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March 2005, Vol. 128, No.3
Household survey indicators show some improvement in 2004
Teresa L. Morisi
Unemployment declined, and employment, as measured by the Current Population Survey (CPS), rose in 2004. Reflecting moderate employment growth, the employment-to-population ratio edged up, while the labor force participation rate was little changed over the year. The end of 2004 marked nearly 4 years since the beginning of the 2001 recession. Like many other economic indicators, most major household survey indicators showed very different patterns over this period, compared with the average for prior recession and recovery periods.1 (See box on page 4 for an explanation of the CPS.)
The unemployment rate and the number of unemployed persons fell in 2004. Most of the major demographic groups shared in the decline. The labor force participation rate held about steady, and the employment-to-population ratio edged up. The overall unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004, 0.5 percentage point lower than in the same quarter of 2003. The jobless rate was 6.1 percent in the third quarter of 2003; by the first quarter of 2004, it was down to 5.6 percent. The rate edged down to 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004. (See chart 1.) The number of unemployed persons, 8.0 million in that quarter, was down by about 500,000 from the final quarter of 2003. (See table 1.)
The civilian labor force aged 16 and older (the sum of employed persons plus unemployed persons) grew by 1.7 million in 2004. Labor force growth just about kept pace with population growth over the year. The number of employed persons, as measured by the CPS, increased by 2.2 million from the fourth quarter of 2003 to the fourth quarter of 2004, a slightly faster growth rate than that for the 16-and-older population.
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1 The National Bureau of Economic Research is generally recognized as the arbiter of business-cycle turning points. The organization determined that the latest recession began in March 2001 and ended in November of that year.
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
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