April 28, 2014
In 20 percent of American families in 2013, according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), not one member of the family worked.
A family, as defined by the BLS, is a group of two or more people who live together and who are related by birth, adoption or marriage. In 2013, there were 80,445,000 families in the United States and in 16,127,000—or 20 percent–no one had a job.
The BLS designates a person as “employed” if “during the survey reference week” they “(a) did any work at all as paid employees; (b) worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm; (c) or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family.”
Members of the 16,127,000 families in which no one held jobs could have been either unemployed or not in the labor force. BLS designates a person as unemployed if they did not have a job but were actively seeking one. BLS designates someone as not in the labor force if they did not have a job and were not actively seeking one. (An elderly couple, in which both the husband and wife are retired, would count as a family in which no one held a job.)
Of the 80,445,000 families in the United States in 2013, there were 7,685,000—or about 9.6 percent—in which at least one family member unemployed.
The BLS has been tracking data on employment in families since 1995. That year, the percent of families in which no one had a job was 18.8 percent. The percentage hit an all-time high of 20.2 percent in 2011. It held steady at 20 percent in in 2012 and 2013.
The data on employment in families is based on Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey of the civilian noninstitutional population, which includes people 16 and older, who are not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, nursing home or mental hospital.