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Employment Situation - July 2019

About This Release

General Description
Quick Facts: Employment Situation
General Description Current Population Survey Current Employment Statistics
How the data are obtained 60,000 households 651,000 individual worksites
Classification system 2012 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), 2017 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) 2017 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)
Periodicity of data availability Monthly, Quarterly, Annual Monthly, Annual
Geographic detail National National
Scope Civilian noninstitutional population, 16 years and over Private nonfarm businesses and government entities
Program webpage

General description

Data presented in this report are from two different surveys: the Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey, and the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, also known as the establishment or payroll survey. These data are important indicators of the strength of the labor market and provide an early snapshot of the state of the Nation's economy.

Definition of terms

  • Current Population Survey (CPS) terms
    • Employed - Persons 16 years and over in the civilian noninstitutional population who, during the reference week, (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees; worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family; and (b) all those who were not working but who had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs. Each employed person is counted only once, even if he or she holds more than one job. Excluded are persons whose only activity consisted of work around their own house (painting, repairing, or own home housework) or volunteer work for religious, charitable, and other organizations.
    • Unemployed - Persons aged 16 years and older who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.
    • Labor force - All persons classified as employed or unemployed.
  • Current Employment Statistics (CES) terms
    • Employment - Employment is the total number of persons on establishment payrolls employed full or part time who received pay for any part of the pay period which includes the 12th day of the month. Temporary and intermittent employees are included, as are any workers who are on paid sick leave, on paid holiday, or who work during only part of the specified pay period. A striking worker who only works a small portion of the survey period, and is paid, would be included as employed under the CES definitions. Persons on the payroll of more than one establishment are counted in each establishment. Data exclude proprietors, self-employed, unpaid family or volunteer workers, farm workers, and domestic workers. Persons on layoff the entire pay period, on leave without pay, on strike for the entire period or who have not yet reported for work are not counted as employed. Government employment covers only civilian workers.


  1. Why are there two monthly measures of employment?
    • The household survey and establishment survey both produce sample-based estimates of employment, and both have strengths and limitations. The establishment survey employment series has a smaller margin of error on the measurement of month-to-month change than the household survey because of its much larger sample size. An over-the-month employment change of about 100,000 is statistically significant in the establishment survey, while the threshold for a statistically significant change in the household survey is about 500,000. However, the household survey has a more expansive scope than the establishment survey because it includes self-employed workers whose businesses are unincorporated, unpaid family workers, agricultural workers, and private household workers, who are excluded by the establishment survey. The household survey also provides estimates of employment for demographic groups. For more information on the differences between the two surveys, please visit
  2. Are undocumented immigrants counted in the surveys?
    • It is likely that both surveys include at least some undocumented immigrants. However, neither the establishment nor the household survey is designed to identify the legal status of workers. Therefore, it is not possible to determine how many are counted in either survey. The establishment survey does not collect data on the legal status of workers. The household survey does include questions which identify the foreign and native born, but it does not include questions about the legal status of the foreign born. Data on the foreign and native born are published each month in table A-7 of The Employment Situation news release.
  3. Why does the establishment survey have revisions?
    • The establishment survey revises published estimates to improve its data series by incorporating additional information that was not available at the time of the initial publication of the estimates. The establishment survey revises its initial monthly estimates twice, in the immediately succeeding 2 months, to incorporate additional sample receipts from respondents in the survey and recalculated seasonal adjustment factors. For more information on the monthly revisions, please visit
    • On an annual basis, the establishment survey incorporates a benchmark revision that re-anchors estimates to nearly complete employment counts available from unemployment insurance tax records. The benchmark helps to control for sampling and modeling errors in the estimates. For more information on the annual benchmark revision, please visit
  4. Does the establishment survey sample include small firms?
    • Yes; about 40 percent of the establishment survey sample is comprised of business establishments with fewer than 20 employees. The establishment survey sample is designed to maximize the reliability of the statewide total nonfarm employment estimate; firms from all states, size classes, and industries are appropriately sampled to achieve that goal.
  5. Does the establishment survey account for employment from new businesses?
    • Yes; monthly establishment survey estimates include an adjustment to account for the net employment change generated by business births and deaths. The adjustment comes from an econometric model that forecasts the monthly net jobs impact of business births and deaths based on the actual past values of the net impact that can be observed with a lag from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. The establishment survey uses modeling rather than sampling for this purpose because the survey is not immediately able to bring new businesses into the sample. There is an unavoidable lag between the birth of a new firm and its appearance on the sampling frame and availability for selection. BLS adds new businesses to the survey twice a year.
  6. Is the count of unemployed persons limited to just those people receiving unemployment insurance benefits?
    • No; the estimate of unemployment is based on a monthly sample survey of households. All persons who are without jobs and are actively seeking and available to work are included among the unemployed. (People on temporary layoff are included even if they do not actively seek work.) There is no requirement or question relating to unemployment insurance benefits in the monthly survey.
  7. Does the official unemployment rate exclude people who want a job but are not currently looking for work?
    • Yes; however, there are separate estimates of persons outside the labor force who want a job, including those who are not currently looking because they believe no jobs are available (discouraged workers). In addition, alternative measures of labor underutilization (some of which include discouraged workers and other groups not officially counted as unemployed) are published each month in table A-15 of The Employment Situation news release. For more information about these alternative measures, please visit
  8. How can unusually severe weather affect employment and hours estimates?
    • In the establishment survey, the reference period is the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. Unusually severe weather is more likely to have an impact on average weekly hours than on employment. Average weekly hours are estimated for paid time during the pay period, including pay for holidays, sick leave, or other time off. The impact of severe weather on hours estimates typically, but not always, results in a reduction in average weekly hours. For example, some employees may be off work for part of the pay period and not receive pay for the time missed, while some workers, such as those dealing with cleanup or repair, may work extra hours. Typically, it is not possible to precisely quantify the effect of extreme weather on payroll employment estimates. In order for severe weather conditions to reduce employment estimates, employees have to be off work without pay for the entire pay period. Employees who receive pay for any part of the pay period, even 1 hour, are counted in the payroll employment figures. For more information on how often employees are paid, please visit
    • In the household survey, the reference period is generally the calendar week that includes the 12th of the month. Persons who miss the entire week's work for weather-related events are counted as employed whether or not they are paid for the time off. The household survey collects data on the number of persons who had a job but were not at work due to bad weather. It also provides a measure of the number of persons who usually work full time but had reduced hours due to bad weather. Current and historical data are available on the household survey's most requested statistics page, please visit

Complete list of CPS FAQs
Complete list of CES FAQs

Additional Information

Complete technical documentation for the household survey and establishment survey are available in the Handbook of Methods chapters 1 and 2.

Last Modified Date: August 2, 2019