Solving The Mystery Of America’s Dueling Jobs Surveys

There are any number of burning questions one could pose vis-à-vis the US labor market, which remains something of an enigma four years on from the pandemic. In 2024, one of the biggest ostensible mysteries is the discrepancy between the household survey and the establishment survey in the BLS's monthly jobs report. The simple figure below illustrates the scope of the disparity. Bears see a harbinger of doom, bulls see a distortion that'll fade. Which is what bears and bulls always see, re

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10 thoughts on “Solving The Mystery Of America’s Dueling Jobs Surveys

  1. The household survey is primarily designed to measure demographic data – age, race, FT/PT, multiple job-holders, etc – and rates – e.g. unemployment, underemployment – not to measure total employment. So deviations between the two sources on total employment seem not too concerning.

    1. Years ago ICE got the idea the region of Iowa around Waterloo was teeming with “criminal” illegals and sent out a huge fleet of trucks to round them up. It was the presence meat packing firms in the area that set them off. All in all, the roundup of the “usual suspects” took more effort than expected as 3000 or so were grabbed and stuffed into an old sports arena (built for the Blackhawks of the original NBA). ICE couldn’t feed them, house them, or manage them so immediate deportation was called for. The trouble is they had no place to send them, they needed paperwork, and there were so many children that got dragged in this it took weeks to get rid of this relatively little number of people. Most eventually had to be let go anyway. Now, if your sides don’t hurt from laughter, the same contractor who was going to build an impenetrable wall around us now wants to become a dictator and deport 20,000,000 aliens. Since our economy can’t run without immigrants this will be a real crazy process. (BTW, DeSantis is slated for appointment to the head alien-catcher job).

      1. I absolutely agree that the immigrants who are here are largely going to stay here. I do think that going forward, the US needs to better control the process. As we get closer to “full employment”, it becomes much more difficult to absorb immigrants into our work force and then immigrants become a “net cost”.

      2. The other comment that I have is that “rounding up” and physically removing illegal immigrants isn’t the only way to reduce the existing number of illegal immigrants.
        We can make the penalty for hiring an illegal immigrant so extreme that it significantly cuts down on the number of people who would be willing to hire someone illegally.
        Similar to selling alcohol to a minor.

        1. We are talking about Trump here. He loves spectacles – parades, rallies etc. Videos of dark-skinned immigrants being loaded onto buses would fill the bill nicely. (Or even being herded into rail cars?)

          Miller could justify it by saying the videos would discourage others thinking of making the trek north.

          Of course, as DJT suggested, black people will be delighted to take the jobs at the meat packing plant Dr. Lucky referred to.

        2. As H has pointed out, the Republican party, or at least the Trump version of it, needs all the hooks and ledges on which it might still find purchase. As just demonstrated, they are less interested in solving or meaningfully addressing the immigration issue because it has become foundational for them. If the immigration issue magically goes away, they will no doubt have to turn to “they are coming for your guns” (or gas stoves, flushing toilets, bibles, new born babies, etc). I’ll take my chances with more undocumented immigrants over more undocumented handguns and assault rifles, thank you.

  2. Yes, as a professional IT consultant out of work for well over a year now, who consistently gets offers of 20% of what he was worth 18 months ago (that is, when he can get an interview or even an acknowledgment that he submitted a résumé) I feel certain that the explanation that the discrepancy can be chalked up to teenagers is the correct one, and I am not at all frustrated as hell with hearing things like that.

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