Labor Markets - February 2010

Note: Because of annual revisions, regional and state employment and unemployment statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) have not yet been updated for January. December 2009 charts and data can found in the January update.

Revisions to State Payroll Employment Data
Payroll employment is derived from the Establishment Survey, a sample-based monthly survey that is subject to many sampling and nonsampling errors. For this reason, each year the BLS realigns these sample-based estimates of payroll employment with more comprehensive counts of employment derived from unemployment insurance (UI) tax data, which most employers are required to report. In other words, the UI tax data serve as benchmarks for payroll employment. The revisions are done in conjunction with the January state employment report, which will be released on March 10, 2010.

Benchmark levels will replace the original sample-based payroll estimates from April 2008–March 2009, the benchmark period. Typically, the differences between the March sample-based estimate of payroll employment and the revised benchmark levels are used to gauge the magnitude of revisions. For example, last year's March 2008 benchmark level in Florida was 1.4 percent below the sample-based employment estimate, meaning that employment conditions were worse than originally estimated. The table below shows the percent differences between March sample-based estimates and the revised March benchmark levels for Sixth District states for the past five years.

Percent difference between nonfarm payroll employment estimates and benchmarks for Sixth District states, March of each year

2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
AL 0.5 0.1 0.2 0.0 –0.6
FL 0.6 0.5 –0.1 –0.2 –1.4
GA 0.1 1.2 0.4 0.4 –0.7
LA 0.7 * 4.2 0.4 –0.5
MS 0.3 0.1 0.1 –0.5 0.0
TN 0.4 0.4 0.4 –0.3 0.2
* Less than 0.5 percent

Similar to the national benchmark revision, which was released in January 2010, state-level benchmark revisions for 2009 are expected to be larger in magnitude than in previous years. BLS employment estimates tend to be less accurate during business cycle downturns and upturns. National employment figures were revised down by 0.7 percent (902,000) during the benchmark period.

Unemployment Claims
Average weekly initial claims declined notably in Florida in January and early February. In contrast, claims ticked up in Georgia and were stagnant for the other District states. Initial claims continued to show a downward trend in Tennessee and Alabama.

Average weekly continuing claims remained elevated in all District states but have declined from their recessionary peaks in all states except Louisiana. The current elevated levels of continuing claims are indicative of a weak demand for labor.