The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting daily life for the entire country. The President declared a national emergency in the United States on March 13, 2020.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is open for business and is continuing to assess how this national emergency affects our operations and data products. How COVID-19 may affect key economic indicators produced by BLS will depend, in part, on the concepts and definitions used by our various data programs. We have provided information below about our data programs and will continue to update this information to keep you informed.
Effects of COVID-19 on the Current Employment Statistics Survey
The Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, also known as the payroll survey, publishes estimates of employment, hours, and earnings at national, state and metropolitan area levels on a monthly basis.
Effects of COVID-19 on the Current Population Survey
The Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey, is a sample of about 60,000 occupied households that is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for BLS. It provides a comprehensive body of data on the labor force, employment, unemployment, people not in the labor force, hours of work, earnings, and other demographic and labor force characteristics.
Effects of COVID-19 on the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) provides estimates of job openings, hires, and separations that serve as demand-side indicators at the national level. The JOLTS national estimates scheduled to be published on April 7 will be for the month of February 2020. March 2020 JOLTS estimates, scheduled to be published on May 15, will cover the period during which the COVID-19 national emergency was declared (March 13, 2020.)
- How are people who are absent from their jobs counted by JOLTS? The reference period of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) is the pay period that includes the 12th of the month for employment, the last business day of the month for job openings, and the entire calendar month for hires and separations. Although BLS does not estimate employment in the JOLTS program, BLS does collect employment during the collection process to validate reported job openings, hires, and separations. Also, those employees who are not actually separated are not counted as separations by JOLTS.
- Will data collection for JOLTS be impacted by COVID-19? JOLTS data collection for the February reference month was not affected by COVID-19. March data collection could be impacted, and any effects will be assessed. BLS will implement a modification to the JOLTS alignment procedure to more accurately capture changes in separations and hires due to COVID-19. Additional details will be provided with the release of JOLTS estimates for March 2020 on May 15, 2020.
- Will BLS attempt to quantify the overall impact of COVID-19 on JOLTS estimates? BLS's primary goal for JOLTS is to provide accurate estimates of job openings, hires, and separations. It will not be possible to precisely quantify the impact of COVID-19 on job openings, hires, or separations because its effects cannot be separated from other influences on the economy, particularly at the national level. Changes for a specific month against those of recent months may provide a general indication of the impacts at the national level. BLS also can provide information on overall program response rates relative to the time period before the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts in the United States.
Effects of COVID-19 on the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages
The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), publishes data on establishment counts, monthly employment, and total quarterly wages on a quarterly basis. The QCEW totals for the first quarter 2020, scheduled to be published on August 19, 2020, will be the first to reflect possible impacts from COVID-19.
- How are people who are absent from their jobs counted by QCEW? Workers who are paid by their employer for all or any part of the pay period including the 12th of the month are counted as employed in the QCEW, even if they were not actually at their jobs. Workers who are temporarily or permanently absent from their jobs, but are not being paid, are not counted as employed even if they are continuing to receive benefits.
- Will data collection for QCEW be impacted by COVID-19? QCEW data collection may be impacted by the availability of state unemployment insurance (UI) staff, state labor market information (LMI) staff, BLS data collection staff, and business respondents. A majority of QCEW data comes from state LMI departments processing data from their UI Tax extracts. QCEW also collects Multiple Worksite Report (MWR) data electronically via MWR Web and the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) center. QCEW manages a print contract to collect MWR data for most states. The remaining states (Hawaii, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia) print and mail forms in-house. QCEW anticipates that respondent availability to receive printed solicitations will be affected by increased telework and fewer respondents in offices where mail is sent. We are offering respondents increased electronic reporting options, working with our contractor to scan as much data as possible electronically, and researching other options to increase web reporting. QCEW depends on the availability of data provided by each business to the state UI system, and on data provided by businesses directly to BLS. If we are unable to reach some respondents, collection will be adversely impacted.
- Will BLS attempt to quantify the overall impact of COVID-19 on QCEW estimates? BLS's primary goal for QCEW is to provide accurate levels of employment, establishment counts, and total quarterly wages. It will not be possible to precisely quantify the impact of COVID-19 on employment, establishment counts, or wages because its effects cannot be separated from other influences on the economy, particularly at the national level. Comparisons of employment changes for a specific month against those of recent months may provide a general indication of the impacts at the national level. QCEW data for states and metropolitan areas may provide further indications of an impact at a more local level.
