Labor economics resources


Data sets


Current Population Survey: monthly survey of about 50,000 households conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The main purpose of the survey is to measure employment, unemployment, and labor force participation, but there also are questions on hours of work, earnings and union status.  Special surveys cover such topics as work schedules, computer use, displaced workers, pension coverage, and agricultural labor.  NBER has a well-organized section on its website dedicated to the CPS which many researchers find very useful.


Panel Survey of Income Dynamics: longitudinal survey of a representative sample of US individuals and the families in which they reside. It has been ongoing since 1968. The data were collected annually through 1997, and biennially starting in 1999.  The basic data are extremely valuable for labor economics research, as are the supplements on health, wealth, retirement, risk tolerance, and children’s wellbeing.


National Longitudinal Surveys: surveys gather detailed information about the labor market experiences and other aspects of the lives of six groups of men and women.  The first set of surveys, initiated in 1966, consisted of four cohorts. These four groups are referred to as the "older men," "mature women," "young men," and "young women" cohorts of the NLS, and are known collectively as the "original cohorts." In 1979, a longitudinal study of a cohort of young men and women aged 14 to 22 was begun. This sample of youth was called the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79). In 1986, the NLSY79 was expanded to include surveys of the children born to women in that cohort and called the NLSY79 Children. In 1997, the NLS program was again expanded with a new cohort of young people aged 12 to 16 as of December 31, 1996. This new cohort is the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97).

Health and Retirement Survey: Four-wave longitudinal survey of over 12,600 persons born between 1931 and 1941.  Surveys are done every two years and contain extensive information on health, labor market activity, and wealth, including pensions.


Retirement History Survey: Precursor of the HRS, covers panel of older persons from 1969 through 1979. 


Survey of Income and Program Participation: Longitudinal survey designed to collect source and amount of income, labor force information, program participation and eligibility data, and general demographic characteristics.  The survey design is a continuous series of national panels, with sample size ranging from approximately 14,000 to 36,700 interviewed households. The duration of each panel ranges from 2 1/2 years to 4 years. The SIPP sample is a multistage-stratified sample of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. For the 1984-1993 panels, a new panel of households was introduced each year in February. A new 4-year 1996 panel was introduced in April 1996.


Census Bureau: Stop here for the Census of Population (public use files available since 1940) and various censuses of companies and governments, plus data on foreign trade.  The Statistical Abstract is useful for a quick overview of available data from a wide range of sources. 


Bureau of Labor Statistics: BLS provides data on employment, unemployment, work hours, wages and earnings, employee benefits, productivity, worker safety and health, and inflation.  Some international data are available at the aggregate level.


NBER: Lots of macro data, but also very good data bases on manufacturing industries and foreign trade. 


Labour Economics Gateway: lots of links to agencies producing labor market statistics around the world, plus links to datasets that you may find useful.


Other useful sites



Handbook of Labor Economics, Volume 1 and Volume 2

Interamerican Development Bank


Research Papers in Economics

Society of Labor Economists