First, I think it is important to note that this thread began with a question about EMPSTAT in IPUMS CPS, which does vary from EMPSTAT in IPUMS NHIS. However, as noted here, “The first digit of the coding system for EMPSTAT groups all adults (age 17+ in 1969-1981, age 18+ in 1982 forward) into one of four main categories: employed, with a job but not at work, unemployed, and not in the labor force. These categories correspond to main employment status categories recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and are used in other sources such as the Current Population Survey and the U.S. census.”
The remained of my response is related to questions raised by Tony about EMPSTAT in IPUMS NHIS.
The description of EMPSTAT provides some insight into “employment status in past 1 to 2 weeks”; from 1969-1996, the reference period was the preceding two weeks and from 1997 forward, the reference period was the preceding week.
While there are many categories available over time for EMPSTAT there was a change in the methodology in the mid-90s. As such, it appears that within a given year, the categories available through IPUMS NHIS are mutually exclusive.
Additionally, according to the BLS, workers expecting to be recalled from temporary layoff are counted as unemployed whether or not they have engaged in a specific job seeking activity. EMPSTAT codes 31-34 encapsulate this population.
Finally, an individual’s EMPSTAT will be missing for the following reasons: they are not in the universe, or their employment status is unknown. While samples from 1969-1996 assign EMPSTAT values based on multiple questions, from 1997 forward, respondents were asked one general question to ascertain their employment status. Survey text from each year can be found here.