U.S. Department of Commerce

Current Population Survey (CPS)

Skip top of page navigation
You are here: Census.govPeople and HouseholdsCurrent Population Survey (CPS) MainAbout The CPSAbout the CPS › Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. How soon, after the survey is conducted each month, is the monthly microdata file available to the public?
  2. What variables allow me to match records from multiple CPS files?
  3. What is the lowest geographical level available from CPS microdata files? Can I obtain estimates at the county level?
  4. How can I obtain tabulated data from the CPS?
  5. How can I obtain historical data not provided through your website or through DataFerrett (pre-1989)?
  6. What is the average response rate for the monthly CPS?

How soon, after the survey is conducted each month, is the monthly microdata file available to the public?  back to top

The Basic CPS monthly microdata file is usually made available to the public 30-45 days after data collection is complete. Data files for supplemental information, such as School Enrollment and Food Security, are available anywhere from 6 to 18 months after data collection.


What variables allow me to match records from multiple CPS files?  back to top

To merge CPS files together, Linking CPS Data Files [PDF - 23K] gives instructions.


What is the lowest geographical level available from CPS microdata files? Can I obtain estimates at the county level?  back to top

The CPS data provide reliable estimates at the state level and for 12 of the largest metropolitan statistical areas. The sample size does not allow reliable estimates to be obtained at the county level. In fact, not all counties are included in the sample, and data are not available for most counties that are sampled due to confidentiality laws. Tabulated data for states and local areas are available from the BLS Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment.


How can I obtain tabulated data from the CPS?  back to top

See the BLS/CPS home page and then click on CPS Tables.


How can I obtain historical data not provided through your website or through DataFerrett (pre-1989)?  back to top

Historical microdata files are available through several outside organizations. Contact these for assistance and support with obtaining data files.


What is the average response rate for the monthly CPS?  back to top

The CPS has one of the highest response rates among government household surveys, averaging around 90 percent. This rate is calculated after excluding those housing units that are either unoccupied (vacant, under construction) or occupied solely by persons not eligible for interview. These units make up approximately 18 percent of the total sample.



[PDF] or PDF denotes a file in Adobe’s Portable Document Format. To view the file, you will need the Adobe® Reader® Off Site available free from Adobe. This symbol Off Site indicates a link to a non-government web site. Our linking to these sites does not constitute an endorsement of any products, services or the information found on them. Once you link to another site you are subject to the policies of the new site.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Current Population Survey (CPS) |  Last Revised: 2013-11-06T15:24:19.819-05:00