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Real-Time Population Survey (RPS)

December 18, 2020

Employment Rate Declines in Mid-December

  • The employment rate for working-age adults (18–64) was 68.6 percent in the RPS for the week of Dec. 6–12, a decrease relative to the estimate of 69.9 percent for the week of Nov. 8–14.
  • In mid-November, the RPS employment rate of 69.9 percent was below the most recent Current Population Survey (CPS) estimate of 70.4 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 69.9 percent for the week of Nov. 8–14.

Chart 1

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Unemployment Rate Rises

  • The unemployment rate in the RPS was 12.1 percent for Dec. 6–12, an increase relative to the estimate of 10.0 percent for Nov. 8–14.
  • In mid-November, the unemployment rate of 10.0 percent in the RPS exceeded the official CPS estimate of 6.3 percent for working-age adults (18–64) and is also above the alternate estimate of 6.8 percent after reclassifying those “absent from work because of the coronavirus’’ as unemployed.

Chart 2

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Labor Force Participation Edges Up

  • The labor force participation rate was 78.0 percent in the RPS for Dec. 6–12, an increase relative to the estimate of 77.7 percent for Nov. 8–14.
  • In mid-November, the RPS participation rate estimate of 77.7 percent compared with an estimate of 75.1 percent in the CPS.

Chart 3

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Next release: January 22
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