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Time spent volunteering in 2013

In contrast to the usual BLS focus on paid employment (counting how many people are employed, their pay and benefits, and characteristics of workers and their jobs), this week we have a new BLS report about the important unpaid work that Americans do through volunteer activities. About 62.6 million people volunteered through or for an organization at least once between September 2012 and September 2013. The volunteer rate in 2013 was 25.4 percent, the lowest it has been since BLS began collecting comparable statistics about volunteers in 2002. Volunteers spent a median of 50 hours on volunteer activities from September 2012 to September 2013. Time spent on volunteer activities was similar for women and men. Among those who volunteered, median annual hours spent on volunteer activities ranged from a low of 36 hours for people 25 to 34 years old to a high of 86 hours for people age 65 and older.

In 2013, the organization for which the volunteer worked the most hours was most frequently religious (33.0 percent of all volunteers), followed by educational or youth service related (25.6 percent) and social or community service organizations (14.7 percent). Among volunteers with children under 18 years old, 44.5 percent of mothers and 38.3 percent of fathers volunteered mainly for an educational or youth service organization, such as a school or scouting group. Volunteers without children under age 18 were more likely than parents to volunteer for other types of organizations, such as social or community service organizations and religious organizations.

The activities that volunteers performed most frequently for their main organization were collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food (10.9 percent), fundraising (10.0 percent), and tutoring or teaching (9.8 percent). Men and women tended to engage in different main activities. Men who volunteered were most likely to engage in general labor (11.4 percent) or coach, referee, or supervise sports teams (9.9 percent). Women were most likely to collect, prepare, distribute, or serve food (12.5 percent), fundraise (11.5 percent), or tutor or teach (11.4 percent).

The daily feature The Economics Daily includes some eye-catching interesting graphics on the characteristics of volunteers and their volunteer activities.

In closing, I want to mention that this week we posted a notice about the 2014 Budget Enacted for Bureau of Labor Statistics. In order to achieve the necessary savings for this funding level and protect core programs, the BLS will curtail the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages and the International Price Program. Through these measures, BLS will be able to preserve the quality of its remaining products.