ads). In IPUMS-CPS, the first group (those who were not asked what they had done to find work in the past four weeks) are recoded as "not in universe" (code 0) in FWKADS; the second group (those who were asked the question and did not mention placing or answering ads) are coded as "did not use method" (code 2).


As noted above, for 1976-1993, the original CPS public use files did not distinguish between persons who were "not in universe" for FWKADS and persons who were asked about their jobseeking activities and did not mention placing or answering ads. IPUMS-CPS imposes this distinction, using variables corresponding to a series of questions ultimately used to classify the individual's employment status or EMPSTAT (i.e., responses to questions about whether the person was working, temporarily absent from work, or looking for work in the preceding week).

For 1968-1975, this distinction between "not in universe" and "method not used" was part of the original data and not imposed by IPUMS-CPS. The 1968-1975 data include a recoded variable identifying an individual's employment status (EMPSTAT), but do not include variables corresponding to the full series of questions used to collect the information used to create the EMPSTAT variable.

These differences in the range of variables included in the public use files for 1968-1975 versus 1976-1993 explains the difference in the phrasing of the FWKADS universe statement for 1968-1975 versus 1976-1993. Substantively, however, the FWKADS variable is comparable across time. Throughout the period, the variable simply identifies which persons who said they were looking for work during the preceding week mentioned placing or answering ads in the previous four weeks as a means of finding employment.


  • 1968-1979: Civilians age 14+ who were not working or temporarily absent from work during the past week and who looked for work during the preceding four weeks.
  • 1980-1993: Civilians age 15+ who were not working or temporarily absent from work during the past week and who looked for work during the preceding four weeks.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1968 – 1993 - - X - - - - - - - - -