The Share of Families With an Unemployed Person Fell to 11.5% in 2011

Washington, DC—(ENEWSPF)—April 26, 2012.  In 2011, 11.5 percent of families included an unemployed person, falling from a peak of 12.4 percent in 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Of the nation’s 78.4 million families, 79.8 percent had at least one employed member in 2011.

These data on employment, unemployment, and family relationships are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of approximately 60,000 households. Families are classified either as married-couple families or as families maintained by women or men without spouses present. For further information about the CPS, see the Technical Note.

Families and Unemployment

The number of families with at least one member unemployed decreased from 9.7 million in 2010 to 9.0 million in 2011. The proportion of families with an unemployed member also declined from a peak of 12.4 percent in 2010 to 11.5 percent in 2011. In 2011, black and Hispanic families remained more likely to have an unemployed member (18.9 and 16.3 percent, respectively) than white and Asian families (10.4 and 10.9 percent, respectively). (See table 1.)

Most families with an unemployed member also have at least one family member who is employed. Among families with an unemployed member in 2011, 67.2 percent also had an employed family member, about the same as in 2010. (See table 1.)

Among married-couple families with an unemployed member in 2011, 79.2 percent contained at least one employed family member. Among families maintained by men (no spouse present) with an unemployed member, 53.6 percent had an employed member in 2011; for families maintained by women (no spouse present), the proportion was 45.9 percent. These proportions were little changed  from 2010 for the three family types. (See table 3.)

Families and Employment

The share of families with an employed member edged down from 80.0 percent in 2010 to 79.8 percent in 2011. The likelihood of having an employed family member declined to 74.2 percent in 2011 for black families. The share for Asian families rose to 88.0 percent, while the likelihood for white and Hispanic families showed little or no change at 80.2 and 84.2 percent, respectively. (See table 1.)

In 2011, families maintained by women with no spouse present remained less likely to have an employed member (71.7 percent) than married-couple families (81.9 percent) or families maintained by men with no spouse present (80.2 percent). Both the husband and wife were employed in 47.5 percent of married-couple families in 2011. The husband was the only worker in 19.9 percent of married-couple families, and the wife was the only worker in 8.3 percent. (See table 2.)

Families with Children

Forty-four percent of all families included children (sons, daughters, step-children, or adopted children) under age 18. Among the 34.3 million families with children, 87.2 percent had an employed parent in 2011, compared with 87.4 percent in 2010. The mother was employed in 65.9 percent of families maintained by women with no spouse present in 2011, down from 67.0 percent in 2010. The father was employed in 79.6 percent of families maintained by men with no spouse present in 2011, up from 75.8 percent in 2010. Among married-couple families with children, 95.8 percent had an employed parent in 2011, little changed from the prior year. The share of married-couple families where both parents worked edged up to 58.5 percent in 2011 from 58.1 percent in 2010. (See table 4.)


The labor force participation rate–the percent of the population working or looking for work–for all mothers with children under age 18 was 70.6 percent in 2011, little different from 70.8 percent in 2010. In 2011, the participation rate for married mothers with a spouse present (68.7 percent) remained lower than the rate for mothers with other marital statuses (74.6 percent). (Other marital status refers to persons who never married or are widowed, divorced, separated, or married but living apart from their spouse.) Married mothers were about as likely to be employed as mothers with other marital statuses in 2011, but their unemployment rate was substantially lower–6.0 percent, compared with 15.0 percent for mothers with other marital statuses. (See table 5.)

Mothers with younger children are less likely to be in the labor force than mothers with older children. In 2011, the labor force participation rate of mothers with children under 6 years old (63.9 percent) was lower than the rate of those whose youngest child was 6 to 17 years old (76.1 percent). The participation rate of mothers with infants under a year old was 55.8 percent. Among mothers with infants, there was little difference in the participation rate of married mothers (56.9 percent) and those with other marital statuses (53.2 percent). However, the unemployment rate for married mothers of infants, at 6.4 percent, was considerably lower than the rate for mothers with other marital statuses (24.2 percent). (See tables 5 and 6.)