Work experience in 1983 reflects the effects of the recovery Essay

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

These data come from responses to “work experience”
questions asked in March 1984 in a supplement to the Current Popultion
Survey (CPS). The questions, which are asked annually, refer to the
work status of the civilian population over the previous calendar year.

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Because many persons change their labor force status during a year,
the total number with some employment or unemployment as measured in
this survey usually is much higher than the annual averages based on the
monthly CPS.

For 1983, the number of persons who worked all or part of the
year–117.7 million–was 17 percent higher than the annual average
civilian employment level of 100.8 million. And the number of persons
who encountered some unemployment (although lower than the previous
year) was still more than twice the annual average o the monthly
unemployment figures (23.8 million versus 10.7 million). Altogether,
19.6 percent of all persons with some labor force activity during the
year, in terms of having either worked or looked for work, experienced
some unemployment in 1983. By comparison, the annual average
unemployment rate for 1983 was 9.6 percent.

While reflecting the effects of the recovery, the data for 1983
generally are also in line with some of the salient historical trends in
employment 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 women
have become not only a larger but also a more permanent component of the
labor force.

* The proporion of men with some employment–77.6
percent–continued to decline. (In 1980, the comparable proportion was
80 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 (68
percent) were employed during the year. However, following a
longstanding pattern, the proportion of black women employed full time
year 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, nearly
one-third of black men and more than one-fourth of black women
encountered at least one spell of joblessness.

* The proportion of Hispanics encountering some unemployment was
higher than for whites but lower than for blacks. The follows a pattern
evident since these data were first tabulated separately for Hispanics
(in 1976).

* Men continued to be unemployed longer than woemn; blacks and
Hispanics were unemployed longer than whites; and older workers tended
to be unemployed longer than younger ones. The recovery’s impact
on jobs

As the economy rebounded from the severe 1981-82 recession, so did
the number of persons with jobs–particularly jobs of a full-time
year-round nature. Especially note-worthy was the fact that the number
of women with full-time year-round employment reached 25.3 million in
1983, 48 percent of all women with some work during the year. Both of
these figures are all-time highs. (See table 1.)

The proportion of employed blacks and Hispanics working full time
year round–55 percent for both–was up nearly 3 percentage points from
1982. (See table 2.) For Hispanics–as well as for whites and
blacks–the 1983 level was the highest since 1976. The tabulation below
shows the changes since 1976 in the proportion of workers in each of
these groups who worked full time the year round:

For the entire population of working age, 1983 marked the first
time in 4 years when the proportion working at some time during the
year–67.0 percent–did not decrease. In 1980 and 1981, job growth had
not kept pace with population growth, and in 1982, reflecting the
severity of the recession, the number of persons with some employment
showed an actual decline. As a result, the proportion of the population
with some employment during the year was still lower in 1983 than it had
been in 1980 (68.3 percent). This reflects the continuing decline in
the proportion of men with some emplopyment during the year, which has
been only partly offset by the rebound in the proportion of working
women. The latter reached 57.3 percent in 1983, only slightly below the
peak levels of the 1979-81 period. Group differences in employment

Until a decade ago, a greater poportion of black than white women
worked at some time during the year. However, the proportion of white
women with some employment has long been growing at a faster rate, and
since 1976 it has exceeded the proportion for black women by a gradually larger margin. By 1983, the proportion with some employment was 58
percent for white women and 53 percent for black women. However, black
women continue to be more likely than their white counterparts to work
full time year round.

As expected, women without children are most likely to be in the
labor force all year, while those with younger children are least
likely. Still, more than half of the mothers with children under age 3
who worked in 1983 did so year round.

Reflecting a long-term trend, the proportion of men with any
employment during the year–77.6 percent in 1983–reached its lowest
level since about 35 years ago when this series began. As shown in
table 3, the drop in labor force activity has been particularly evident
among older men, who have been choosing to retire at earlier ages under
Social Security Act provisions and private pension plans.

