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Labor force status

Codes and Frequencies

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LABFORCE is a dichotomous variable indicating whether the respondent participated in the labor force during the preceding week. See EMPSTAT for a more detailed employment status variable. Those coded as "yes" in LABFORCE were either: were at work; held a job but were temporarily absent from work due to factors like vacation or illness; were seeking work; or were temporarily laid off from a job during the reference period.

Because the CPS is designed to measure unemployment in the civilian population, the original dichotomous employment status variable in the survey classifies members of the armed forces as NIU (Not in universe).


Apart from changes in the universe, LABFORCE is consistent over time.

Comparison between LABFORCE and EMPSTAT over time: The "not in labor force" categories in EMPSTAT and LABFORCE (code "3" in EMPSTAT, general codes, and code "1" in LABFORCE) are the same. LABFORCE places those respondents who are gainfully employed and those who are unemployed, but part of the labor force (i.e. looking for work), into one category (code "2"), while EMPSTAT divides them into employed (code "1") and unemployed (code "2"). The sum of EMPSTAT categories "1" and "2" will be the same as LABFORCE code "2."

Comparability with IPUMS-USA

Beginning with the 1980 census, the lower age limit for LABFORCE differs for IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-CPS. The 1980, 1990, and 2000 censuses and the ACS collected employment information on persons age 16 and older, while earlier enumerations used age 14 as the threshold. The LABFORCE variable in the CPS used an age limit of 14 prior to 1988 and age 15 thereafter.


  • 1962-1967 (ASEC): Civilians age 14+ (pre-1968 samples do not include persons under age 14).
  • 1968-1987 (ASEC); 1976-1988 (non-ASEC): Civilians age 14+.
  • 1989+: Civilians age 15+.


Years Jan Feb ASEC Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
1962 – 1975 - - X - - - - - - - - - -
1976 – 2023 X X X X X X X X X X X X X
2024 X X - X X - - - - - - - -