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Work experience of the labor force during 1985.

Work experience of the labor force during 1985

During 1985, the third calendar year following the recession of 1981-82, the Nation's employment growth was steadly but less dramatic than it had been in 1984. The most impressive employment gains in 1985 occurred among blacks, whose employment recovery had lagged behind that of whites in the 2 previous years. Full-time employment was increasingly common while part-time work did not keep pace with population growth. An expanding share of both the white and especially the black work force reported itself to be holding full-time jobs. The share of the population reporting no work experience at all during the year continued to contract.

More than 123 million persons, about 69 percent of all those age 16 and over, held jobs during all or part of 1985. Of these, roughly 3 of 5 held year-round, full-time jobs. About 21 million persons experienced some unemployment during the year, half a million fewer than during the previous year.

These findings are derived from the work experience survey, conducted each March as a supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of about 59,500 households nationwide. The basic CPS data detail the labor force activities of household members during a specific reference week each month. These data provide policymakers with timely information on the changes occurring within the economy. They are also frequently cited in the form of annual averages, which show the situation in a series of "typical' weeks during the year.

The March CPS supplement on work experience provides a different vantage point on labor force activity than do the monthly data,1 as it demonstrates the extent to which members of various groups have participated in the labor force during all or any part of the previous year. Certain groups, such as youth, minorities, older workers, and women of most ages, exhibit particularly high labor turnover. Members of these groups are far more likely to hold jobs or look for work at some point during the year than to do so during a "typical' week. Thus, contrasts between estimates based on behavior during an average week and those based on a full year's activity highlight the particular nature of a group's labor force attachment. Consider the following comparisons between the CPS, 12-month average and the work experience data for 1985:

High turnover groups are easily spotted by the fact that so many more people are captured in the work experience data than in the annual average counts. For instance, the number of persons, reported to have held part-time jobs during at least part of 1985 was 45 percent larger than the average for the typical week of that year. The corresponding differential for full-time workers was only 9 percent. Nearly three times as many whites experienced unemployment during some part of the year as reported doing so during the average week. The contrast between weekly and yearly counts is much smaller for blacks, because of their longer spells of unemployment, which in turn increase the odds of their being counted as jobless in successive months. This inflates the monthly (and, therefore, annual average) data relative to the March counts, where persons can be so classified only once.

Varying the reference period in this way affects not only overall counts, but also out sense of the proportionate roles of the different groups in the total. For instance, although only 17 percent of all workers held part-time jobs in an average month, the share of those holding jobs during any part of the year who usually did so was about 22 percent. Similarly, blacks made up 22 percent of the monthly unemployment count but only 16 percent of the total seeking employment at any time during the year.2

Persons with employment

Although more men than women report having worked during any given year, the sex differential in work experience is clearly narrowing. Between 1973 and

1985, the share of adult men reporting some employment during the year dropped 5 percentage points, while that for women rose by about 6 percentage points:

In the same vein, there was a slight erosion in the share of all men with employment during the year who worked year round (50 weeks or more), full time (35 hours or more per week). The full-time component of the female work force has held steady, while there has been a marked increase in their share reporting full-year schedules. The net effect of these developments has been a modest drop in full-time employment but a 3-percentage-point gain in year-round work.

Although a 2.3 million increase in numbers of persons holding jobs during 1985 represented clear growth, the pace of this expansion had obviously slowed from the record 3.6 million increase posted the previous year. The bulk of the 1985 increase was registered in year-round, full-time jobs. (See table 1.) The proportion working part time continued to fall, though there was a slight increase in the absolute number on such schedules.

Nearly 90 percent of the men who worked during 1985 did so full time, and about two-thirds held such jobs year round. Two-thirds of all working women maintained full-time schedules, and about half did so for 50 weeks or more.

The most spectacular employment gains during 1985 were posted by blacks. (See table 2.) The share of all blacks holdings jobs during the year rose sharply, as did the share working year round. Most of these gains were achieved by black men. However, black women also registered some substantial gains. In particular, they increased the margin by which they led white women in reporting full-time work and narrowed the margin by which they followed them with respect to overall work experience.

Persons with unemployment

During 1985, 21 million workers--or roughly 1 in 6 of those in the larbor market--experienced some unemployment. This was 2 1/2 times the annual average figure, about the same ratio as in 1984. The median duration of joblessness was little changed from the previous year at 12.6 weeks, and was about 2 weeks longer for men than for women. (See table 3.) Of all those who reported themselves to have been unemployed during 1985, a third experienced two or more spells of joblessness. Nine of 10 held a job for at least some portion of the year, and the unemployment experience for 1 in 20 was sufficiently limited for them to also be classed as year-round (50 to 52 week) workers.

The unemployed as a proportion of all those with labor force experience during the year dropped by nearly a percentage point for men; yet, at 17.2 percent, it was still somewhat higher than the 15.7 percent registered in 1979. At 16.0 percent, the rate for women had returned to its 1979 level.

Less than 16 percent of all white workers were unemployed during 1985; the rate fell by only half a percentage point. By contrast, the proportion of all blacks experiencing unemployment during the year dropped 1.7 percentage points between 1984 and 1985. Despite this sizable improvement, 25 percent of all blacks still faced at least 1 week of unemployment during the year. (See table 4.)

Patterns of redistribution by work schedule

The growth of year-round employment outpaced that of the adult population by nearly 2 percentage points between 1984 and 1985. The expansion of the year-round work force was particularly rapid for black men and, to a lesser extent, white women. Both of these groups, as well as black women, registered their most impressive gains in full-year, full-time employment; white men registered their greatest relative gains in full-year, part-time work.3

Overall, both the full-year and full-time components of the work force grew relative to the population. As existing labor force attachments became stronger, there was also a net shift of persons previously outside the work force into employment. This shift was particularly strong among black men. The number of black men with work experience during the year grew more than 4 percentage points faster than might have been expected on the basis of population growth alone. The comparable gain in work experience for black women outpaced their own population growth by 1.4 percentage points. Both groups appeared to be shifting from part- to full-time employment, particularly in a full-year, full-time capacity.

1 Basic CPS labor force data are normally referred to as monthly data although technically they pertain to the week that includes the 12th of the month.

2 Analysis of labor force changes between 1984 and 1985 has been complicated by a January 1986 revision of the population weights used to inflate CPS findings. The most important change was the introduction of an allowance for the inflow of undocumented aliens into this country. The net effect of this and other corrections was an estimated upward revision of the total civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over (between December 1985 and January 1986) of 388,000, or two-tenths of 1 percent. These additions were concentrated among employed white men, particularly those between the ages of 25 and 54, and especially among persons of Hispanic origin. The reader should keep these revisions in mind in comparing estimated levels for 1984 and 1985. See Jeffrey S. Passel, "Changes in the estimation procedure in the Current Population Survey beginning in January 1986,' Employment and Earnings, February 1986, pp. 7-10.

3 See Shirley J. Smith, "The growing diversity of work schedules,' Monthly Labor Review, November 1986, pp. 7-13.


Table: 1. Work experience of the population during the year by sex and extent of employment, 1984-85

Table: 2. Work experience of the population during the year by sex, race, and Hispanic origin, 1984-85

Table: 3. Extent of unemployment during the year by sex, 1984-85

Table: 4. Extent of unemployment during the year by race, Hispanic origin, and sex, 1984-85
COPYRIGHT 1987 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Author:Smith, Shirley J.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Apr 1, 1987
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