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Checked public employment agency for work


This variable is not available for any of the currently selected samples.


FWKPUBAG identifies respondents who reported checking with a public employment agency to find work during the last four weeks. This answer was one of the recognized responses to an open-ended question: "What has [this person] been doing in the last four weeks to find work?"

This line of questioning about methods used to find work is a key element of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) reliance on the CPS as the official source of unemployment statistics for the United States. The BLS only classifies persons as unemployed if they simultaneously fit a number of criteria: 1) they are adult civilians; 2) they did not hold a job during the preceding week; 3) they were available to take a job if one were offered; and 4) during the preceding month, they had sought work through specific "active" methods that put them in touch with employers. Checking with a public employment agency is one such active jobseeking method Other active methods of jobseeking identified by the CPS data and recognized by the BLS are: placing or answering ads (FWKADS), checking with a private employment agency (FWKPVTAG), checking with an employer directly (FWKEMPLR), checking with friends and relatives (FWKRELAT), and a residual "other" category that encompasses such actions such as checking union or professional registers (FWKOTHER).

Actions to increase employability (such as attending a job training class or revising a resume) or identify possible jobs (such as reading but not responding to want ads) that do not result in persons actually contacting potential employers are considered "passive" means of jobseeking by the BLS. Even if persons meet the first three criteria listed above and say that they have been looking for work, they are not classified as unemployed by the BLS if they have used only "passive" jobseeking methods in the past month. Unless individuals have used at least one "active" jobseeking method (checking with a public employment agency, placing or answering ads, checking with an employer directly, checking with a private employment agency, checking with friends and relatives, or other specific active methods), they are categorized as "not in the labor force" rather than "unemployed." Persons who wanted work but had last taken "active" steps to secure it more than four weeks ago (e.g., discouraged workers) also count as not in the labor force, rather than 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 FWKPUBAG could report using any or all of the other active search methods as well (i.e., could receive a code of 1 in FWKADS, FWKPVTAG, FWKEMPLR, FWKRELAT, and/or FWKOTHER).


This variable is comparable over time.

For 1976 on, the original public use files of the ASEC CPS do not distinguish between a) those not in the universe for the question about methods of finding work (i.e., children, members of the armed forces, currently employed persons, and those who answered "no" to a previous query about whether they had been looking for work during the preceding week) and b) those who were asked what they had been doing to find work and did not mention a particular active method (such as checking with a public employment agency). 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 FWPUBAG; the second group (those who were asked that question and did not mention checking with a public employment agency) are coded as "method not used" (code 2). This change imposes a consistent three category coding system (i.e., not in universe, method used, and method not used) on FWKPUBAG and on the other dichotomous variables relating to methods of actively seeking work (FWKADS, FWKPVTAG, FWKEMPLR, FWKRELAT, and FWOTHER) for 1968-1993.


  • 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 - - - - - - - - -