Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Remember those two divergent BLS employment surverys? Econopundit pointed me to this BLS paper's partial resolution: it depends on what the meaning of the word "employment" is:

The red “adjusted” household survey line represents the smoothed household survey employment series that has been further modified to make it more similar in concept and definition to payroll survey employment. This adjustment to household survey employment subtracts from total employment agriculture and related employment, nonagricultural self employed, unpaid family and private household workers, and workers absent without pay from their jobs, and then adds nonagricultural wage and salary multiple jobholders.
It sounds to me like neither survey is capturing a reasonable definition of employment. On the other hand, if one can make the specific adjustments mentioned above, then obviously the numbers needed to make a better employment statistic are there. So why are we all using the current misleading statistics? Granted, as the BLS paper notes, even with definitional changes, the two surveys still disagree plenty. Still, wouldn't we be better off comparing the two surveys that at least tried to measure the same thing?