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Real-Time Population Survey (RPS)

September 4, 2020

Employment Rate Ticks Down in Late August

  • The employment rate for working-age adults (18–64) was 62.4 percent in the RPS for the week of Aug. 23–29, a decrease relative to the estimate of 63.8 percent for the week of Aug. 9–15.
  • In mid-August, the RPS employment rate of 63.8 percent was below the most recent Current Population Survey (CPS) estimate of 68.9 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 people 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 68.3 percent for the week of Aug. 9–15.

Chart 1

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Unemployment Rate Decreases

  • The unemployment rate in the RPS was 14.2 percent for Aug. 23–29, a decrease relative to the estimate of 15.5 percent for Aug. 9–15.
  • In mid-August, the unemployment rate of 15.5 percent in the RPS exceeded the official CPS estimate of 8.5 percent for working-age adults (18–64) and was also higher than the alternate estimate of 9.2 percent after reclassifying 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 72.7 percent in the RPS for Aug. 23–29, a decrease relative to the estimate of 75.5 percent for Aug. 9–15.
  • In mid-August, the RPS participation rate estimate of 75.5 percent was near the CPS estimate of 75.2 percent.

Chart 3

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Next release: September 18
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