Employers & Jobs

Employers & Jobs

Created Variables

YEMP_UID.01, 02, etc.  Unique employer ID for Employer 1, 2, etc.

CV_MAINJOB_FLG. Lists the loop number of the current or most recent employer as of the interview date. The loop number listed corresponds to the position of the job on the roster, in the created variables, and in the questionnaire data. For example, if CV_MAINJOB_FLG=2, the current or most recent job in that survey round is in the second position on the roster. Created for all rounds.

YEMP_CURFLAG.01, YEMP_CURFLAG.02, etc. Roster item that indicates whether or not respondent is currently working for Employer 01, 02, etc. 

CVC_VET_STATUS. Indicates whether the respondent ever served in the active military, the reserves or the National Guard. 

YEMP_INTERN.01, YEMP_INTERN.02, etc. Roster item that indicates whether respondent's job is an internship at Employer 01, 02, etc.


Event History Variables

The first set of event history arrays provides information on the respondent's employment on a weekly basis. These arrays include information about employee jobs held at age 14 and above and self-employed jobs held at age 18 and above; freelance jobs are not included in the arrays. All employment arrays provide information starting when the respondent turned 14 and ending the week prior to the week they were interviewed in the most recent survey round. The arrays are presented using a continuous week and year naming scheme (see Appendix 7 of the NLSY97 Codebook Supplement). In this format, the first week of January 1980 is numbered week 1, the second week of January 1980 is numbered week 2, and so on through the end of the year; the week numbers then start over for the first week of January 1981. Weeks are listed by exact date as well.

EMP_STATUS. This main array presents the employment status of a respondent in a particular week. Respondents may be classified as:

  • not associated with an employer, not actively searching for an employee job
  • not working (unemployment vs. out of labor force cannot be determined)
  • associated with an employer, periods not working for employer are missing
  • unemployed
  • out of the labor force
  • in active military service
  • working for an employer, indicated by the employer's ID number

EMP_DUAL_JOB#. If a respondent holds more than one job during a week, the ID number of the second job is presented in the dual jobs arrays. These arrays contain the job number of the overlapping job; labor force status information is only included in the main array. For example, if a respondent held two jobs (e.g., the first and third jobs listed on the employer roster), during the 52nd week of 1997, the employer number for the first job is recorded in the EMP_STATUS array and the employer number for the third job is recorded in the EMP_DUAL_2 array.

EMP_HOURS. This final array calculates the total number of hours worked by a respondent at any job during a given week. Hours per week worked at each job are assumed constant except during a reported gap, when the hours for that job are assumed to be zero. Each week is assigned a code of -3 (invalid skip) when any of the jobs has an indeterminate month or year.

Start/Stop Date Variables. In addition to the three arrays, the employment event history includes a set of variables that provides the start and stop date of each job and each gap within a job in a continuous week and year format. For example, if the respondent started job #01 on May 4, 1997 (the 19th week of the year), the variable for the start week would have a value of 19 and the variable for the start year would have a value of 1997. These continuous week variables will aid researchers in making comparisons to the status arrays, which are reported in the same format. A crosswalk between the continuous week numbers and the actual dates is provided in Appendix 7 of the NLSY97 Codebook Supplement.

EMP_BK_WKS_XXXX. This variable provides, for interview years starting in 2000, the total number of weeks prior to the previous interview date that a back-reported job started. The weeks prior to the previous interview date are not updated in the employment event history arrays; however, information for the weeks that occur after the previous interview date are included in the arrays.

EMP_BK_STATUS_XXXX. This variable gives the number of weeks from a current round back-reported job's start date to the date of last interview that a nonworking status (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) would have changed in the EMP_STATUS arrays to the back-reported job's employer ID had this job been included in the last interview. The weeks prior to and including the previous interview date are not updated in the employment event history arrays, but information for this job's weeks that occur after the previous interview date are included in the arrays. This variable is available starting in interview year 2000.

EMP_BK_HOURS_XXXX. This variable gives the number of hours per week from a current round back-reported job's start date to the date of last interview that would have been included in the EMP_HOURS arrays had this job been included in the last interview. The hours per week prior to and including the previous interview date are not updated in the employment event history arrays, but information for this job's hours per week that occur after the previous interview date are included in the arrays. This variable is available starting in interview year 2000.

Deny Variables for Employment. "Deny variables" in the employment status section flag respondents who deny a job reported in a previous survey round.

In round 1, the NLSY97 collected an employment history for three types of jobs: employee jobs, freelance jobs, and military service (self-employed was collected as part of the freelance section). Subsequent surveys confirm the data gathered in the previous interview and then ask about employers, freelance jobs or self-employment, and military service since the date of last interview. This section highlights key questions asked for each job type; other characteristics of each job are described in the remaining employment subsections (e.g., Fringe Benefits, Industry).

