skip to content
Primary navigation

Glossary of Labor Market Terms

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z ]


Average Monthly Wage

Total annual wages divided by the number of employers on nonagricultural payrolls divided by 12.



A point of reference, either an estimate or a count, from which measurements can be made or upon which adjustments to estimates are based.

Business Cycle

A periodically repeated sequence of fluctuations in the aggregate economy of an area, or the nation as a whole, varying in duration, but consisting of: a) upturn, including recovery and prosperity b) cyclical peak c) downturn including recession and d) cyclical trough.

Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)

An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce responsible for estimation of Gross Domestic Product. Data from the CES and QCEW programs are used in the GDP estimates.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

An agency within the U.S. Department of Labor, this organization is the principal data-gathering agency of the federal government in the field of labor economics. It collects, processes, analyzes and disseminates data relating to employment, unemployment, the labor force, productivity, prices, family expenditures, wages, industrial relations and occupational safety and health.

Bureau of the Census

A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce which conducts censuses of population and housing every 1O years and of agriculture, business, governments, manufacturers, mineral industries, and transportation at 5-year intervals. The Census Bureau also conducts the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) in cooperation with BLS. Data from this survey are the source of unemployment statistics.



A complete count, as opposed to a sample, of a specified population or some other measurable characteristic in a given geographic region.

Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP)

The CIP is a taxonomic coding scheme that contains titles and descriptions of primarily post secondary instructional programs. It was developed to facilitate the collection and reporting of post secondary degree completions by major field of study using standard classifications that capture the majority of reportable program activity.


Individuals aged 16 years or older, not members of the Armed Services and not in institutions such as prisons, mental hospitals, or nursing homes.

Civilian Labor Force

The number of individuals age 16 or over who are employed or unemployed. People who are not working or actively looking for work are not included in the labor force.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

A measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. Covered Employment - Those jobs covered by the Unemployment Compensation program. Generally, those not covered include some agricultural workers, certain domestics, certain nonprofit employees and self-employed workers.

Current Employment Statistics (CES)

A federal-state cooperative statistical program to estimate current employment in a state or sub-state area. A statistically valid sample of employers is surveyed to supply total number of employees, total number of female employees, total number of production workers, total number of hours worked, and total wages earned. This survey is the basis of current estimates of these characteristics. It is used in the calculation of the monthly estimates of employed, unemployed, and the unemployment rate.

Current Population Survey (CPS)

Monthly household survey of a sample of the civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over. Conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The survey provides a variety of demographic, economic, and social characteristics, including data to calculate the unemployment rate.


Discouraged workers

Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but who are not currently looking because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify.

Durable Goods

Manufactured items with a normal life expectancy of three years or more. Automobiles, furniture, and household appliances are examples. Because of their nature, expenditures for durable goods are generally postponable. Consequently, durable goods sales are a more volatile component of consumer expenditures.


Economic indicator

A set of data that serves as a tool for analyzing current economic conditions and future prospects. Usually classified according to their timing in relationship to the ups and downs of the business cycle, that is, whether they anticipate (lead), coincide with, or lag behind general business conditions.


Those individuals, 16 years of age or older, who worked at least one hour for pay or profit or worked at least 15 unpaid hours in a family business, during the reference week (the week including the 12th of the month). Individuals are also counted as employed if they have a job but did not work because of illness, bad weather, vacation, labor dispute, or other personal reason.

Employer Identification Number (EIN)

A 9-digit identification number assigned to employers by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

Employment, Total

An estimate of area residents who earned wages during the week including the 12th of each month. This estimate includes wage and salary employees, agricultural employees, self-employed and unpaid family workers, domestics, and employees on strike.

Employment and Training Administration (ETA)

A part of the U.S. Department of Labor. This agency oversees the State Unemployment Insurance Programs and job training and placement services provided by the State Employment Security Agencies.


An economic unit that produces goods or services, usually at a single physical location.


Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS)

Standards for information processing issues by the National Bureau of Standards in the U.S. Department of Commerce. Includes a numeric designation for geographic areas such as states, counties, and Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Areas.


