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U.S. Economy

Real-Time Population Survey (RPS)

February 19, 2021

Employment Rate Steady in Mid-February

  • The employment rate for working-age adults (18–64) was 68.6 percent in the RPS for the week of Feb. 7–13, unchanged from the estimate for the week of Jan. 10–16.
  • In mid-January, the RPS employment rate of 68.6 percent was below the most recent Current Population Survey (CPS) estimate of 69.7 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 69.6 percent for the week of Jan. 10–16.

Chart 1

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Unemployment Rate Increases Slightly

  • The unemployment rate in the RPS was 11.5 percent for Feb. 7–13, a slight increase relative to the estimate of 11.4 percent for Jan. 10–16.
  • In mid-January, the unemployment rate of 11.4 percent in the RPS exceeded the official CPS estimate of 6.9 percent for working-age adults (18–64) and is also above the alternate estimate of 7.0 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 77.6 percent in the RPS for Feb. 7–13, an increase relative to the estimate of 77.4 percent for Jan. 10–16.
  • In mid-January, the RPS estimate of the participation rate was 77.4 percent, compared with an estimate of 74.9 percent in the CPS.

Chart 3

Downloadable chart | Chart data

Next release: March 19
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.