Work experience in 1983 reflects the effects of the recovery Essay

Reflecting the strong rebound of the economy, 1.4 million morepersons held jobs in 1983 than in 1982. And the number working yearround full time expanded even more–by nearly 3 million. In addition,there was drop of 2.7 millin in the number of persons experiencing someunemployment during the year.

These data come from responses to “work experience”questions asked in March 1984 in a supplement to the Current PopultionSurvey (CPS). The questions, which are asked annually, refer to thework status of the civilian population over the previous calendar year. Because many persons change their labor force status during a year,the total number with some employment or unemployment as measured inthis survey usually is much higher than the annual averages based on themonthly CPS. For 1983, the number of persons who worked all or part of theyear–117.7 million–was 17 percent higher than the annual averagecivilian employment level of 100.8 million. And the number of personswho encountered some unemployment (although lower than the previousyear) was still more than twice the annual average o the monthlyunemployment figures (23.8 million versus 10.

7 million). Altogether,19.6 percent of all persons with some labor force activity during theyear, in terms of having either worked or looked for work, experiencedsome unemployment in 1983. By comparison, the annual averageunemployment rate for 1983 was 9.6 percent. While reflecting the effects of the recovery, the data for 1983generally are also in line with some of the salient historical trends inemployment and unemployment, as shown by the following highlights: * Women showed a large gain in full-time year-round employment.

This continued the trend of the last several decades during which womenhave become not only a larger but also a more permanent component of thelabor force. * The proporion of men with some employment–77.6percent–continued to decline. (In 1980, the comparable proportion was80 percent and in 1950 it was 57 percent.) The drop has been particularly sharp for older men. * A smaller percentage of blacks (59 percent) than whites (68percent) were employed during the year. However, following alongstanding pattern, the proportion of black women employed full timeyear round exceeded that of white women. * As in the past, more blacks experienced unemployment than whites.

Among those with some labor force activity during the year, nearlyone-third of black men and more than one-fourth of black womenencountered at least one spell of joblessness. * The proportion of Hispanics encountering some unemployment washigher than for whites but lower than for blacks. The follows a patternevident since these data were first tabulated separately for Hispanics(in 1976).

* Men continued to be unemployed longer than woemn; blacks andHispanics were unemployed longer than whites; and older workers tendedto be unemployed longer than younger ones. The recovery’s impacton jobs As the economy rebounded from the severe 1981-82 recession, so didthe number of persons with jobs–particularly jobs of a full-timeyear-round nature. Especially note-worthy was the fact that the numberof women with full-time year-round employment reached 25.3 million in1983, 48 percent of all women with some work during the year. Both ofthese figures are all-time highs. (See table 1.) The proportion of employed blacks and Hispanics working full timeyear round–55 percent for both–was up nearly 3 percentage points from1982.

(See table 2.) For Hispanics–as well as for whites andblacks–the 1983 level was the highest since 1976. The tabulation belowshows the changes since 1976 in the proportion of workers in each ofthese groups who worked full time the year round: For the entire population of working age, 1983 marked the firsttime in 4 years when the proportion working at some time during theyear–67.0 percent–did not decrease. In 1980 and 1981, job growth hadnot kept pace with population growth, and in 1982, reflecting theseverity of the recession, the number of persons with some employmentshowed an actual decline. As a result, the proportion of the populationwith some employment during the year was still lower in 1983 than it hadbeen in 1980 (68.

3 percent). This reflects the continuing decline inthe proportion of men with some emplopyment during the year, which hasbeen only partly offset by the rebound in the proportion of workingwomen. The latter reached 57.3 percent in 1983, only slightly below thepeak levels of the 1979-81 period. Group differences in employment Until a decade ago, a greater poportion of black than white womenworked at some time during the year.

However, the proportion of whitewomen with some employment has long been growing at a faster rate, andsince 1976 it has exceeded the proportion for black women by a gradually larger margin. By 1983, the proportion with some employment was 58percent for white women and 53 percent for black women. However, blackwomen continue to be more likely than their white counterparts to workfull time year round. As expected, women without children are most likely to be in thelabor force all year, while those with younger children are leastlikely.

Still, more than half of the mothers with children under age 3who worked in 1983 did so year round. Reflecting a long-term trend, the proportion of men with anyemployment during the year–77.6 percent in 1983–reached its lowestlevel since about 35 years ago when this series began. As shown intable 3, the drop in labor force activity has been particularly evidentamong older men, who have been choosing to retire at earlier ages underSocial Security Act provisions and private pension plans. Even when they remain in the labor force, older men are now lesslikely to work year round full time than was the case 10 years ago. Incontrast, among older working women there has been little change in thepercentage who work full time year round, as is shown in the followingtabulation. There was also a drop over the past decade in the proportion ofyoung men with work experience during the year. This was evident bothamong those in their teens as well as among those 20 to 24 years old.

