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August 1989, Vol. 112, No. 8
How many new jobs since 1982? Data from two surveys differ
Paul O. Flaim
The growth in employment during the expansionary period that began in late 1982 has been extremely robust by any standard. The exact magnitude of the growth, however, depends on the statistical series used to gauge it. As of April 1989, the Bureau of Labor Statistics' survey of employers' payrolls-the Current Employment Statistics program-had shown an increase of about 20 million jobs since November 1982, while the survey of households-the Current Population Survey (CPS) conducted for BLS by the Bureau of the Census-showed an increase of only 18 million in the number of employed persons. There was thus a discrepancy of 2 million between the two surveys.
More recently, the employment figures from the payroll survey have been revised-or "benchmarked"-downward for the period since March 1987,1 with the level for April 1989 being lowered by more than half a million. This has substantially narrowed the gap in growth estimates between the two employment series. However, for the period from November 1982 to April 1989, the increase in the payroll series still exceeds the growth in total employment, as measured through the household survey, by about 1.4 million.
While much of the divergence between the two series has taken place since mid-1987, their paths had begun to differ noticeably as early as 1984. Such a divergence during expansionary periods is not unprecedented. Even during the expansion of the late 1970's, the payroll survey produced substantially higher estimates of employment growth than did the household survey. Then, as now, the different behavior of the two series was cause for concern among some of the users of these numbers.2
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1 The monthly employment estimates from the Current Employment Statistics program are revised annually to bring them into line with benchmarks (comprehensive counts of employment) for the various nonagricultural industries. The primary sources of benchmark information are employment data, by industry, compiled quarterly by State agencies from reports of all establishments covered under State unemployment insurance laws.
2 For a discussion of the divergence between the two employment series in the 1970's, see Alexander Korns, "The Difference Between the Payroll and the Household Measures of Employment, 1975-79," Survey of Current Business, December 1979, pp. 44-49.
Testing racial and ethnic origin questions in the CPS supplement.Sept. 1996.
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