Even when they remain in the labor force, older men are now less
likely to work year round full time than was the case 10 years ago. In
contrast, among older working women there has been little change in the
percentage who work full time year round, as is shown in the following

There was also a drop over the past decade in the proportion of
young men with work experience during the year. This was evident both
among 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 the
proportion of teenagers with some employment during the year but a rise
for 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 1983
represented 19.6 percent of all persons who worked or looked for work
during the year. (See table 4.) This proportion was well below the 22
percent for 1982, when unemployment reached a recessionary peak. For
men, who were particularly hard hit by the 1981-82 recession, the
proportion with some unemployment dropped to 21 percent for 1983. This
was less than the proportion encountering unemployment in 1982, but
still above 1981’s level. For women, the proportion with some
joblessness in 1983–17.8 percent–was lower than in both prior years.

The percentage of blacks unemployed at some time during 1983 was
also lower than in 1982 and 1981. However, 1 of 3 black men and 1 of 4
black women encountered some unemployment, proportionately more than
either Hispanic or white workers.

Among industries, the greatest decrease in the proportion of
workers encountering unemployment in 1983 was in manufacturing,
particularly in durable goods, where the proportion dropped from 28 to
20 percent. As usual, the proportion of workers with the lowest
incidence of unemployment over the year was in public administration and
in finance, insurance, and real estate (10 percent for both industry
groups 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 held
at least one job during the year (84 percent), while the remaining 16
percent 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 for
the year, in contrast to 14 percent for both whites and Hispancs.

For persons with some unemployment who worked at some time during
the year, the improvement in the economy was reflected in slight
decreases in the proportions with two spells or more of joblessness and
in a reduction in the median weeks of unemployment. There also was a
small decrease in the number (and proportion) of persons reporting that
they were involuntarily working part year or part time. Part-year and
part-time workers

Among the persons who were employed less than the entire year in
1983, a far greater proportion of men than women pointed to unemployment
as the main reason. As seen in the following tabulation, of part-year
workers aged 25 to 44, 7 of 10 men but only 3 of 10 women cited
unemployment 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 because
there was “no work available.” (Some 1.3 million part-year
workers aged 16 and over in 1983, in contrast to about 2.2 million in
1982, seem to have been “discouraged” by lack of employment
opportunities, citing that the main reason they were not working or
looking for work for the remainder of the year was the unavailability of

In addition, as indicated below, more than half of men aged 25 to
44 but less than one-third of women reported they were limited to
working part time because they could not find a full-time job or because
of slack work or material shortage. Such differences generally reflect
the fact that women are more likely than men ot chose to work part time
or part year (although the choice often is imposed by child-care responsibilities), and that women are less prone to be in cyclically
sensitive employment. Unemployment and family income

The median number of weeks unemployed for persons with both
employment and unemployment during 1983 was 13.3. (This figure
represents total weeks unemployed including, for some persons, more than
one spell of unemployment.) As indicated below, women on average were
unemployed fewer weeks than men, whites fewer weeks than blacks and
Hispanics, and younger workers fewer weeks than older workers:

Clearly, the longer a person is unemployed the more severe the
impact on earnings. But what is the effect of unemployment on family
income? While the impact also is more burdensome the longer the period
of unemployment, other factors need to be considered. These include
earnings of other family members, wage levels of family earners, and
alternative sources of income such as unemployment insurance benefits
and transfer payments. For example, as seen in the following
tabulation, median family income–while substantially lower than in
similar families with no unemployment–was still about $27,000 for
married-couple families with two earners or more in which at least one
experienced some unemployment. Seven percent of such families had
incomes which fell below the Federally designated poverty thresholds.
In contrast, median family income was about $7,000 in one-earner
families maintained by women in which the earner had encountered some
unemployment during the year. More than half of such families were in

Similar patterns are found among families with involuntary part-time workers who encountered unemployment in 1983, as well as among
families with unemployed members who did not work at all during the
year. In each case, the largest proportion of families in poverty are
those maintained by women. However, even when no family members are
unemployed, median family income is relatively low for families
maintained by women ($16,000 in 1983), and a significant proportion are
in poverty (17 percent). This largely reflects the concentration of
these women in low-paying jobs, employment constraints because of
child-care responsibilities, and the absence of other family wage
earners. Unemployment, of course, compounds their problem.


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