ADVERTISEMENT
News » Money
Apr 4, 5:26 PM EDT

A tale of 2 employment surveys, covering US households and businesses, at a glance

Business Video

Latest Business News
UnitedHealth's 1st-quarter profit tumbles 8 percent, insurer cites overhaul costs

Target expands subscription service as it fends off Amazon.com in fight for online shoppers

Goldman Sachs' earnings fall 11 percent as bond trading slumps, still beats estimates

Americans seeking weekly unemployment benefits rose to 304,000; still at pre-recession levels

Chipotle 1st-quarter net income misses expectations but sales continue to surge

Multimedia
A district summary of the Beige Book
Measuring economic stress by county nationwide
Mall malaise: shoppers browse, but don't buy
Unemployment by the numbers
Family struggles with father's unemployment
Saying an affordable goodbye
Hard times hit small car dealer
Latest Economic News
China's cheap factories face new challenge as growth inexorably slows

How the Dow Jones industrial average and other major stock indexes fared Wednesday

US company earnings, encouraging economic data propel third straight day of gains for stocks

King, SodaStream, Google, CSX and Bank of America big market movers

US stocks move higher after solid earnings from Yahoo; Encouraging news on China economy

French premier vows to cut $29 billion in pensions, health and social care by 2017

US stocks move higher after solid earnings from Yahoo; Encouraging news on China economy

Russian economic slows sharply amid Ukraine tensions, but Putin seen undeterred

US stocks open higher after solid earnings from Yahoo, PNC; Encouraging news on China economy

UK unemployment falls below 7 percent as earnings growth outstrips inflation

Buy AP Photo Reprints
Interactives
Greece's Debt Threatens to Spread
State budget
gaps map
Auto industry problems trickle down, punish Tennessee county
Women give old Derby hats a makeover in tough economy
S.C. town deals with highest unemployment in South
How mortgages were bundled and sold as securities
Tracking the $700 billion financial bailout
Tracking the year's job losses
State-by-state foreclosures since 2007
Credit crisis explained
Presidents and their economic legacies
Lexicon of the financial crisis
Americans' addiction to debt

The U.S. economy added 192,000 jobs in March, a respectable gain that would typically be enough to lower the unemployment rate. Yet the rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent.

Why did the unemployment rate remain the same if the job gain was solid?

Because the government conducts one survey to learn how many jobs were created and another to determine the unemployment rate. The two surveys can sometimes produce differing results.

One is called the payroll survey. It asks mostly large companies and government agencies how many people they employed during the month. This survey produces the number of jobs gained or lost. For March, the payroll survey showed that companies and government agencies added 192,000 jobs.

The other is the household survey. Government workers ask whether the adults in a household have a job. Those who don't are asked whether they're looking for one. If they are, they're considered unemployed. If they aren't looking for a job, they're not considered part of the workforce and aren't counted as unemployed. The household survey produces each month's unemployment rate.

In March, the household survey showed that 503,000 more Americans began looking for work. About 476,000 quickly found jobs. But the remaining 27,000 joined the ranks of the unemployed.

An increase in unemployed people usually lifts the unemployment rate. But in this case, the increase wasn't large enough to do so. That's why the rate remained the same.

Unlike the payroll survey, the household survey captures farm workers, the self-employed and people who work for new companies. It also does a better job of capturing hiring by small businesses.

But the household survey is more volatile from month to month. The Labor Department surveys just 60,000 households, a small fraction of the more than 100 million U.S. households.

By contrast, the payroll survey seeks information from 145,000 companies and government agencies. They employ roughly one-third of non-farm employees. The employers send forms to the Labor Department or fill out online surveys, noting how many people they employ. They also provide pay, hours worked and other details.

Most Americans focus more on the unemployment rate, which comes from the household survey. But economists generally prefer the jobs figure from the payroll survey.

Still, they note that the two surveys tend to even out over time. Over the past year, the payroll survey shows that companies have added 2.25 million jobs. The household survey has found that 2.35 million more Americans said they had jobs.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

 
ADVERTISEMENT