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Work experience in 1983 reflects the effects of the recovery.

Reflecting the strong rebound of the economy, 1.4 million more persons held jobs in 1983 than in 1982. And the number working year round full time expanded even more--by nearly 3 million. In addition, there was drop of 2.7 millin in the number of persons experiencing some unemployment during the year.

These data come from responses to "work experience" questions asked in March 1984 in a supplement to the Current Popultion Survey (CPS). The questions, which are asked annually, refer to the work status of the civilian population over the previous calendar year.

Because many persons change their labor force status during a year, the total number with some employment or unemployment as measured in this survey usually is much higher than the annual averages based on the monthly CPS.

For 1983, the number of persons who worked all or part of the year--117.7 million--was 17 percent higher than the annual average civilian employment level of 100.8 million. And the number of persons who encountered some unemployment (although lower than the previous year) was still more than twice the annual average o the monthly unemployment figures (23.8 million versus 10.7 million). Altogether, 19.6 percent of all persons with some labor force activity during the year, in terms of having either worked or looked for work, experienced some unemployment in 1983. By comparison, the annual average unemployment rate for 1983 was 9.6 percent.

While reflecting the effects of the recovery, the data for 1983 generally are also in line with some of the salient historical trends in employment and unemployment, as shown by the following highlights:

* Women showed a large gain in full-time year-round employment. This continued the trend of the last several decades during which women have become not only a larger but also a more permanent component of the labor force.

* The proporion of men with some employment--77.6 percent--continued to decline. (In 1980, the comparable proportion was 80 percent and in 1950 it was 57 percent.)

The drop has been particularly sharp for older men.

* A smaller percentage of blacks (59 percent) than whites (68 percent) were employed during the year. However, following a longstanding pattern, the proportion of black women employed full time year round exceeded that of white women.

* As in the past, more blacks experienced unemployment than whites. Among those with some labor force activity during the year, nearly one-third of black men and more than one-fourth of black women encountered at least one spell of joblessness.

* The proportion of Hispanics encountering some unemployment was higher than for whites but lower than for blacks. The follows a pattern evident since these data were first tabulated separately for Hispanics (in 1976).

* Men continued to be unemployed longer than woemn; blacks and Hispanics were unemployed longer than whites; and older workers tended to be unemployed longer than younger ones. The recovery's impact on jobs

As the economy rebounded from the severe 1981-82 recession, so did the number of persons with jobs--particularly jobs of a full-time year-round nature. Especially note-worthy was the fact that the number of women with full-time year-round employment reached 25.3 million in 1983, 48 percent of all women with some work during the year. Both of these figures are all-time highs. (See table 1.)

The proportion of employed blacks and Hispanics working full time year round--55 percent for both--was up nearly 3 percentage points from 1982. (See table 2.) For Hispanics--as well as for whites and blacks--the 1983 level was the highest since 1976. The tabulation below shows the changes since 1976 in the proportion of workers in each of these groups who worked full time the year round:

For the entire population of working age, 1983 marked the first time in 4 years when the proportion working at some time during the year--67.0 percent--did not decrease. In 1980 and 1981, job growth had not kept pace with population growth, and in 1982, reflecting the severity of the recession, the number of persons with some employment showed an actual decline. As a result, the proportion of the population with some employment during the year was still lower in 1983 than it had been in 1980 (68.3 percent). This reflects the continuing decline in the proportion of men with some emplopyment during the year, which has been only partly offset by the rebound in the proportion of working women. The latter reached 57.3 percent in 1983, only slightly below the peak levels of the 1979-81 period. Group differences in employment

Until a decade ago, a greater poportion of black than white women worked at some time during the year. However, the proportion of white women with some employment has long been growing at a faster rate, and since 1976 it has exceeded the proportion for black women by a gradually larger margin. By 1983, the proportion with some employment was 58 percent for white women and 53 percent for black women. However, black women continue to be more likely than their white counterparts to work full time year round.

As expected, women without children are most likely to be in the labor force all year, while those with younger children are least likely. Still, more than half of the mothers with children under age 3 who worked in 1983 did so year round.

Reflecting a long-term trend, the proportion of men with any employment during the year--77.6 percent in 1983--reached its lowest level since about 35 years ago when this series began. As shown in table 3, the drop in labor force activity has been particularly evident among older men, who have been choosing to retire at earlier ages under Social Security Act provisions and private pension plans.

Even when they remain in the labor force, older men are now less likely to work year round full time than was the case 10 years ago. In contrast, among older working women there has been little change in the percentage who work full time year round, as is shown in the following tabulation.