A business entity, either corporate or otherwise. May consist of one or several establishments.

Forecast Data

Data based on future projections or estimates. The data will usually change when the future becomes the past.

Frictional Unemployment

The temporary joblessness which results from individuals who are between jobs, are engaged in seasonal work, have quit their jobs and are looking for better ones, or are looking for their first jobs. This type of unemployment is usually short term and is caused by the economy's inability to immediately match job seekers with jobs.

Full Employment

A state of the economy in which all persons who want to work can find employment without much difficulty at the prevailing rates of pay. This does not mean the same thing as zero unemployment because seasonal and frictional unemployment will still exist to some extent.

Full-Time Employment

Generally includes persons who worked 35 hours or more during the survey week (week of the month that includes the 12th). Persons who worked between one and 34 hours are designated as working part-time.


Goods-Producing Industries

A category within the North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS, which includes manufacturing, construction, and natural resources and mining.



A group of establishments that produce similar products or provide similar services. For example, all establishments that manufacture automobiles are in the same industry. A given industry, or even a particular establishment in that industry, might have employees in dozens of occupations. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) groups similar establishments into industries.

Initial Claim

Notice filed by a worker at the beginning of a period of unemployment requesting a determination of insured status for jobless benefits.


Labor Force

Includes all persons 16 years of age or older, living within a specified geographic area who are either employed or unemployed. This is a count of persons, not jobs, by location of residence and not by location of work.

Labor Force Participation Rate

The civilian non-institutionalized population age 16 and over of an area divided into the area's civilian labor force, expressed as a percentage or rate.

Labor Market Area (LMA)

A labor market area consists of a central city or cities and the surrounding territory within normal commuting distance. Persons in a labor market area can change jobs without having to change residences. The boundaries depend primarily on economic and geographic factors rather than on political jurisdictions.

Labor Market Information (LMI)

Data on job seekers, employment, unemployment, changes in industrial structure, technological changes, conditions of employment, wage rates and other related data.


Suspension from pay by the company for reasons such as lack of orders, plant breakdown, shortage of materials, or termination of seasonal or temporary employment.

Local Employment Dynamics (LED)

The LED Program is a partnership between the Census Bureau and the participating states. LED produces demographic employment information called Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI) for each partner state, as well as each partner state's metropolitan areas, combined non-metropolitan areas, counties, and Workforce Investment Board areas.

Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

A Federal-State cooperative program that develops monthly estimates of the labor force, employment, unemployment, and unemployment rates for the state, all counties, Workforce Development Areas, labor market areas, metropolitan divisions, combined statistical areas, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas, and cities with a population of 25,000 or more.

Location Quotient

Ratio that compares the concentration of a resource or activity, such as employment, in a defined area to that of a larger area or base. For example, location quotients can be used to compare state employment by industry to that of the nation.


Mass Layoff

A situation that involves at least 50 persons at the same establishment, each of who has filed an initial claim for unemployment insurance benefits during a consecutive five-week period.


Calculated by dividing the sum of values in a particular statistical universe by the number of units in the universe. Also referred to as the average.


The value that divides a particular distribution (like wage rates) into two equal parts, one part having values above the median and the other having values below the median.

Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

An area containing a city of at least 50,000 or an urbanized area of at least 50,000 with a total metropolitan population of at least 100,000. MSA's are defined by cities and towns within New England and by counties throughout the remainder of the country.

Micropolitan Statistical Area

These are smaller geographic areas based on having at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 population but less than 50,000, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.


A firm or reporting unit that consists of more than one establishment or physical location.


New Entrants

Unemployed persons who never worked before and who are entering the labor force for the first time, based on the Current Population Survey.

Nonagricultural Wage and Salary Employment

Includes persons on nonagricultural establishment payrolls (including employees on paid sick leave, paid holiday or paid vacation) who work or receive pay for any part of the pay period including the 12th of the month. It does not include proprietors, self-employed, unpaid volunteer or family workers, domestic workers in households, military personnel, and persons who are laid off, on leave without pay or on strike for the entire reference period.

