Hurricanes Irma and Maria and September and October 2017 Payroll data for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Hurricane Irma caused severe damage in St. Thomas and St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Puerto Rico also suffered damage from Irma. Irma was a Category 5 hurricane when near the U.S.
Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Maria made landfall in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico on
Wednesday, September 20, causing catastrophic damage. These areas already had suffered damage
from Hurricane Irma earlier in the month.
Did CES estimation procedures change for the September and October 2017 data for Puerto Rico?
The CES program reviewed, and continues to review, all aspects of its estimation procedures to
determine if any changes are necessary. For the release of September 2017 Puerto Rico estimates,
the collection rates in the affected areas were within normal ranges, and the CES program
determined that no modifications to the current methodology would be made. Response rates for the
October 2017 establishment survey were lower than average in Puerto Rico. Additionally, a
modification was made to the estimation process that accounts for business births and deaths for
preliminary October estimates.
Research indicates that while both the business birth and death portions of total employment are
generally significant, the net contribution is relatively small and stable. To account for this
net birth/death portion of total employment, BLS uses an estimation procedure with two components:
the first component excludes employment losses due to business deaths from sample-based estimation
in order to offset the missing employment gains from business births. This is incorporated into the
sample-based estimate procedure by simply not reflecting sample units going out of business, but
imputing to them the same trend as the other firms in the sample. This step accounts for most of the
birth employment. Given the impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria, reported zeroes were used to
calculate the preliminary October estimates for Puerto Rico to reflect likely changes in business
birth/death patterns in Puerto Rico. The second component is an auto-regressive integrated moving
average (ARIMA) time series model designed to estimate the residual birth/death employment not
accounted for by the imputation. This second component was not modified for preliminary October
estimates for Puerto Rico. See https://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cesbd.htm for
more information on the CES net birth/death model.
How are establishment estimates for the U.S. Virgin Islands affected by the recent hurricanes?
Because of the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the U.S. Virgin Islands was not able
to conduct normal data collection activities for its establishment survey. In turn, given the lack
of adequate sample data, reliable September and October estimates for the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot
be produced at this time. BLS published revised August 2017 estimates on October 20, 2017, for the U.S.
Virgin Islands. BLS continues to monitor the situation in the U.S. Virgin Islands and will produce
estimates when adequate sample data becomes available.
Last Modified Date: November 17, 2017