New survey shows labor market recovery continues

Current rate is still far below the employment rate from February, just prior to the pandemic.

A chart depicting employment rates.
Black/square data is from CPS surveys. Blue/circle data is from online RPS survey. (Courtesy VCU School of Business)

The labor market continued its recovery the week of Nov. 8-14, but at a slower pace than at the start of the recovery, according to a report by economists from Virginia Commonwealth University and Arizona State University. 

“The latest [Real-Time Population Survey] results show that, since April, employment has recovered three-quarters of the way back to the pre-pandemic level,” said Adam Blandin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the VCU School of Business, who conducts the monthly survey with Alexander Bick, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics at Arizona State. “In early November, 69.9% of working-age adults were employed. This is a large improvement compared to roughly 60% employment in April. But the current rate is still far below the 73.8% employment rate from February, just prior to the pandemic.”

The Real-Time Population Survey closely follows the methodology of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey and covers the same time period. However, Blandin and Bick release their results two weeks earlier. Additionally, they ask questions that the Current Population Survey does not, such as who is working for the same employer as pre-pandemic and who has lost or gained earnings since then.

Blandin and Bick started the Real-Time Population Survey out of a desire to use their skills as economists to help policymakers, reporters, analysts and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest survey results reflect the week of Nov. 8-14. Other key findings show that earnings also have increased relative to the spring. Among those employed in February, more than one-third reported a loss in earnings in early April. This share declined to 1 in 4 in the most recent Real-Time Population Survey. Meanwhile, 1 in 5 individuals are earning more than they did in February. Together, these results indicate that some of the earnings losses suffered early in the pandemic were temporary in nature.

The Real-Time Population Survey is conducted in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The results from this survey do not represent official forecasts or views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, its president, the Federal Reserve System or the Federal Open Market Committee.

Subscribe to receive future results at https://sites.google.com/view/covid-rps/.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 30,000 students in 233 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and MCV Physicians. The clinical enterprise includes a collaboration with Sheltering Arms Institute for physical rehabilitation services. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.