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Patricia Johnson: Raise Your Hand And Be Counted

Raise Your Hand And Be Counted

By Patricia L Johnson

It appears that the only way we are going to be able to obtain a true picture of the employment situation in the US is for all the unemployed to raise their hands and be counted.

The employment figures, for the month of February, (click here) were released on March 5, 2004 and most of us now know that only 21,000 jobs were created during the month and the unemployment rate remained at 5.6%

In order to fully comprehend the employment situation in this country, we should have a complete understanding of the terms used by the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor].

There are two separate sources of data used by the BLS to determine the employment figures –- Household Data and Establishment Data. The Household Data is used to determine the unemployment rate and the Establishment Data is used to determine the number of jobs gained or lost within a given period of time. Some information on the two data sources follows:

HOUSEHOLD DATA - the household data is derived from the Current Population Survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, for the BLS. This survey includes agricultural workers, self employed workers, unpaid family employees and household workers. The survey covers the calendar week that includes the 12th day the month. Each person, in the sample household, aged 16 years and over is indicated as being in one of the following three categories.


- An individual is classified as employed if they performed any work as a paid employee during the week referenced.
- An individual is classified as employed if they worked in their own business or profession, or on their own farm; or worked without pay at least 15 hours, without pay, in a family business or farm.
- An individual is classified as employed if they are temporarily away from their job due to illness, bad weather, vacation, personal reasons or labor-management disputes.


- An individual is unemployed if they did not work during the reference week, were available for work, and made an effort to seek employment at some time during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.

Not in Labor Force

- An individual is “not in the labor force” if they want a job, were available for work, looked for a job sometime within the past 12-month period had, but did not actively seek employment during the four week period preceding the survey. Because they did not actively seek employment during the survey period, they are not indicated as “unemployed”. Some of these individuals did not seek employment because they were going to school or had family commitments.

** Included in the “not in labor force” total is a subset of individuals that are defined as “discouraged workers”. Discouraged workers are individuals that are no longer looking for employment because they don’t feel there are any jobs available for them.

What may be determined by looking at the criteria is an individual may work one hour for pay at his employer, or 15 hours in a home-based business, without pay, and be considered “employed” based on the criteria used in the Household Data.

Labor force status and unemployment rates are determined by the Household Data survey. During the month of February the Household Data survey indicated the following:


Seasonally Adjusted*



(in thousands)

*Civilian Labor Force






Not in Labor Force


*Seasonally Adjusted - seasonal events, such as students returning to school, schools closings, harvests, major holidays, and changes in weather have a major impact on the figures that are used. When events are known in advance, such as school openings and closings, the numbers are “seasonally adjusted” to reduce the large fluctuations in data that may otherwise occur.

The Unemployment rate for any given month is determined by dividing the number of unemployed people (8,170 in February) by the Civilian Labor Force total (146,471).

The Household Data chart indicates there are 146 million individuals in the Civilian Labor Force, with 138 million employed, and 8 million unemployed for the month of February.

The Household Data report indicates a total decrease in Civilian Labor Force during the month of February of 392,000, due to a decrease in employment of 265,000 and a decrease in unemployment of 127,000, while Not in the Labor Force increased by 588,000.

ESTABLISHMENT DATA - is information collected by the BLS, on the Current Employment Statistic Survey, in cooperation with State agencies. 160,000 non-farm businesses and government agencies are included in this sample which covers approximately 400,000 individual worksites. The Establishment Data report includes people who work more than one job, as well as individuals employed under the age of 16. The survey is for the pay period that includes the 12th day of the month.


Seasonally Adjusted*



(in thousands)



(in thousands)


(in thousands)

Non-farm Employment




The Establishment Data chart shows a total of 130,132 jobs in January and 130,153 million jobs in February, or an increase of 21,000 jobs. The Establishment Data includes people who hold more than one job, as they are counted for each job held.


All numbers in thousands





















Subtotal – Goods Producing



Service Providing


Retail Trade





Professional and Business Services





Education and Health Services





Leisure and Hospitality










Subtotal – Service Providing



TOTAL ---------------



The total of 21,000 jobs created is actually a combination of 48,000 jobs gained in the service sector and 27,000 jobs lost in construction and manufacturing as indicated in the above chart.

What may be determine by a closer look at the BLS report for February is 32,000 of the 48,000 jobs gained in the service sector were temporary jobs, with 10,000 social assistance jobs, mainly in child day care services.

Included in the 76 million that are indicated as Not in the Labor Force are 1.7 million individuals that are “marginally attached” to the labor force. Marginally attached basically means they are unemployed, but not counted as unemployed. 484,000 of the marginally attached are discouraged workers.

During the month of February there were 7.2 million persons holding two jobs. The breakdown follows:

Total in




Primary job full time – secondary job part time


Primary & secondary job part time


Primary & Secondary job full time


Hours vary

It is quite simply appalling that 287,000 Americans are forced to work two full-time jobs to make ends meet under this administration.

The question of how many jobs have been created or lost during any period should take second place to WHY 76 million people are indicated as “Not in Labor Force”. On a comparative basis, 76 million is over half of the total civilian labor force and is certainly a number that should be researched

On a comparative basis, the 76 million people indicated as “Not in Labor Force” represent over half of the entire Civilian Labor Force.

Perhaps it’s time we stopped looking at how many jobs have been created or lost, and start looking at the reasons why these 76 million individuals are not part of the labor force.

The BLS can call them marginally attached, not in the labor force, or discouraged workers, but in my book they’re “unemployed” and should be counted as such.

Further information on the BLS may be found at


© Patricia L Johnson 2004

Patricia Johnson is a freelance writer residing in the Midwest.

© Scoop Media

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