The Nature and Measurement of Unemployment
NBER Working Paper No. 252
Problems of defining and measuring unemployemnt in the contemporary American economy are examined here using data from the official employment survey. The paper finds that only a minority of the unemployed conform to the conventional picture of a worker who has lost one job and is looking f or another job. Other important categories are those who have jobs but are not at work because the jobs have not yet started or because of layoff, workers who are in normal spells between temporary jobs, people who are looking into the possibility of work as an alternative to household duties, school, or retirement, and people who have come back into the labor force. None of these categories is dominant. One of the most significant findings is the large number of the unemployed (close to a million in 1977) who are looking for temporary work. Another important finding is that only a minority of the unemployed are looking for work as their major activity during the week of the survey. The majority of those classified officially as unemployed are identified by the household as keeping house, going to school, or retired.