Jobs & Employers

Jobs & Employers

Types of Job/Employer Characteristics Information

Descriptive information is collected about each job or employer and about the position a respondent occupies with that employer. The level of detail available for a given job varies by (1) whether that job was designated as the current or most recent job and (2) the number of hours per week or number of weeks worked. Complete job characteristic information is available for those jobs specified as the CPS job, as well as for those jobs at which a respondent reported working more than ten hours a week and for more than nine weeks since the date of last interview. This section briefly summarizes the differences in the kinds of data collected for the CPS versus non-CPS jobs. It then reviews the various types of job characteristic information which are available and refers users to other sections of the guide which discuss each characteristic more fully.

Be careful to distinguish these sets of job characteristic variables from the separate and distinct 1979 and 1982 data collections, which provide information on qualitative aspects of a respondent's current job such as degree of autonomy, variety, opportunity to deal with people, and job significance. This series can be distinguished from the variables discussed below by the phrase JOB CHARACTERISTICS ITEMS, which has been appended to each of the 22 1979 and 1982 variable titles. (See the Job Characteristics Index section.)

  • CPS Job: All of the job characteristic information described below--including that on firm size and job satisfaction--is available for the job designated as the "CPS job." These data are available for any CPS job regardless of whether the job is a full-time, part-time, or temporary job. During the 1979-1993 interviews, all job characteristic information about the CPS job except that pertaining to usual earnings was collected within the CPS section of the main questionnaire. Beginning with the 1994 CAPI interviews, all CPS job-related information is gathered in the Employer Supplement. Wage information across survey years continues to be collected within the job-specific Employer Supplements.
  • Non-CPS Jobs: Some detailed characteristic information is only available for non-CPS jobs meeting certain time and tenure requirements. Detailed questions are asked about jobs at which the respondent has worked for at least nine weeks since the last interview and at which the respondent generally worked at least 20 (through 1986) or 10 (since 1987) hours per week.

Brief summaries of select sets of job characteristic data appear below. References are provided to other sections of this guide that discuss these variables in more detail. Several other sets of job characteristic variables, such as union membership, coverage by a collective bargaining agreement, and whether a respondent's association with a given employer was the result of a Federally sponsored employment and training program, are also covered in other sections of this guide (such as Training).

  • Class of Worker: For each CPS job (whether full- or part-time) and to each non-CPS job for which a respondent worked for more than ten/twenty hours a week and more than nine weeks since the last interview, a code is assigned indicating whether the respondent:
    1. works for a private company or for an individual for wages, salary, or commission
    2. is a government employee
    3. is self-employed in his or her own business, professional practice, or farm
    4. is working without pay in a family business or farm

    Both the CPS and non-CPS series further identify government workers as Federal, State, or Local-level employees and distinguish the businesses of self-employed respondents as incorporated or unincorporated. [See the Class of Worker section and refer to the "User Notes" in that section detailing the changes in coding for "Class of Worker" variables.]

  • Firm Size: The number of employees both at the place where the respondent is currently employed and at other locations is available for the CPS job.  These data were collected during all survey years except 1981-85. Beginning in 1994, these variables are available for all employers.
  • Fringe Benefits: During the 1979-93 interviews, information on the availability of various types of benefits provided by the CPS employer was collected for those respondents working 20 hours or more a week. Beginning with the 1993 survey, those respondents working 20 hours a week or less were also asked if their employer made any benefits available, and if so, which ones. Beginning in 1994, benefit information was collected for both the CPS and non-CPS jobs [See the Fringe Benefits section].
  • Hours: Information on the number of hours worked at the CPS job, at each non-CPS job, and at all jobs combined is available for each survey year. A set of created summary variables provides a count of the total number of hours worked since the date of the last interview and during the past calendar year. Details on the type of shift and the actual clock hours worked have been collected during select survey years for the CPS job. Beginning in 1994, these data were collected for all employers (CPS and non-CPS).  [See the Time & Tenure with Employers and Labor Force Status sections.]
  • Industry: A code from the Census industrial classification system is assigned to each CPS job (whether full- or part-time). A Census industry classification code is assigned to each non-CPS employer for whom a respondent worked for more than ten/twenty hours a week and more than nine weeks since the last interview. [See the Industries section.]
  • Job Satisfaction: Respondents employed since the last interview are asked to rate, on a four point scale, how they feel about their current or most recent (CPS) job. Beginning in 1994, this information was collected for all CPS and non-CPS jobs. [See the Job Satisfaction section.]
  • Occupation: A code from the Census occupational classification system is assigned to each CPS job (whether full- or part-time). A Census occupational code was assigned to each non-CPS employer for whom a respondent worked for more than ten/twenty hours a week and more than nine weeks since the last interview.  [See the Occupations section.]
  • Wages: Rate of pay information, including the time unit of pay, is collected for each CPS and non-CPS job (whether full- or part-time but subject to minimum hours and weeks restrictions before 1988). A series of hourly rate of pay variables are created for each employer for whom a respondent worked since the date of last interview. [See the Wages section of this guide.]
  • Job Tasks: In the 2016 survey year, a series of questions was added about job tasks encountered during the workday (CPS job only). Respondents were first asked how much of their workday involved 1) short, repetitive tasks; 2) physical tasks; and 3) managing or supervising others. In addition, they answered a question about the length of the longest document they typically read as part of their job. Respondents also estimated how often their job included problem solving, using advanced math, and personal contact with customers, suppliers, patients, students, and others.
  • Job Stress: In the 2018 survey year, respondents answered a series of questions about job stress. First, they were asked if they had serious on-going stress at their job, such as extreme work demands, major changes, uncertainties, or not getting along with colleagues or boss. They then estimated the positive or negative effects their job had on their mental/emotional and physical health. They also were asked if it was possible for them to change the number of hours worked, have more flexibility with their hours, or move to a less stressful job position. In addition, they indicated whether their employer provided any special help should an employee's health limit his/her ability to work.
  • Effects of COVID-19 on Jobs: In the 2020 survey year, respondents were asked about the ways their jobs had been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, including questions about their work hours and earnings increasing or decreasing and if they were required to work remotely. To find COVID-related questions, use "CORONAVIRUS" as a the word-in-title search in NLS Investigator

Some variation exists across survey rounds in the level of job characteristic detail available. "Job" should not be interpreted as occupation or employment duties but rather as an employer. If a respondent changes work activities for a single employer, this is counted as only one "job."

Comparison to Other NLS Cohorts: In each survey, extensive information on jobs and employers has been collected from NLSY79 young adults. Beginning in 2000, this series was greatly streamlined with the greatest detail asked only of the current or most recent primary employer. For employee jobs, respondents in the other cohorts have reported the following information in at least some survey years: start and stop dates, labor force characteristics, class of worker, collective bargaining status, and firm size. The Young Men have provided similar information about military service, including pay and occupational data; Older Men reported the dates of any military service. With the exception of the NLSY97, no information on freelance jobs has been collected from the other NLS cohorts, although job information for self-employed respondents has been gathered as a part of the regular employment section. For more precise details about the content of each survey, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide using the tabs above for more information.

Survey Instruments and Documentation Select information on the CPS employer can only be found in the CPS section between 1979-1998 and 2006.