Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Employment Survey Disparity Grows

The Man Without Qualities has in the past noted the curious divergence of the two main forms of employment measurement: payroll survey employment and household survey employment. Each is tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics - and recently they have increasingly and substantially diverged. The reasons for the divergence are not well understood.

The Senate Joint Economic Committee has issued some very interesting releases on the topic. The latest SJEC release includes the following, among other interesting things:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ household survey continues to show greater job gains than the payroll survey. In October, for example, the household survey estimated that the number of employed people increased by 441,000; with that increase, employment now exceeds its level at the start of the recession. The disparity between the household and payroll surveys began as the economy emerged from the recession at the end of 2001; it has now grown to be the largest such disparity in the history of the two surveys. Growing self-employment, which is captured in the household survey but not the payroll, explains some of the disparity, but the bulk of the disparity remains as yet unexplained.

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