The country’s official unemployment rate in December 2001 was 5.8 percent.
Over the past decade, it has ranged from a high of 7.8 percent in June 1992 to a low of 3.9 percent in April and October 2000.
So, where does this national economic indicator come from?
The answer: The Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey (CPS), the largest and longest-running household survey in the country. (It began in 1942.)
Sponsored by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the CPS is conducted monthly by the Census Bureau.
During the week of March 17, a force of nearly 2,000 Census Bureau field representatives will conduct interviews at about 57,000 households nationwide to update the country’s employment data.
The BLS results will be released on Friday, April 5.
“By participating in the CPS, households will provide policy-makers at all levels of government with key data that will permit them to make informed decisions that effect every one of us,” said Moises Carrasco, director of the Census Bureau’s Seattle regional office.
“Even though this survey is conducted every month, the CPS collects a greater variety of data in the March supplement than it does in any other month.”
The Census Bureau field representatives ask questions every month about the characteristics of the country’s labor force.
In addition, the March survey collects statistics on topics as diverse as income and poverty, educational attainment, nativity, the demographic characteristics of households and families, marital status, living arrangements and geographical mobility.
The households randomly selected to participate in the survey, in effect, represent the entire population.
By law, the Census Bureau must maintain all identifying information about survey respondents and their households strictly confidential.
Local households selected for the nationwide sample will receive a letter from the director of the Census Bureau.
Some will be interviewed by telephone and others will be interviewed in person.
To alleviate concerns about privacy and security, it should be noted the field representatives carry identification cards.
The March survey will collect monthly data on labor force status and is used as input into econometric models that generate tables to make the results easily understandable.
SOME UNEMPLOYMENT RATES BY STATE AND WHERE WASHINGTON FITS IN
The national unemployment rate in December 2001 was 5.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Washington had the second highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 7.1 percent, just behind Oregon, which had a 7.5 percent rate.
North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate, at 2.8 percent.