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Federal Government Shutdown: October 2013 Employment Situation News Release

Some agencies of the federal government were shut down or were operating at reduced staffing levels from October 1, 2013, through October 16, 2013. This fact sheet addresses some of the questions raised by data users on how the shutdown affected survey operations and how workers affected by the shutdown are classified in the household and establishment surveys that are featured in the Employment Situation news release.

One of the strengths of the Employment Situation news release is that it presents data from two separate surveys to provide a more complete picture of the U.S. labor market. The shutdown brings into focus some of the differences in concepts measured by the household survey and the establishment survey.

In accordance with usual practice, any special factors that affect the estimates or their interpretation will be discussed in the October Employment Situation news release, scheduled for November 8, 2013.

Household survey

  • In the Current Population Survey (the household survey), individuals are classified as employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force based on their answers to a series of questions about their activities during the survey reference week—generally, the week that includes the 12th of the month. Data collection for the survey begins the following week.
  • For October 2013, the household survey reference week was Sunday, October 6, through Saturday, October 12. During this period, some federal government agencies were closed or were operating at reduced staffing levels because of the lapse in their funding. The federal employees and contractors who work for those agencies may have been off work for all or part of the week.
  • Data collection began on October 20th. Collection was originally scheduled to begin on October 13th but was delayed because of the shutdown. The survey reference week was unchanged.
  • Workers who indicate that they were not working during the entire survey reference week and expected to be recalled to their jobs should be classified in the household survey as unemployed, on temporary layoff. This would include furloughed federal employees as well as other affected workers.
    • These workers are classified this way regardless of whether they are, or expect to be, paid for the time they are on temporary layoff.
    • Persons on temporary layoff need not be looking for work to be classified as unemployed. (Persons not on temporary layoff need to have actively looked for work in the 4 weeks prior to the survey in order to be classified as unemployed.)
  • Workers who usually work full time but indicate that they had worked fewer than 35 hours in the reference week because of the shutdown should be classified as employed part time for economic reasons.
  • As always, survey results are subject to both sampling and nonsampling error. Nonsampling error can occur if people responding to the survey questions misunderstand the questions or provide inaccurate answers. This could result in the misclassification of the individual's labor force status.

Establishment survey

  • In the Current Employment Statistics survey (the establishment survey), businesses report the number of people who work or receive pay for any part of the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. Persons who work or receive pay for any part of the pay period are defined as employed. Persons not working or on layoff the entire pay period and who do not receive pay are not defined as employed. This method of classifying workers is the same in all industries, including the federal government. The legislation that ended the partial shutdown established that federal employees would be paid for the time their agencies were closed.
  • The establishment survey also provides estimates of hours and earnings for the private sector, but not for the public sector. Changes in work schedules in the private sector can affect estimates of average weekly hours and average weekly earnings for that sector.
  • The reference period in the establishment survey is the pay period that includes the 12th of the month, regardless of the length of the pay period. Pay periods are establishment specific and may be weekly, biweekly, semi-monthly, monthly, or a combination of those frequencies.
  • In the establishment survey, data collection for a specific month begins as early as the 13th of that month. Data collection continues for about 2 months, and the estimates are revised twice after their initial release to reflect the additional data collected. All BLS operations, including data collection for the establishment survey, were suspended from October 1 to October 16, 2013. During this period, BLS normally would have collected data to be used for the August final, September second preliminary, and October preliminary establishment survey estimates. Data collection resumed shortly after BLS reopened. In accordance with usual practice, information on collection rates for the establishment survey estimates will be made available at when the Employment Situation for October is released on November 8, 2013.


Last Modified Date: October 30, 2013