Unemployment Rate for September Remains the Same, or Does it?

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced on Friday that the national unemployment rate for September will go unchanged this month at 9.6 percent, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t shifts in the jobs market. That number also doesn’t reflect changes in the job market that are likely to alter the unemployment rate, such as the opening or closing of new businesses.

In September, government workers lost 150,000 jobs, half of which were eliminated temporary census jobs. The private sector added 64,000 jobs thus offsetting the public sector’s shrinking payroll and allowing the unemployment rate to appear unchanged.

The BLS has a way of dealing with new or failed businesses that would affect the jobless rate but it can’t account for in a timely manner. The number that was released on Friday, 9.6 percent, was just a preliminary estimate. The BLS will now continue to gather information on all new firms and closed firms, births and deaths as the BLS describes it, and then factor that information in to get a more accurate and final unemployment rate. The final estimate for September will be available in December.

When the preliminary unemployment rate is released, a previously established model considering probable birth and death rates of businesses is factored in to keep the numbers from being too far off.

We’ve put together a map using ClearMaps, a product of Sunlight Labs, that shows how unemployment rates differ by county throughout the country. The map visualizes county data made available by the BLS for August of 2009 through August of 2010. Be aware that the unemployment rates for August 2010 haven’t been finalized yet.

interactive by Kevin Webb

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  • alfred nucci

    I think you may be confusing the household and establishment surveys at bls. The former, a survey of households (not businesses) provides the data for the unemployment rate while the latter ( a survey of businesses/establishments) provides the data for the number of payroll jobs. It is the latter which incorporates assumptions about entry/exit of businesses, updated when universe information becomes available generally nine months to year later.

    • Thanks for the great feedback Alfred. We’ll look find some time to look into this ASAP.