Monthly Labor Review, March 2010
|April 05 2010|
Established in 1915, Monthly Labor Review is the principal journal of fact, analysis, and research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an agency within the U.S. Department of Labor.
Each month, economists, statisticians, and experts from the Bureau join with private sector professionals and State and local government specialists to provide a wealth of research in a wide variety of fields—the labor force, the economy, employment, inflation, productivity, occupational injuries and illnesses, wages, prices, and many more.
The labor market in 2009: recession drags on
The United States economy was in a recession when 2009 began. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) had designated December 2007 as the beginning of the recession, and labor market conditions had deteriorated throughout 2008.
The financial crisis in the fall of 2008 had resulted in steep declines in employment and sharp increases in unemployment that carried into the first part of 2009. Although job losses moderated as the year progressed, the number of unemployed people age 16 and over stood at 15.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2009.
The unemployment rate, already high by historical standards at the beginning of the year, reached 10.0 percent during the last quarter of 2009, higher than at any time since the early 1980s. (See chart 1.) The unemployment rate for men, 11.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, was the highest in the history of the series, which began in 1948. ...
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Employment and Unemployment in 2009
The CPS and the CES survey
The two surveys use different definitions of employment, as well as different survey and estimation methods. The CES survey is a survey of employers that provides a measure of the number of payroll jobs in nonfarm industries. The CPS is a survey of households that provides a measure of employed people age 16 years and older in the civilian noninstitutional population.
Employment estimates from the CPS give information about workers in both the agricultural and nonagricultural sectors and in all types of work arrangements: workers with wage and salary jobs (including employment in a private household), those engaging in self-employment, and those doing unpaid work for at least 15 hours a week in a business or farm operated by a family member. CES payroll employment estimates are restricted to nonagricultural wage and salary jobs and exclude private household workers.
As a result, employment estimates from the CPS are higher than those from the CES survey. In the CPS, however, employed people are counted only once, regardless of whether they hold more than one job during the survey reference period. By contrast, because the CES survey counts the number of jobs rather than the number of people, each nonfarm job is counted once, even when two or more jobs are held by the same person.
The reference periods for the surveys also differ. In the CPS, the reference period is the calendar week that includes the 12th day of the month. In the CES survey, employers report the number of workers on their payrolls for the pay period that includes the 12th of the month.
Because pay periods vary in length among employers and may be longer than 1 week, the CES employment estimates can reflect longer reference periods.
For purposes of comparison, however, some adjustments can be made to CPS employment estimates to make them more similar in definitional scope to CES employment figures. BLS routinely carries out these adjustments to evaluate how the two employment series are tracking. The long-term trends in the two surveys’ employment measures are quite comparable. Nonetheless, throughout the history of the surveys, there have been periods when the short-term trends diverged or when growth in one series significantly outpaced growth in the other. For example, following the end of the 2001 recession, CPS employment began to trend upward while CES employment continued to decline for a number of months.
BLS publishes a monthly report with the latest trends and comparisons of employment as measured by the CES survey and the CPS. (See “Employment from the BLS household and payroll surveys: summary of recent trends” (Bureau of Labor Statistics), on the Internet at www.bls.gov/web/ces_cps_trends.pdf.) This report includes a summary of possible causes of differences in the surveys’ employment trends, as well as links to additional research on the topic.
|Last Updated ( April 05 2010 )|
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