The student of the American labor force in the decade of the 1950's has enormous advantages over any of his predecessors who were working before World War II. Instead of decennial readings of the economic activity of the population, he has monthly readings, based on the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. Information on the labor force status of the population by sex and moderately detailed age classes, is, at the time of writing, available on an annual average basis for about 15 years-- a stock of observations it would have taken 150 years to acquire if we had had to rely only on the decennial counts. The monthly statistic's on the labor force have become more and more comprehensive, so that with respect to a number of fields of labor force behavior they exceed decennial census data in scope. The flexibility of the labor force in a period of emergency or of prolonged full employment, its seasonal expansion and contraction, and its varying composition from month to month and year to year have been traced through almost all levels of national economic activity, except deep decline and depression. The differential activity of various population groups has been measured, and some of the reasons for differences have been uncovered. Much, too, has been learned about the course of employment and unemployment in periods of recovery, world-wide military conflict, localized conflict, cold war, and mild recession.
As a result of the work of my colleagues at the Census Bureau, the survey findings have been presented, summarized, and interpreted, both in haste to meet an all-powerful monthly, SYSTEMation date, and at greater leisure, in annual and special reports. They and other analysts in the U. S. Department of Commerce, the U. S. Department of Labor, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal Reserve Board, the Council of Economic Advisers, and elsewhere in and out of the Federal Government have used the current sample statistics, to tell the unfolding story of the economy in the World War II postwar years and to give light for the study of many types of problems. The farm worker, the aged worker, the youthful worker, the Negro in the labor market, the underemployed, the unemployed, the migrant, and perhaps more extensively and intensively than any other type--the working woman--have all been the subject of continuous investigation and research on the basis of the survey data.
I have, assumed that most readers interested in the American labor force are familiar with the details of labor force history in the recent past and that a recapitulation would have only limited uses. Furthermore, certain . . .