Jobs & Employers

Jobs & Employers

Created Variables

NUMBER OF JOBS SINCE LAST INTERVIEW: These variables reflect the number of jobs held since the last interview date.
NUMBER OF JOBS IN CALENDAR YEAR: These variables reflect the number of jobs held in the calendar year prior to the survey year.
NUMBER OF DIFFERENT JOBS EVER REPORTED AS OF INTERVIEW DATE: These variables contain a count of the number of jobs the respondent has ever reported as of the current survey.


Important Information About Using Jobs & Employers Data

1. A job is an employer in the NLSY79, and the terms "job" and "employer" are used interchangeably throughout the NLSY79 documentation.

2. The NLSY79 designates a "CPS employer" in each round, which refers to the current/most recent job held since the last interview by civilian respondents. Although some information is collected about all jobs held, the information for the CPS employer is not subject to any hours or weeks restrictions for certain items such as wage, industry, and occupation. (For more information about the CPS employer, see the Current or Most Recent (CPS) Employer subsection later in this section).

3. Employers can be linked from one interview to the next using the PREV_EMP# variables. See Appendix 9 for more information.

 The NLSY79 collects detailed information about individual employers for whom a respondent has worked. These data are gathered within several sections of the main questionnaire and in some years in separately administered, job-specific instruments called Employer Supplements and include:

  1. the types of employers about whom information is collected during each survey round
  2. the variable series which provides a cumulative count of employers for whom a respondent has worked

Employer Data Collection

Detailed information is collected during each interview on new and previously reported employers for whom a respondent has worked since the date of the last interview. Two sets of employers are identified based upon when the respondent first reports working for that employer: 

  1. new employers for whom the respondent reported working since the date of the last interview
  2. previously reported employers with whom employment has been maintained (for any length of time) or renewed since the date of the last interview.  Previous employers (category 2) are further distinguished by whether the respondent was working for them at or before the date of the last interview

Until 1994, the current or most recent employer, called the "CPS employer," is differentiated in the data set from other employers for whom the respondent reported working since the last interview by title (that is, start date for CPS job, start date for Job #2, start date for Job #3, and so forth). Beginning in 1994, CPS job information is simply labeled as "job #1" because job specific information is all collected in the Employer Supplement. Every employer for whom a respondent worked since the last interview, including the CPS employer, is identified within the data set by a yearly job number, for example, Job #1, Job #5, with the number reflecting the order in which the job was reported. The detailed job characteristic information at the end of this section is collected for each CPS job, regardless of whether it is a full- or part-time job. 

Because the NLSY79 employer data collection relies on the successive administration of several survey instruments that not only gather information on multiple employers but also connect that information to data provided during earlier interviews, a brief overview of the mechanics of each interview's job collection effort follows.

Administration of the Survey Instruments Collecting Job Information: Two different sections of the NLSY79 questionnaire and until 1993 separate employer-specific survey instruments called the Employer Supplements (ES) collect employer-related information. Using these two instruments, interviewers gather details about all employers for whom a respondent has worked since the date of last interview. An interviewing aid called the Information Sheet is also provided to each interviewer; this document lists the names of employers reported during previous surveys and is used by the interviewer during the current interview to update each respondent's work record with a previous employer, if work with an employer took place since the date of last interview. 

A quick overview of the instruments used to collect NLSY79 jobs data and the function each performs is provided in Table 1. The sequence in which employer-related questionnaire sections are administered has implications for the universe of respondents for whom job-related information is available. During all surveys to date, the "Military" section of the questionnaire has been administered prior to the two employer-related sections, the "CPS" and "On Jobs," and the Employer Supplements. After completing the "Military" section of the questionnaire, those respondents serving in the active forces were skipped past most or all of the CPS section to the "On Jobs" section in order to determine if they had been engaged in any civilian work since the last interview. Those not currently in the active forces have been routed directly to the CPS section, where detailed information on their current or most recent job and other labor market activities is collected.

