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Real-Time Population Survey (RPS)

Important note: The RPS survey for the week of Sept. 27–Oct. 3 reflects methodological changes, including to the sample weighting to better account for imbalances in the survey populations (read details.) The series shown below are revised and differ from earlier releases.

October 9, 2020

Employment Rate Rises in September

  • The employment rate for working-age adults (18–64) was 69.0 percent in the RPS for the week of Sept. 27–Oct. 3, an increase from the revised estimate of 67.5 percent for the week of Sept. 6–12.
  • In mid-September, the RPS employment rate of 67.5 percent was below the most recent Current Population Survey (CPS) estimate of 69.3 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 68.7 percent for the week of Sept. 6–12.

Chart 1

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Unemployment Rate Increases

  • The unemployment rate in the RPS was 12.7 percent for Sept. 27–Oct. 3, an increase relative to the revised estimate of 11.1 percent for Sept. 6–12.
  • In mid-September, the unemployment rate of 11.1 percent in the RPS exceeded the official CPS estimate of 7.6 percent for working-age adults (18–64) and also exceeds the alternate estimate of 8.1 percent after reclassifying those “absent from work because of the coronavirus’’ as unemployed.

Chart 2

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Labor Force Participation Increases

  • The labor force participation rate was 79.0 percent in the RPS for Sept. 27–Oct. 3, an increase relative to the revised estimate of 75.9 percent for Sept. 6–12.
  • In mid-September, the RPS estimate of the participation rate was 75.9 percent, compared with the CPS estimate of 75.0 percent.

Chart 3

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Next release: October 23
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