Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Question: How do strikes affect Current Employment Statistics (CES) estimates?


Employment: Anyone paid for working any portion of the reference pay period (pay period that includes the 12th of the month) is counted as employed. Therefore, to be counted as not employed for purposes of the CES survey, a person on strike or strike-related layoff must not receive pay for the entire reference pay period.

Average weekly hours (AWH) and Average Hourly Earnings (AHE): These are hours for which production workers are paid for work or on paid leave for the reference pay period (including paid vacation, holidays, sick leave or other paid leave).

When strikers or laid off employees work part but not all of the reference pay period, then they are counted as employed according to the CES survey but with reduced hours. The magnitude of the reduction on average weekly hours depends on the proportion of workers in the industry’s sample with reduced hours and the number of hours they worked.

Workers who are on strike or layoff for the entire reference pay period do not have any effect on the average weekly hours estimate unless their normal hours differ significantly from the average for the industry. Similarly, average hourly earnings estimates will be little affected unless the normal hourly earnings of those on strike or layoff differ significantly from the average for the industry.


January with reference week Sunday 1/11 to Saturday 1/17

February with reference week Sunday 2/8 to Saturday 2/14

Company A strike: Strike/layoff activity. (This company has a weekly pay period.)

Date Plant Activity Workers Involved Comments
1/9 1 strike 2,000 on strike the whole reference pay period
1/13 2 strike 1,500 on strike part of the reference pay period
1/18 3 layoffs 3,000 laid off after the reference pay period

The strike is settled February 19. All workers are called back to work February 20.

Effect on January employment: over-the-month change lowered by 2,000
Effect on February employment: over-the-month change lowered by 4,500
Effect on January AWH: reduced slightly by the 1,500 on strike part of the reference pay period*
Effect on February AWH: the January effect is reversed because the workers with shorter hours in that month are off payrolls*

* Both the January and February AWH and AHE also could be affected if strikers’ normal hours and/or hourly earnings differ significantly from industry average.

Note: For confidentiality reasons, CES staff cannot provide company-specific information, including dates or workers involved in strike/layoffs, other than what is already publicly available at the time of the strike. Contact the company or news sources for more specific information.