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April 1983, Vol. 106, No. 4
Work experience, earnings,
and family income in 1981
Sylvia Lazos Terry
A total of 117 million Americans worked all or part of 1981, an increase of 1 million from the year before. However, the number of Americans who encountered some unemployment during the year rose to 23.4 million, an increase of more than 2 million, as the economy managed only a brief recovery from the 1980 recession and then entered a deeper slump.
Although it was a relatively small gain by historical standards, the 1981 increase in employment was still larger than the 1980 rise. The proportion of women employed year round, full time reached 45 percent, a new high.
The work experience and income supplement to the March Current Population Survey (CPS), the data source for this article, provides a comprehensive view of labor force activity, earnings, and family income for the preceding year for all members of the population of working age.1 The total number of persons with some employment or unemployment in a given year, as measured by the March household survey, is always much greater than the average of the monthly CPS figures. In 1981, for example, the average number of persons employed, as measured during the course of the year, was 100.4 million, while the total number with some employment was 16.4 million higher, according to the March 1982 survey. The number of persons with some unemployment in 1981, as measured in March 1982, was nearly three times as high as the average level of the monthly numbers.2
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1 The data for this report are based on responses to special "work experience" question included in the March 1982 Current Population Survey, conducted for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the Bureau of the Census. The questions refer to the civilian work experience of persons during the entire preceding year. Persons who reached age 16 during January, February, or March 1982 are included. However, the work experience of persons in the civilian labor force during 1981 but not in the civilian noninstitutional population in March 1982 is not included, similarly, data on persons who died in 1981 or in 1982, before the survey date, are not reflected.
2 For a review of the employment and unemployment situation in 1981 based on data collected during the year, see Robert W. Bednarzik, Marillyn A. Hewson, and Michael A. Urquhart, "The employment situation in 1981: new recession takes its toll," Monthly Labor Review 1982, pp. 3-14.
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