Table 1. Functions of the Various Job-Related Survey Instruments

Sections of the Main Questionnaire
"CPS" "On Jobs"
Until 1993, functioned to identify the respondent's current or most recent job and to collect detailed information about the CPS job.  Beginning in 1994, no job specific information was collected in the CPS section. Instead, it is all collected in the Employer Supplements. Identifies and lists, in reverse chronological order, all employers for whom the respondent has worked SINCE the date of last interview (excluding the CPS job). Checks to see that the respondent has not missed any employers for whom he or she was working AT the date of last interview.  Since 1993, this section mechanically determines the CPS job. In 2002, nontraditional jobs added. 
Employer-Specific Instruments
Employer Supplements (ES)
Collect, in separate employer-specific supplements, detailed information on each employer for whom the respondent worked SINCE the date of last interview.  The first instrument is generally completed about the CPS job and supplements information on that job collected in the CPS section of the main questionnaire. Additional supplements are completed for each job listed in the "On Jobs" section.  In 1979 and since 1993, Job #1 is always the CPS job if there is a CPS job. Since 1994, all CPS job information is collected in ES#1, as with all other jobs. In 2002, irregular pay (teachers on partial year contracts) and self employment was added.
Interviewing Aid
Information Sheet
Provides each interviewer with a respondent-specific list of employers for whom a respondent has reported working between the previous two interviews.  Questions in both the "On Jobs" section of the main questionnaire and in each Employer Supplement route the interviewer to the names of employers for whom the respondent reported working at an earlier interview. Two sets of employers are listed: 
  1. names of each employer reported AT the date of last interview
  2. names of each employer for whom a respondent worked between the last and the PREVIOUS to the last interviews. An Employer Supplement is completed for each employer listed on the Information Sheet if the respondent has worked for that employer since the date of last interview. With the advent of computer-assisted interviewing in 1993, this is no longer a printed document but rather an electronic file loaded on the interviewer's laptop and accessed automatically by the questionnaire software.

The universe for the CPS variables, thus, is civilian respondents--those not serving in the active forces--who were working for pay either during the survey week or since the date of last interview. The universe for "On Jobs" includes all respondents, both civilian and military. Users should note that although the sequencing of the "Military," "CPS," and "On Jobs" sections was modified in the 1993 CAPI-administered interviews, no universe changes occurred.

During each interview, a separate Employer Supplement is completed about each employer for whom the respondent worked. Questions in each Employer Supplement link information about these earlier jobs with the employer information collected in the CPS section of the main questionnaire, if appropriate, and with the employer (job) number of this employer, if any, assigned at the previous interview. Users should note that, after the implementation of CAPI, the Employer Supplement physically became a part of the questionnaire. 

Capturing jobs outside of the traditional forms of employment: In rounds previous to 2002, the survey had trouble capturing information about jobs outside of the traditional forms of employment. One key type of job is self-employment; respondents who own their own businesses sometimes had difficulty with questions phrased under the assumption that the respondent worked for someone else.  The second type of job is nontraditional employment, wherein the respondent works for a temporary agency, under some type of contract, or in an on-call arrangement. Respondents in this kind of employment tend to have a large number of jobs and gaps in employment, and the survey had trouble capturing this information efficiently in past rounds.

On jobs: Beginning with the 2002 survey, the section on jobs serves two functions. First, as in previous survey rounds, the respondent reports all of his or her employers since the last interview, so that they can be included on the roster. Second, a new set of questions is asked to ascertain whether the job has characteristics of self-employment, regular employment, or nontraditional employment.

On the basis of answers to the job classification questions, the respondent is classified as self-employed if he or she owned at least 50 percent of the business, was the chief executive officer or principal managing partner of the business, or was supposed to file a form SE for Federal income taxes. Respondents also are classified as self-employed if they identify themselves as independent contractors, independent consultants, or freelancers. A job is classified as nontraditional employment if the respondent is paid by a temporary help agency, is an on-call worker (that is, is called to work only when needed, not in addition to regular hours), or works for a company that provides services to other companies under contract.  To confirm that the respondent is a regular employee, a final set of questions asks whether the respondent's supervisor is employed by the same company and whether the company provides the respondent's tools or equipment. If the job is still unidentified at this point, the respondent is simply asked to describe his or her unique situation and answer questions in the regular employer supplement to the survey. Experience with 2002 and 2004 survey rounds indicates that this situation is extremely rare.

