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Real-Time Population Survey (RPS)

August 21, 2020

Employment Rate Ticks Down in Mid-August

  • The employment rate for working-age adults (18–64) was 63.8 percent in the RPS for the week of Aug. 9–15, a decrease relative to the estimate of 64.9 percent for the week of July 26–Aug. 1.
  • In mid-July, the employment rate in the RPS of 61.7 percent was below the most recent Current Population Survey (CPS) estimate of 67.5 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 66.9 percent for the week of July 12–18.

Chart 1

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Unemployment Rate Increases

  • The unemployment rate in the RPS was 15.5 percent for Aug. 9–15, an increase relative to 15.0 percent for July 26–Aug. 1.
  • In mid-July, the unemployment rate of 15.9 percent in the RPS was above the official CPS estimate of 10.3 percent for working-age adults (18–64) and above the alternate estimate of 11.2 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 75.5 percent in the RPS for Aug. 9–15, a decrease relative to the estimate of 76.4 percent for July 26–Aug. 1.
  • In mid-July, the RPS participation rate estimate of 73.4 percent was below CPS estimate of 75.3 percent.

Chart 3

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Next release: September 4
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.

RPS