The CPS began in 1940, and responsibility for conducting the CPS was given to the Census Bureau in 1942. In 1994 the CPS was redesigned to obtain better survey data.
CPS is a survey that is:
CPS is a monthly survey of about 60,000 households. The BLS increased the sample size by 10,000 as of July 2001. The sample represents the civilian noninstitutional population. The survey asks about the employment status of each member of the household 15 years of age or older in the calendar week containing 12th day of the month. Based on responses to a series of questions on work and job search activities, each person 16 years and over in a sample household is classified as employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force.
Approximately 60,000 households are eligible for the CPS. Sample households are selected by a multistage stratified statistical sampling scheme. A household is interviewed for 4 successive months, then not interviewed for 8 months, then returned to the sample for 4 months after that. An adult member of each household provides information for all members of the household.
People are classified as employed if they did any work at all as paid employees during the reference week; worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm; or worked without pay at least 15 hours in a family business or farm. People are also counted as employed if they were temporarily absent from their jobs because of illness, bad weather, vacation, labor-management disputes, or personal reasons. People are classified as unemployed if they meet all of the following criteria:
The unemployment data derived from the household survey in no way depend upon the eligibility for or receipt of unemployment insurance benefits.
Those who are not classified as employed or unemployed are not counted as part of the labor force. They are tracked as “discouraged workers.”
The CPS reports:
The survey also reports the labor force participation rate, which is the labor force as a percentage of the population, and the ratio of the employed to the total population of the United States.
Although the primary purpose of the CPS is to record employment information, the survey fulfills a secondary role in providing demographic information about the United States population.
Since 1948, the CPS has included supplemental questions (at first, in April; later, in March) on income received in the previous calendar year, which are used to estimate the data on income and work experience. These data are the source of the annual census report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage.
Other supplement topics (some in different months) include after-tax money income, benefits that are not cash, displaced workers, job tenure, occupational mobility, temporary work, adult education, and other related topics.