comScore Why Does Jobs Report Show Only 700,000 Jobs Lost?

Why Does Trump Admin Jobs Report Show Only 700,000 Lost When 9.9 Million People Just Filed for Unemployment?

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The Trump administration’s Bureau of Labor Statistics just released a pretty disastrous March jobs report showing 700,000 jobs lost and an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, but that’s positively rosy compared to the nearly 10 million new unemployment claims filed over the past two weeks. Why the discrepancy?

On Friday morning, BLS broke the bad news via a press release:

Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 701,000 in March, and the unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The changes in these measures reflect the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and efforts to contain it. Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places. Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction.

Those job losses are nearly equal to the number of jobs lost at the height of the great recession, but anyone who’s been paying attention knows that 6.6 million people filed new unemployment claims last week, breaking the previous week’s record of 3.3 million.

The reason for the discrepancy is pretty simple: the BLS report only includes data through mid-March, as they explained:

We cannot precisely quantify the effects of the pandemic on the job market in March. However, it is clear that the decrease in employment and hours and the increase in unemployment can be ascribed to the effects of the illness and efforts to contain the virus. It is important to keep in mind that the March survey reference periods for both surveys predated many coronavirus-related business and school closures in the second half of the month.

1. Household and establishment surveys: What is the reference period for the two surveys?

The household survey reference period is generally the calendar week that contains the 12th day of the month, in this case March 8th through March 14th. In the household survey, individuals are classified as employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force based on their answers to a series of questions about their activities during the survey reference week (March 8–14).

That means that as bad as this jobs report is, the next one is going to be a doozy.

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