Important Information About Using Employer & Job Variables

  1. The employer roster contains flags indicating whether the employer was current at the date of interview, whether the job was in the military, and whether the employer was part of a paid internship experience. The interview questions that collected this information prior to the creation of the roster are not released on the data set but are shown in the questionnaire. Conversely, the roster items appear in the data set but have no questions associated with them in the questionnaire. See Employment: An Introduction for more information on rosters.
  2. Some respondents do not provide complete information about start and stop dates of employment during the interview. When the event history variables are created, survey staff must account for these missing data. For example, if a respondent reported the month and year that a job began and ended but did not know the exact days, the 1st is imputed for the start date and the 28th for the end date. Substituting in this way permits the creation of employment variables that closely approximate the true conditions. Detailed information about the imputation rules is provided in Appendix 6 in the NLSY97 Codebook Supplement.
  3. The created event history variables can be used in conjunction with the main file information about the respondent's employment. Like the main file variables, the event history variables use two systems of identification for a respondent's employers. First, the event history variables contained in the week-by-week status and dual job arrays use the unique ID numbers (UID) for each employer. To associate these employers with job characteristic information collected during the interview, which numbers jobs as employer #01, employer #02, etc., researchers must use the YEMP_UID.xx crosswalk variables from the employer roster. A second set of event history variables, those providing start and stop date information, use the job #01 numbering convention for a specific round. The number in the title of these variables refers to the same job as the variables in the main data set with the same number, so users can compare all information about job #02, for example, without any additional ID variables. However, to compare event history start and stop date information about job #01, for example, with information in the event history week-by-week status arrays, researchers must first use the YEMP_UID.xx crosswalk variables to identify the employer ID (9701-9707, 9801-9809, 199901-199909, etc.) that matches job #01.
  4. If a job had already been reported during a previous interview, the start date questions were asked at that time. In this case, respondents are asked to report the above information only as it pertains to the stop date or current interview date. However, if the job had been previously reported and the job ended less than 13 weeks after the start date, no additional information is collected in the current interview. In this situation the job characteristics data described above are available in the previous round's data.
  5. Some respondents reported new jobs in round 2 that ended before their round 1 interview date. (These jobs should have been reported in round 1 but were overlooked by the respondent.) In these cases no data about job characteristics were collected, but the start and stop dates are still represented in the roster.
  6. Researchers should read the user notes in Employment: An Introduction before using employer characteristic data for analyses. These user notes contain important information about the assignment of employer ID numbers, the creation of the employer roster, and the association of employers across survey years.
  7. Because job information is gathered by asking about employer, not job, most job variable titles will include the designation EMP 01, EMP 02, etc. For instance, the question title "HOURLY PAYRATE (START/RESUME) EMP 01" asks the respondent to provide the hourly pay rate for the first employer listed on the employer roster. The respondent will be looped through the series of questions about the job with this employer. If a respondent has a second employer, he will loop through the same set of questions again for Employer #2. This looping continues until the respondent has provided employment information for all of his/her employers. Note that a respondent could have two different occupations within the same employer.
  8. Due to an error in the way freelance jobs were listed on the roster in round 2, about 150 respondents are missing start date information for a freelance job. In some cases the information is available in the round 1 data for jobs that were previously reported. All other data about the freelance job were collected, and this problem was corrected for round 3.
  9. Respondents' answers to the class of worker question (e.g., YEMP-58500) are used to determine whether the employer is the Armed Forces or a regular employer. For each job, this question asks whether the respondent is employed by the government, employed by a private company, employed by a nonprofit organization, working without pay in a family business or farm, or a member of the Armed Forces. The data indicate that some respondents in the military do not correctly answer "member of the Armed Forces." If another answer is given, the respondent skips the military questions and enters the regular employer series. In addition, a programming error in rounds 2-4 caused some respondents with military employment ongoing since a prior round to be directed to the regular employer questions rather than the military questions. This error was corrected in round 5. To account for these problems, researchers can use roster variable YEMP_MILFLAG to identify military jobs included on the regular employer roster. This variable allows researchers to include additional respondents in military analyses or to exclude military respondents from analyses of civilian jobs.

Employee Jobs

In rounds 1 and 2, only respondents age 14 and older were eligible to answer the series of questions on employee jobs; in subsequent rounds, all respondents have reached age 14 and are eligible for this section. The surveys collect details on all current and previously held employee jobs at which the respondent has worked since his or her 14th birthday. For each employee job, these respondents are asked about the job's starting and ending dates and the labor force characteristics (e.g., rate of pay, type of business) of the job at its start date. If the job lasted longer than 13 weeks (this changed to jobs lasting 26 weeks or longer starting in 2013), the respondent reports this same information as of the job's stop date (or as of the interview date if the job is on-going). The round 1 survey also asked respondents about their relationship to the person who hired them and to the person who recommended them for the job. There is no limit on the number of employee jobs that the respondent may report.

In rounds 9 and up, respondents who were working for an employment agency first reported information on the agency itself, then information on the most recent assignment.

