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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. If you have questions, contact the CES staff.

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. If you have questions, contact the CPS staff.

Effects of COVID-19 on the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) provides monthly estimates of job openings, hires, and separations that serve as demand-side indicators at the national level.

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. If you have questions, contact the ATUS staff.

The 2020 ATUS was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Data collection was suspended in 2020 from mid-March to mid-May for the safety of staff. The 2020 ATUS news release features 2019 and 2020 estimates for May 10 through December 31, comparing time use estimates before the pandemic with those after the onset of the pandemic. ATUS data files for 2020 are available and contain all data collected in 2020—both before and after data collection was suspended. However, because the ATUS has only 10 months of data in 2020, annual estimates cannot be produced.

For more information, please see the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ATUS page.

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 projections, covering the 2020–30 decade, were released September 8, 2021.

Effects of COVID-19 on Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for nearly 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas; national occupational estimates for specific industries are also available. The Occupational Employment and Wages news release with May 2020 data will be published March 31, 2021.

Last Modified Date: September 1, 2022