There was also a drop over the past decade in the proportion of young men with work experience during the year. This was evident both among those in their teens as well as among those 20 to 24 years old. The trend for young women was somewhat different, with a decline in the proportion of teenagers with some employment during the year but a rise for women aged 20 to 24. Even among the latter female group, however, the percentage employed in 1983 was lower than the peak reached in 1978. Unemployment declines

The 23.8 million persons who were unemployed at some time in 1983 represented 19.6 percent of all persons who worked or looked for work during the year. (See table 4.) This proportion was well below the 22 percent for 1982, when unemployment reached a recessionary peak. For men, who were particularly hard hit by the 1981-82 recession, the proportion with some unemployment dropped to 21 percent for 1983. This was less than the proportion encountering unemployment in 1982, but still above 1981's level. For women, the proportion with some joblessness in 1983--17.8 percent--was lower than in both prior years.

The percentage of blacks unemployed at some time during 1983 was also lower than in 1982 and 1981. However, 1 of 3 black men and 1 of 4 black women encountered some unemployment, proportionately more than either Hispanic or white workers.

Among industries, the greatest decrease in the proportion of workers encountering unemployment in 1983 was in manufacturing, particularly in durable goods, where the proportion dropped from 28 to 20 percent. As usual, the proportion of workers with the lowest incidence of unemployment over the year was in public administration and in finance, insurance, and real estate (10 percent for both industry groups in 1983). The highest incidence was in construction (38 percent) and agriculture (29 percent). (See table 5.)

The great majority of persons with some unemployment in 1983 held at least one job during the year (84 percent), while the remaining 16 percent looked for work at least part of the time but never held a job. Nearly 1 of 3 blacks with unemployment did not report any employment for the year, in contrast to 14 percent for both whites and Hispancs.

For persons with some unemployment who worked at some time during the year, the improvement in the economy was reflected in slight decreases in the proportions with two spells or more of joblessness and in a reduction in the median weeks of unemployment. There also was a small decrease in the number (and proportion) of persons reporting that they were involuntarily working part year or part time. Part-year and part-time workers

Among the persons who were employed less than the entire year in 1983, a far greater proportion of men than women pointed to unemployment as the main reason. As seen in the following tabulation, of part-year workers aged 25 to 44, 7 of 10 men but only 3 of 10 women cited unemployment as the major reason they were not employed year round. Also, 5 percent of men aged 25 to 44, but a smaller percentage of women (3 percent), reported that they only worked part of the year because there was "no work available." (Some 1.3 million part-year workers aged 16 and over in 1983, in contrast to about 2.2 million in 1982, seem to have been "discouraged" by lack of employment opportunities, citing that the main reason they were not working or looking for work for the remainder of the year was the unavailability of jobs.)

In addition, as indicated below, more than half of men aged 25 to 44 but less than one-third of women reported they were limited to working part time because they could not find a full-time job or because of slack work or material shortage. Such differences generally reflect the fact that women are more likely than men ot chose to work part time or part year (although the choice often is imposed by child-care responsibilities), and that women are less prone to be in cyclically sensitive employment. Unemployment and family income

The median number of weeks unemployed for persons with both employment and unemployment during 1983 was 13.3. (This figure represents total weeks unemployed including, for some persons, more than one spell of unemployment.) As indicated below, women on average were unemployed fewer weeks than men, whites fewer weeks than blacks and Hispanics, and younger workers fewer weeks than older workers:

Clearly, the longer a person is unemployed the more severe the impact on earnings. But what is the effect of unemployment on family income? While the impact also is more burdensome the longer the period of unemployment, other factors need to be considered. These include earnings of other family members, wage levels of family earners, and alternative sources of income such as unemployment insurance benefits and transfer payments. For example, as seen in the following tabulation, median family income--while substantially lower than in similar families with no unemployment--was still about $27,000 for married-couple families with two earners or more in which at least one experienced some unemployment. Seven percent of such families had incomes which fell below the Federally designated poverty thresholds. In contrast, median family income was about $7,000 in one-earner families maintained by women in which the earner had encountered some unemployment during the year. More than half of such families were in poverty.

Similar patterns are found among families with involuntary part-time workers who encountered unemployment in 1983, as well as among families with unemployed members who did not work at all during the year. In each case, the largest proportion of families in poverty are those maintained by women. However, even when no family members are unemployed, median family income is relatively low for families maintained by women ($16,000 in 1983), and a significant proportion are in poverty (17 percent). This largely reflects the concentration of these women in low-paying jobs, employment constraints because of child-care responsibilities, and the absence of other family wage earners. Unemployment, of course, compounds their problem.
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Author:Sehgal, Ellen
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Dec 1, 1984
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