Skip Header
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Learn More about Improving Disclosure Avoidance Procedures on the Current Population Survey Public Use File.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

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?

To merge CPS files together, Linking CPS Data Files gives instructions.

What is the lowest geographical level available from CPS data files? Can I obtain estimates at the county level?

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 proper estimates to be obtained at the county level, and in fact, data are not available for most counties sampled due to confidentiality laws.

How can I obtain tabulated data from the CPS?

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 MDAT (pre-1989)?

Historical data 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?

The CPS has one of the highest response rates among government household surveys, averaging around 75 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.

Is the CPS a voluntary or mandatory survey, and how is the survey administered?

About 59,000 households are selected for the CPS each month, and it is a voluntary survey.  Participation in the CPS is important because the answers represent thousands of other addresses and people.  The information is collected by interviewers using a computer-assisted survey instrument, through personal visit and telephone interviews.


Back to Header