Looking for work
By definition in the CPS, the unemployed are those without a job who have looked for work in the last four weeks. For those who are unemployed, the survey asks a series of questions regarding what they have done to search for work in the last four weeks. Specifically, those looking for work (not limited to just the unemployed) are able to answer that they contacted employers, employment agencies, friends/relatives, schools or universities; that they sent out resumes or placed ads, looked at ads, attended job training, checked union or professional postings; or some other active or passive means of job search.
Note that although job search is usually thought of as an activity for the unemployed, employed workers also respond to a series of questions relating to any potential job search they may be conducting.
Length of search
Unemployment can last for a very short time (less than a month) or a very long time (more than a few years). Long term unemployment is usually considered to be 27 weeks or longer, or more than six months of searching. To calculate the length or duration of unemployment, the variable PELKDUR provides, in weeks, the amount of time an individual has spent seeking a job up to 119 weeks or 16 months. Note that this maximum value has changed over time and that 119 weeks is reflective of the current format of the question in the CPS.