*By Matthew Bombyk*

As part of the IPUMS mission to democratize data, our User Support team strives to answer your questions about the data. Over time, some questions are repeated. This blog post is an extension of an earlier series addressing frequently asked questions. Maybe you’ll learn something. Perhaps you’ll just find the information interesting. Regardless, we hope you enjoy it!

Here’s one of those questions:

## How can I use IPUMS CPS to calculate the Alternative Measures of Unemployment published by the BLS?

Every month the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes a set of Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization as part of its well-known Employment Situation News Release. A common question we are asked at IPUMS is how to calculate these rates using IPUMS CPS data. The “headline” unemployment figure is known as U-3 and is a straightforward calculation using only the main employment status variable, EMPSTAT. However, the other measures are not quite as simple. Nonetheless, these can be calculated using IPUMS CPS! Using the table below, you can calculate these rates using the public use microdata.

The table is split into two sections. The top section includes groups of individuals that are used in these calculations. The bottom section gives the various rates of labor underutilization, which are ratios of the groups described in the top section. The first column of the table describes each measure. The second column gives the variables and conditions needed to identify each group of workers or calculate each rate using the IPUMS CPS data. Please note that variables starting with “UH_” are unharmonized variables. Since unharmonized variables may not be consistent for the entire CPS data series, the exact unharmonized variable used may be different if you need to calculate these rates for older samples (e.g., a variable may have a _B1 suffix instead of _B2 indicating that it applies to an earlier set of years). The third column gives the same calculations, but using the variable names from the original CPS public-use microdata.

Measure | IPUMS CPS Microdata | Original CPS Microdata |
---|---|---|

Civilian labor force | EMPSTAT in (10,12,21,22) | PEMLR in (1:4) |

Unemployed 15 weeks or longer | DURUNEMP>=15 | PRUNEDUR>=15 |

Unemployed job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs | WHYUNEMP in (1:3) | PRUNTYPE in (1:3) |

Total unemployed | EMPSTAT in (21,22) | PEMLR in (3:4) |

Not in the labor force, discouraged workers | UH_DSCWK_B2=1 | PRDISC=1 |

Not in the labor force, marginally attached to the labor force | UH_DSCWK_B2 in (1:2) | PRDISC in (1:2) |

Employed, at work part-time for economic reasons | WKSTAT in (21,22) | PRWKSTAT in (3,6) |

U-1 Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force | DURUNEMP>=15 / EMPSTAT in (10,12,21,22) | PRUNEDUR>=15 / PEMLR in (1:4) |

U-2 Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force | WHYUNEMP in (1:3) / EMPSTAT in (10,12,21,22) | PRUNTYPE in (1:3) / PEMLR in (1:4) |

U-3 Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate) | EMPSTAT in (21,22) / EMPSTAT in (10,12,21,22) | PEMLR in (3:4) / PEMLR in (1:4) |

U-4 Total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers | (EMPSTAT in (21,22) or UH_DSCWK_B2=1) / (EMPSTAT in (10,12,21,22) or UH_DSCWK_B2=1) | (PEMLR in (3:4) or PRDISC=1) / (PEMLR in (1:4) or PRDISC=1) |

U-5 Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labor force, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force | (EMPSTAT in (21,22) or UH_DSCWK_B2 in (1:2)) / (EMPSTAT in (10,12,21,22) or UH_DSCWK_B2 in (1:2)) | (PEMLR in (3:4) or PRDISC in (1:2)) / (PEMLR in (1:4) or PRDISC in (1:2)) |

U-6 Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force | (EMPSTAT in (21,22) or WKSTAT in (21,22) or UH_DSCWK_B2 in (1:2)) / (EMPSTAT in (10,12,21,22) or UH_DSCWK_B2 in (1:2)) | (PEMLR in (3:4) or PRWKSTAT in (3,6) or PRDISC in (1:2)) / (PEMLR in (1:4) or PRDISC in (1:2)) |

Thanks to the BLS for providing these definitions. If you have any questions about this or other issues with IPUMS data, the IPUMS User Support Team is always happy to help! They can be reached at ipums@umn.edu.