A family, as defined by the BLS, is a “group of two or more persons residing together who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption. In 2014, there were 80,889,000 families in the United States, and in 16,057,000 of those families, or 19.9 percent, no one had a job.
The BLS designates a person as “employed” if “during the survey reference week” they “(a) did any work at all as paid employees; (b) worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm; (c) or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family.”
Members of the 16,057,000 families in which no one held jobs could have been either unemployed or not in the labor force. The BLS designates a person as unemployed if they did not have a job but were actively seeking one. The BLS designates someone as not in the labor force, if they did not have a job and were not actively seeking one.
The BLS has been tracking data on employment in families since 1995. That year, the percent of families in which no one had a job was 18.8 percent. The percentage hit an all-time high of 20.2 percent in 2011. It held steady at 20 percent in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, it declined to 19.9 percent.
The BLS also calculates these data for single-parent families. In 25.6 percent of families maintained by women with no spouse present, no family member is employed. In 17 percent of families maintained by men with no spouse present, no family member is employed.
The data on employment in families is based on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey of the civilian non-institutional population, which includes people 16 and older, who are not on active duty in the military or in an institution such as a prison, nursing home or mental hospital.