Nondurable Goods

Manufactured items that generally last for only a short time (three years or less). Food, beverages, apparel and gasoline are common examples. Because of their nature, nondurable goods are generally purchased when needed.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)

The successor to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system; this system of classifying business establishments is being used by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. NAICS is an industry classification system that groups establishments into industries based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged. It is a comprehensive system covering the entire field of economic activities, producing and non-producing.


Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

OES is a federal-state cooperative program between the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and state agencies. Surveyed employers are asked about the number of wage and salary workers in detailed occupations and about the wage distribution for those workers. OES survey samples are drawn from the universe of non-farm employers covered by the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system.

Occupational Staffing Patterns

Description of an industry in terms of its occupational distribution. For example, an occupational staffing pattern for the electrical machinery industry would indicate how many of the workers in the industry were employed as electrical engineers, electronic technicians, assemblers, and so on.


Per Capita Income

The mean income computed for every man, woman, and child in a particular group. It is derived by dividing the total income of a particular group by the total population in that group.


Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW)

A federal-state cooperative program that collects employment and wage information for workers covered by State unemployment insurance (UI) laws and for Federal workers covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program. Data includes wage, employment, address and coding information for individual establishments. This data is used for evaluating labor trends and major industry developments and is also used in time series analyses, industry comparisons, and analyses of wages by size of establishment. It also serves as a benchmark for employment by industry and employment by size of establishment in the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program, the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Statistics program.



Unemployed persons who previously worked but were out of the labor force prior to beginning their job search, based on the Current Population Survey.


Seasonal Adjustments

Statistical modifications made to compensate for predictable fluctuations which recur more or less regularly every year in a time series such as unemployment rates. These fluctuations tend to conceal underlying trends. Seasonally adjusted estimates give a clearer picture of long-term trends by compensating for such influences as summer school closings and holiday hiring.

Seasonal Industry

An industry in which business activity is affected by regularly recurring events such as weather changes, holidays, or vacations.

Self-Employed Worker

An individual who works more or less regularly, but usually does so in his/her own home or office, and is not listed on any establishment's payroll.


Employment terminations caused by quits, layoffs, or other reasons such as death, retirement, permanent disability, or transfer.

Service-Providing Industries

A category within the North American Industry Classification System which includes trade, transportation, and utilities; information; financial activities; professional and business services; education and health services; leisure and hospitality; other services.

Standard Occupational Classification (SOC)

This system is being adopted by Federal statistical agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. All workers are classified into 1 of more than 800 occupations according to their occupational definition. To facilitate classification, occupations are combined to form 23 major groups, 96 minor groups, and 449 broad occupations. Each broad occupation includes detailed occupations) requiring similar job duties, skills, education, or experience.


A temporary stoppage of work by a group of workers (not necessarily union members) to express a grievance or enforce a demand. A strike is initiated by the workers of an establishment.

Structural Unemployment

Long-term joblessness resulting from changes in job skill requirements, job skill obsolescence, and the availability of job skill training programs.



Persons who are employed in positions that do not utilize their skill or educational level or who desire a full-time job but are only working part-time because of economic conditions.


An estimate of people age 16 and over who are not employed and who made a specific effort to find work in the last four weeks and were available for work. It includes new entrants to the labor force, re-entrants, job losers, and job leavers. Usually expressed as a monthly figure, or an annual average of monthly estimates. The data is based on the Current Population Survey and includes many more people than just those who have filed claims for unemployment insurance.

Unemployment Insurance

A program that provides cash benefits for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are able to work, available to work, and who are actively seeking work. Eligibility to receive these benefits is set by law. The program is financed through taxes paid into a trust fund by employers for their employees.

Unemployment Rate

The total number of unemployed as a percentage of the total labor force (employed plus unemployed), based on the Current Population Survey. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is calculated in the same manner using seasonally adjusted labor force and unemployment data.


Wage and Salary Workers

Workers who receive wages, salaries, commissions, tips, payment in kind, or piece rates. The group includes employees in both the private and public sectors.

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z ]

back to top