Effects of COVID-19 on the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program
The Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program is a federal-state cooperative endeavor through which total estimates of civilian labor force, employed people, unemployed people, and unemployment rates are produced for over 7,500 unique subnational areas on a monthly basis. The LAUS program utilizes a top-down hierarchy of nonsurvey methodologies and input data from a variety of surveys, programs, and administrative sources in order to replicate the household concepts of employment and unemployment from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Statewide estimates are produced by BLS using models, which feature real-time benchmarking to the national total employment and unemployment levels from the CPS. These model-based estimates for states, in turn, serve as the controls for substate-area estimation. Data for substate areas are produced by the state labor market information offices under the direction of BLS, using standard methodologies, software systems, and some inputs provided by BLS.
- How are people who are absent from their jobs counted by LAUS? The LAUS program adheres to the concepts of employment and unemployment from the CPS. Sample-size limitations generally preclude publication of statewide tabulations from the CPS on a monthly basis. Although there are no published series for states corresponding to such household survey categories as “with a job but not at work due to own illness” and “unemployed on temporary layoff” available from the LAUS program, affected individuals are included in the CPS totals that serve as the primary inputs to the state employment and unemployment models, respectively.
- Will data collection for LAUS be impacted by COVID-19? The LAUS program does not engage in any data collection, but rather blends data from several sources. These sources include the CPS, administrative data from the unemployment insurance (UI) system, employment data from the BLS Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey and Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program, and data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and Population Estimates Program (PEP). To the extent that necessary inputs from any of these sources are adversely impacted by COVID-19, LAUS data will be adversely impacted as well.
- Will BLS attempt to quantify the overall impact of COVID-19 on LAUS estimates? BLS’s primary goal for the LAUS program is to provide accurate estimates of civilian labor force, employed people, unemployed people, and unemployment rates for subnational areas. It will not be possible to precisely quantify the impact of COVID-19 on LAUS estimates because its effects cannot be separated from other influences on the economy. Comparisons of employment and unemployment changes for a specific month against those of recent months may provide a general indication of the impacts.
Effects of COVID-19 on the American Time Use Survey
The American Time Use Survey (ATUS) publishes national estimates of the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, and socializing. The survey also publishes estimates about where people work. ATUS estimates for 2020 are scheduled to be published in June 2021.
- How does ATUS measure the time people spend in various activities? A key part of measuring how people spend their time is the collection of time use diaries. In the ATUS, trained interviewers collect diaries by asking people how they spent their time on one day. Survey respondents report the activities they did, where they were, and whom they were with. The ATUS program adheres to the concepts of employment and unemployment used in the CPS.
- Will data collection for ATUS be impacted by COVID-19? ATUS data collection is impacted by COVID-19. The call center in which ATUS interviewers operate to collect the ATUS data was closed on March 19, 2020, and thus data collection has been temporarily suspended. Additionally, people selected to participate in ATUS interviews are from households that have completed the eighth monthly interview of the Current Population Survey (CPS). Future data collections are thus impacted by the ability of the CPS to continue operations at this time.
- Will BLS attempt to quantify the overall impact of COVID-19 on ATUS estimates? BLS’s primary goal for the ATUS program is to provide accurate estimates of the amount of time people spend doing various activities. As noted above, the call center in which ATUS interviewers operate to collect the survey was closed on March 19, 2020, at which time data collection was temporarily suspended.
Effects of COVID-19 on the Employment Projections Program
The Employment Projections program publishes 10-year projections of national employment by industry and occupation based on analysis of historical and current economic data for the labor market, the macroeconomy, and industrial activity. Projections are released annually; the most recent set of projections, covering the 2018–28 decade, were released in September 2019. The next set of projections will cover the 2019–29 decade.
- Will the release of new Employment Projections data be affected by COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts? The 2019–29 Employment Projections are scheduled to be released on September 1, 2020. All historical data needed to produce these projections have already been released, so production of these projections will not be affected by COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts.
- How will the 2019–29 projections reflect COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts? Because the base year precedes the pandemic, the 2019–29 projections will not include impacts of COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts. The BLS Employment Projections are long-term projections that are intended to capture structural change in the economy, not cyclical fluctuations. The pandemic may cause new structural changes to the economy, but it is too soon to be able to incorporate those impacts into the 2019–29 projections. BLS releases new employment projections annually, and subsequent projections will incorporate new information on economic structural changes as it becomes available.
Last Modified Date: May 15, 2020