I'm confused about the meaning of one value, 0, in WKSUNEM1 in IPUMS-CPS.

WKSUNEM1 has two values that imply the respondent was working (not unemployed) in the preceding year: 0 (0 weeks without a job) and 99 (NIU - “Not in Universe”). When I filter for members of the California civilian labor force and exclude the NIU values, I wind up with a total of 4.2 million workers, far short of the 18.9 million known total. Virtually all of the difference seems to be explained by the NIU.

That would be fine except for one thing: the 2.2 million workers in the [WKSUNEM = 0] category. These folks, at least in theory, spent 0 weeks unemployed in the prior year. I’m sure there’s something, probably something obvious, that I’m missing. Ordinarily I’d call the Bureau of Labor Statistics and ask them to explain, but …

I’m not sure I completely understand your concern, but I can explain what the zero represents. A person coded as zero worked at least 1 and no more than 51 weeks during the preceding year, but was not unemployed at any time. Thus, these cases would be persons who were either employed or not in the labor force at all times during the year.