Additional information is collected from respondents who report a job that ended after their 16th birthday (or, for those age 16 and over, who report an on-going job). The first question determines whether the job is/was in the Armed Forces or a civilian job for a government agency (e.g., local, state, federal), a private or for-profit company, a non-profit organization, or a family business without pay. Respondents in the Armed Forces answer the military service questions described below. The survey questions civilian respondents about the characteristics of each job and employer. For example, questions are asked about whether the respondent is/was covered by collective bargaining and the gender, race, and age of the respondent's immediate supervisor. The respondent also reports what type of schedule he or she worked (e.g., regular day shift, split shift, irregular schedule). Other questions in this section gather information about the number of employees working at the same location as the respondent and the number of employees working for that firm across all locations. One question also gathers the level of job satisfaction for each job (e.g., like it very much, think it is okay). For jobs that have ended, the respondent is asked to state the main reason that he or she left the job. Rounds 18 and 19 include a question about any non-compete agreements signed prior to taking a position.

Several new employment topics were introduced in round 20, with the most prevalent being a number of questions about COVID-19’s impact on a respondent’s job and employment status. Respondents were asked if they experienced unique circumstances due to COVID-19 or the larger Coronavirus pandemic, such as a change in work hours, earnings, or job status. (See Gaps in Employment section for additional topics.) Respondents were also asked if gaps in employment were related to COVID-19/the pandemic, and if they applied for unemployment insurance during the general timeframe of the pandemic (since March 2020). Other new employment topics in round 20 included questions about working from home and a question about the respondent’s hypothetical required severance to quit a current job.

Job Tasks. Starting in round 18, respondents were asked a new series of questions on various aspects of their jobs. They were first asked how much of their workday involved the following:

  • carrying out short, repetitive tasks
  • doing physical tasks such as standing, handling objects, operating machinery or vehicles or making or fixing things with hands
  • managing or supervising other workers

They were also asked how often they did problem solving at work, how much advanced math was involved in the problem solving, and what was the length of the longest document they typically read on the job.

In addition, they answered questions on the frequency of their personal contact with other people at work and how often they interacted with customers, suppliers, students, and patients.

Freelance Jobs

In the freelance section of the questionnaire, the survey gathers information from respondents age 12 or 13 (at the survey date) about all jobs they held since age 12. Respondents age 14 and older are questioned on freelance jobs, such as snow shoveling or baby-sitting, they have held since the age of 14. For all jobs reported in this section, the respondent is first asked to state the type of job he or she had and the month and year when it began and ended. Details are then collected about the job's characteristics when it began and ended (or as of the date of the interview if the job is current). These questions ask for the usual number of hours worked per week, the amount earned per week, and the number of weekday versus weekend hours. The round 1 survey also recorded whether the respondent had help in finding the job and the relationship of the person who helped. When these responses are combined with the information collected about employee jobs, the respondent's employment history (from age 14) can be constructed by researchers. See Work Experience for details on employment history data.

Beginning in round 4, older respondents no longer go through the freelance jobs series. See the following paragraphs on self-employment for details.


In rounds 1-3, a respondent who was age 16 or older and reported earning $200 a week or more at freelance job(s) was considered to be self-employed. In addition to the data collected for freelance jobs, self-employed respondents also reported the industry and occupation of the job, the number of employees working for the respondent, their usual time of day to work, and the reason the job ended if it was not current. 

Beginning in round 4, the structure of the employment section of the questionnaire was different than in previous rounds. Older respondents reported both self-employment jobs and employee jobs in the employer loop and skipped past the freelance section. In these cases, details collected for self-employment jobs are the same as those for employee jobs. In round 4 this group was made up of respondents who were born in 1980-82; the round 5 survey included those born in 1980-83. Younger respondents reported only regular employee jobs in the employer loop and continue to list both freelance and self-employment jobs in the freelance section. This followed the same process as previous rounds; information on self-employment jobs was the same as that collected for freelance jobs. This younger group included respondents born in 1983-84 for round 4 and those born in 1984 for round 5.

In round 6, all respondents reported both self-employment jobs and employee jobs in the employer loop. The freelance section was dropped from the survey. From round 6 forward, information on self-employment mirrors that collected for regular employee jobs.

Military Service

Respondents first indicate in which branch of the Armed Forces they serve and whether they serve in the regular forces, the reserves, or the National Guard. The survey then collects occupational and pay information from respondents age 16 or older who report their employer as an active branch of the Armed Forces; these questions are described in Occupation and Wages.

Round 13 introduced a series of questions aimed at military veterans. Respondents who had ever been in the military reported on combat service, classification and rank/grade at time of discharge, service medals awarded, military disability, Transition Assistance Program workshop attendance and subsequent usefulness, contact with state workforce or employment-service specialist for employment assistance or training, and to what extent the respondents' current employment is related to armed forces training.

Comparison to Other NLS Surveys: For employee jobs, respondents in each cohort 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. Young Men, the NLSY79, and Children of the NLSY79 respondents age 15 and older have provided similar information about military service, including pay and occupational data; Older Men reported the dates of any military service. 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 further details, consult the appropriate cohort's User's Guide.

Survey Instruments: The employment section of the Youth Questionnaire asks these questions. Question names begin with YEMP- and roster items begin with YEMP_.

Related User's Guide Sections Self-Employment Characteristics
Main Area of Interest Employment: Jobs & Employers
Employment: Military
Supplemental Areas of Interest Employment Gaps
Employment: Labor Force Status
Employment: Self-Employment
Education: School-Based Learning