The trend for young women was somewhat different, with a decline in theproportion of teenagers with some employment during the year but a risefor women aged 20 to 24. Even among the latter female group, however,the percentage employed in 1983 was lower than the peak reached in 1978.Unemployment declines The 23.8 million persons who were unemployed at some time in 1983represented 19.

6 percent of all persons who worked or looked for workduring the year. (See table 4.) This proportion was well below the 22percent for 1982, when unemployment reached a recessionary peak.

Formen, who were particularly hard hit by the 1981-82 recession, theproportion with some unemployment dropped to 21 percent for 1983. Thiswas less than the proportion encountering unemployment in 1982, butstill above 1981’s level. For women, the proportion with somejoblessness in 1983–17.8 percent–was lower than in both prior years. The percentage of blacks unemployed at some time during 1983 wasalso lower than in 1982 and 1981. However, 1 of 3 black men and 1 of 4black women encountered some unemployment, proportionately more thaneither Hispanic or white workers. Among industries, the greatest decrease in the proportion ofworkers encountering unemployment in 1983 was in manufacturing,particularly in durable goods, where the proportion dropped from 28 to20 percent. As usual, the proportion of workers with the lowestincidence of unemployment over the year was in public administration andin finance, insurance, and real estate (10 percent for both industrygroups in 1983).

The highest incidence was in construction (38 percent)and agriculture (29 percent). (See table 5.) The great majority of persons with some unemployment in 1983 heldat least one job during the year (84 percent), while the remaining 16percent looked for work at least part of the time but never held a job.Nearly 1 of 3 blacks with unemployment did not report any employment forthe year, in contrast to 14 percent for both whites and Hispancs.

For persons with some unemployment who worked at some time duringthe year, the improvement in the economy was reflected in slightdecreases in the proportions with two spells or more of joblessness andin a reduction in the median weeks of unemployment. There also was asmall decrease in the number (and proportion) of persons reporting thatthey were involuntarily working part year or part time. Part-year andpart-time workers Among the persons who were employed less than the entire year in1983, a far greater proportion of men than women pointed to unemploymentas the main reason. As seen in the following tabulation, of part-yearworkers aged 25 to 44, 7 of 10 men but only 3 of 10 women citedunemployment as the major reason they were not employed year round.Also, 5 percent of men aged 25 to 44, but a smaller percentage of women(3 percent), reported that they only worked part of the year becausethere was “no work available.” (Some 1.3 million part-yearworkers aged 16 and over in 1983, in contrast to about 2.

2 million in1982, seem to have been “discouraged” by lack of employmentopportunities, citing that the main reason they were not working orlooking for work for the remainder of the year was the unavailability ofjobs.) In addition, as indicated below, more than half of men aged 25 to44 but less than one-third of women reported they were limited toworking part time because they could not find a full-time job or becauseof slack work or material shortage. Such differences generally reflectthe fact that women are more likely than men ot chose to work part timeor part year (although the choice often is imposed by child-care responsibilities), and that women are less prone to be in cyclicallysensitive employment. Unemployment and family income The median number of weeks unemployed for persons with bothemployment and unemployment during 1983 was 13.3. (This figurerepresents total weeks unemployed including, for some persons, more thanone spell of unemployment.) As indicated below, women on average wereunemployed fewer weeks than men, whites fewer weeks than blacks andHispanics, and younger workers fewer weeks than older workers: Clearly, the longer a person is unemployed the more severe theimpact on earnings.

But what is the effect of unemployment on familyincome? While the impact also is more burdensome the longer the periodof unemployment, other factors need to be considered. These includeearnings of other family members, wage levels of family earners, andalternative sources of income such as unemployment insurance benefitsand transfer payments. For example, as seen in the followingtabulation, median family income–while substantially lower than insimilar families with no unemployment–was still about $27,000 formarried-couple families with two earners or more in which at least oneexperienced some unemployment. Seven percent of such families hadincomes which fell below the Federally designated poverty thresholds.In contrast, median family income was about $7,000 in one-earnerfamilies maintained by women in which the earner had encountered someunemployment during the year. More than half of such families were inpoverty. Similar patterns are found among families with involuntary part-time workers who encountered unemployment in 1983, as well as amongfamilies with unemployed members who did not work at all during theyear.

In each case, the largest proportion of families in poverty arethose maintained by women. However, even when no family members areunemployed, median family income is relatively low for familiesmaintained by women ($16,000 in 1983), and a significant proportion arein poverty (17 percent). This largely reflects the concentration ofthese women in low-paying jobs, employment constraints because ofchild-care responsibilities, and the absence of other family wageearners. Unemployment, of course, compounds their problem.


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