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U.S. Economy

Real-Time Population Survey (RPS)

July 24, 2020

Important note: The RPS survey for the week of July 12–18 reflects changes to the survey design that better align the measurement of employment status with the CPS. Based on comparisons with a parallel survey for the same week under the old survey methodology, the results from the previous RPS surveys were adjusted for consistency. The series shown below are the revised series and differ from earlier releases.

Employment Rate Decreases in Mid-July

  • The employment rate for working-age adults (18–64) was 61.7 percent in the RPS for the week of July 12–18, a decline relative to the revised estimate of 62.9 percent for the week of June 21–27.
  • In mid-June, the employment rate in the RPS of 63.5 percent was below the most recent Current Population Survey (CPS) estimate of 67.0 percent for working-age adults (18–64). The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which draws on the CPS for its unemployment rate report, continued to report that some individuals “with a job but absent from work because of the coronavirus” were misclassified as employed during the CPS interviewing process.

    In contrast, the RPS did not record an unusually high number of persons not at work, suggesting that the same misclassification did not occur in the RPS. Reclassifying the individuals absent from work in the CPS survey leads to an adjusted employment rate among working-age adults of 66.0 percent for the week of June 7–13.

Chart 1

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Unemployment Rate Ticks Up

  • The unemployment rate in the RPS was 15.9 percent for July 12–18, an increase relative to the revised estimate of 15.0 percent for June 21–27.
  • In mid-June, the unemployment rate of 16.4 percent in the RPS was above the official CPS estimate of 11.0 percent for working-age adults (18–64) and also above the alternate estimate of 12.3 percent after reclassifying all those “absent from work because of the coronavirus’’ as unemployed.

Chart 2

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Labor Force Participation Decreases

  • The labor force participation rate was 73.4 percent in the RPS for July 12–18, a decrease relative to the revised estimate of 74.1 percent for June 21–27.
  • In mid-June, the RPS participation rate estimate of 75.9 percent was above the CPS estimate of 75.2 percent.

Chart 3

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Next release: August 7
RPS Authors

The RPS was developed by Alexander Bick, an associate professor at WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University; Adam Blandin, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at Virginia Commonwealth University; in collaboration with Karel Mertens, a senior economic policy advisor in the Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.