U.S. Census Shelves Planned Changes to Population Survey
(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Census Bureau postponed planned changes to its population survey, which economists said would have jeopardized their ability to dig below the main employment data to track more detailed wage and job figures.
The Census Bureau had planned to publish fewer details from its Current Population Survey -- which polls households monthly to generate the Labor Department’s unemployment and labor-force participation rates -- to protect the confidentiality of respondents.
“Given the historical circumstances presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy, combined with the urgent need for workforce data, the Census Bureau has decided to defer the introduction of updated confidentiality protections,” the agency said in a statement late Friday.
Economists had said the move would likely impede data analysis, including a wage growth tracker from the Atlanta Federal Reserve that is widely watched by Wall Street.
Tracking data in real time has become crucial in the pandemic era, when official indicators published monthly often fail to provide a full picture of fast-moving events. The economic hit from the recent wave of the highly contagious omicron variant was just the latest example.
The Atlanta Fed, which relies on the Current Population Survey for its wage tacker, said earlier Friday that the change would have hindered its ability to match data to the previous year and to track wages over time.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell has cited the Atlanta Fed wage tracker as an important way to gauge inflationary pressures. The tracker had shown how incomes for the bottom quartile had risen in recent quarters.
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