Department of Labor Logo United States Department of Labor
Dot gov

The .gov means it's official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you're on a federal government site.

Https

The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

BLS Information
PRINT:Print

Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on Employment and Unemployment Statistics

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Will data collection for JOLTS be impacted by COVID-19? JOLTS data collection for the February reference month was not affected by COVID-19. Data for March and subsequent months were affected. BLS modified the JOLTS alignment procedure to more accurately capture changes in separations and hires due to COVID-19. More details are in the JOLTS news releases.
  3. 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 County Employment and Wages News Release and Data

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) publishes data on establishment counts, monthly employment, and total quarterly wages each quarter. The data are published in the County Employment and Wages news release.

Effects of COVID-19 on Business Employment Dynamics News Release and Data

The Business Employment Dynamics series use establishment-level data collected from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) to produce gross job flow statistics. The data are published in the Business Employment Dynamics news release.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 

  1. 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.
  2. Will data collection for ATUS be impacted by COVID-19? ATUS data collection is impacted by COVID-19. Data collection was suspended when the call center in which ATUS interviewers operate to collect the ATUS data was closed on March 19, 2020. Data collection resumed, at a reduced capacity, on May 11, 2020. 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 collection is thus impacted by response to the CPS.
  3. 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, data collection for the ATUS was suspended from March 19, 2020 until May 11, 2020.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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: July 31, 2020