A total of 153.9 million persons worked at some point during 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on December 8. The proportion of workers who worked full time, year round in 2009 was 64.0 percent, down from 65.6 percent in 2008. The number of persons who experienced some unemployment during 2009 increased by 4.9 million to 26.1 million. The sharp increase reflects the continuing weak labor market conditions experienced throughout 2009.

These data are based on information collected in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ASEC collects information on employment and unemployment experienced during the prior calendar year. Highlights from the 2009 data include:

  • The proportion of the civilian non-institutional population age 16 and over who worked at some time during 2009 was 64.9 percent, down from 67.0 percent in 2008.
  • The "work-experience unemployment rate" – defined as the number of persons unemployed at some time during the year as a proportion of the number of persons who worked or looked for work during the year – was 16.4 percent in 2009, up from 13.2 percent in 2008.
  • The number of individuals who looked for a job but did not work at all during 2009 increased by 2.7 million over the year to 5.8 million.

Persons with Employment
The percent of men who worked during 2009 was 70.6 percent, down from 73.1 percent in 2008. The proportion of women who worked at some point during 2009 was 59.6 percent, down from 61.3 percent in the prior year.

The proportions of whites (65.8 percent), blacks (58.8 percent), Asians (65.2 percent) and Hispanics (65.0 percent) who worked at some time during the year fell in 2009.

Among those with work experience during 2009, 75.3 percent were employed year round (working 50 to 52 weeks, either full or part time), down from 76.1 percent in 2008. The percentage of women working year round rose by 0.8 percentage point to 75.1 percent in 2009, and the percentage of men employed year round fell by 2.2 percentage points to 75.5 percent.

Of those employed at some time during 2009, 78.3 percent usually worked full time, down from 79.5 percent in 2008. Men were more likely to work full time during the year (84.4 percent) than were women (71.5 percent). In 2009, the proportions of employed men and women working full time declined by 1.6 and 0.7 percentage points, respectively.

Persons with Unemployment
About 159.8 million persons worked or looked for work at some time in 2009. Of those, 26.1 million experienced some unemployment during the year, up from 21.2 million in 2008. Men accounted for the majority of the over-the-year increase in unemployment.

At 16.4 percent in 2009, the "work-experience unemployment rate" (those looking for work during the year as a percent of those who worked or looked for work during the year) was 3.2 percentage points higher than in 2008. The 2009 rate was the highest since 1985. The rates for whites (15.5 percent), blacks (22.4 percent), Hispanics (20.9 percent) and Asians (12.6 percent) rose in 2009.

Overall, men continued to have higher "work-experience unemployment rates" in 2009 than women, 18.8 vs. 13.6 percent. Among whites, the rate for men (18.1 percent) was higher than that for women (12.6 percent). This also was the case for men and women among blacks (26.1 and 19.1 percent, respectively) and Hispanics (23.7 and 16.9 percent, respectively.) The rates for Asian men (12.4 percent) and Asian women (12.8 percent) were little different.

Among those who experienced unemployment in 2009, the median number of weeks spent looking for work was 19.7, up from 15.2 in 2008. The number of individuals who looked for a job but did not work at all increased by 2.7 million to about 5.8 million individuals in 2009. Of the 20.3 million persons who worked during 2009 and also experienced unemployment, 20.5 percent had 2 or more spells of joblessness, down from 22.1 percent in 2008.