IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Measures of labor underutilization from the Current Population Survey


  • Steven E. Haugen

    () (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)


The Current Population Survey (CPS) has been the source of official labor force statistics for the U.S. since its inception in March 1940. The best-known statistic calculated from CPS data is the unemployment rate. To be classified as unemployed, a person must have had no employment during the survey reference week, been available for work, and made specific efforts to find employment during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force. The unemployment rate has proven to be a reliable indicator of overall labor market conditions and has performed quite well as a business cycle indicator. That does not mean, however, that everyone has been completely satisfied with the official figures. As a result, in the 1970s, a range of unemployment indicators known as U-1 through U-7 was introduced. In 1994, a redesigned CPS was fielded, and some of the survey changes affected series used as inputs in several of the U-1—U-7 measures. Consequently, BLS introduced a new set of “U’s” in 1995. The new U-1—U-6 range of alternative measures of labor underutilization offered an updated set of indicators that took advantage of newly collected information in the redesigned survey. This paper summarizes the rationale for the original and current ranges of alternative indicators. The paper also concludes that while the five alternatives to the official unemployment rate in the current U-1—U-6 range may represent varying views of labor resource underutilization, they show very similar patterns of change across the course of the business cycle.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven E. Haugen, 2009. "Measures of labor underutilization from the Current Population Survey," Working Papers 424, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec090020

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Jordi Galí, 2011. "The Return Of The Wage Phillips Curve," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 436-461, June.
    2. Jordi Galí, 2010. "The Return of the Wage Phillips Curve," Working Papers 474, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

    More about this item


    Employment; unemployment; unemployment rate; underemployment;

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec090020. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Gregory Kurtzon). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.