Many jobs mentioned in previous rounds of the survey were classified by survey staff in advance of the fielding. For example, if, in the previous round, a respondent had reported working at a job with regular hours, a supervisor, and so on, staff assumed that the job was regular or traditional employment. Staff used the vast array of data available to make such preclassifications. The classification questions in the section on jobs were not asked of most respondents who had been preclassified in traditional jobs, although a random subset of these respondents was routed through the questions to verify that the preclassification criteria were accurate, and all self-employed and nontraditional jobs also were verified during the interview.  In 2004, the full set of questions was asked only about new jobs, and future survey rounds will do the same. In addition, a new question pertaining to jobs continued from the previous interview asks whether the employment situation has changed even though the employer's name has not (for example, if the respondent ceased being a regular employee and entered into a contractual arrangement).

Employer supplements: After all of the respondent's jobs have been included on the roster and classified by type of employment, the survey moves into the employer supplements and consists of three types of employment situations: 

  1. Regular or traditional job: The only significant change in the regular employment questions relates to teachers. Because teachers often are paid for only a set number of months per year, they sometimes find it difficult to answer the pay rate questions. To address this issue, a new set of pay rate questions was added in 2002 for all jobs identified as teaching positions, including both K-12 schools and colleges. These questions first ask teachers whether they are paid by the course or are salaried. If they are paid by the course, the survey records the amount paid per course and the number of courses taught in the calendar year. If, instead, the respondent receives a regular salary, the survey asks about the number of paychecks received per year and the amount received per check. The survey also records payments for additional assignments, such as a coaching stipend or summer school pay. This approach allows survey staff to create an accurate rate of pay, regardless of whether the teacher is paid by the course or is on a 9-month, 10-month, or full-year schedule.
  2. Self-employment: Although some questions are the same as in the traditional employer supplement, many questions were reworded to make them more applicable to self-employment, and new questions, tailored to record critical information about the respondent's business, were added. The respondent reports whether the business is a farm or ranch, whether the business is based in the respondent's home, whether there are other partners in the business, and how many paid employees the business has. Respondents also state whether they consider the business to be their main or secondary job. As with questions about traditional employment, respondents report periods not working, hours usually worked per week, industry and occupation, whether the business is incorporated, the availability of employee benefits, the availability of and participation in a pension plan, and job satisfaction. A new series of questions was added in 2010 asking for more extensive details about business ownership beyond the basic information previously collection in the section on assets.  For more details, go to the Business Ownership section of this guide.

  3. Nontraditional employers:This area encompasses the most substantial changes from previous surveys. Respondents working in nontraditional situations tend to have sporadic employment with frequent job changes. In previous rounds, reporting of this type of employment caused some confusion.  For example, some respondents who were employed through a temporary agency reported each separate job they were assigned to through that agency and each gap between those temporary assignments. This led to lengthy and difficult interviews. The new section more clearly specifies that the respondent should consider the temporary or contracting agency as his or her employer, rather than reporting each assignment separately. The new section also guides respondents in reporting these types of jobs correctly. 

    Some questions in the series on nontraditional employers focus on the temporary or contracting agency. Information recorded about the agency (rather than each assignment) includes hours usually worked, the availability of employee benefits, the availability of and participation in a pension plan, union status, and job satisfaction.

    Respondents then report on their assignment history, including the number of assignments since the last interview or the start of the job, the amount earned, whether they are currently on an assignment, and, if so, how long that assignment is expected to last. If the respondent reports five or more periods not working during his or her tenure with the temporary agency, a series of questions asks about the number of weeks without an assignment and whether any of those weeks were spent working for another employer. For both the longest spell not working and the most recent spell, respondents then report the dates of the spell, the reason why they were not working, whether they were looking for work or were on layoff, and, if they were not looking for work, the reason why they were not looking. Respondents with fewer than five gaps in tenure with an employer report this information for each spell.

    Finally, respondents answer a set of questions about their most recent assignment through the temporary or contracting agency. These questions generally mirror the questions asked about traditional employers. With reference to the most recent assignment, respondents report the industry and occupation of the job, job sector, whether the business was incorporated, the rate of pay, and the shift worked.

Pay close attention to question paths followed for each job. Although the set of employer supplement questions for each type of job is described separately in the previous paragraphs, the actual survey instrument does not contain three separate and discrete sets of questions. In many cases, the same question is asked regardless of the type of job. For example, respondents report on the availability of employee benefits for all three types of job. The questions on benefits appear only once in the survey instrument, but will appear in the question path for all three types of employment.