U.S. Jobs-Report Survey May Add Questions to Gauge Virus Impact

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. government’s monthly survey of households that’s used to calculate the nation’s unemployment rate could be in for imminent changes to better gauge the coronavirus pandemic’s extensive effects on the labor market.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has asked the White House budget office to add five questions to the Current Population Survey, a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 households, beginning in May, according to documents posted Monday on a federal regulation website.

The additional questions, designed to help officials determine the effects of the coronavirus and government-led efforts to contain it, would be included with the survey for a period of 180 days beyond the date of approval.

“BLS has an urgent necessity to collect this information from the American public to assess the damage to the U.S. economy resulting from this pandemic,” Commissioner William Beach wrote in the request. The request would “allow policy makers to evaluate how the impacts of Covid-19 on the job market are changing over time,” according to a supporting document.

The figures would be tallied based on a “variety of demographic and labor force characteristics” to show the impact on different groups and industries.

These are the five questions the BLS wants to ask Americans:

  • If respondents teleworked at worked at home for pay at any time in the last four weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic
  • If respondents were unable to work at any time in the last four weeks because their employer closed or lost business due to the coronavirus
  • If respondents received any pay from their employers for the hours they did not work in the last four weeks
  • If the pandemic prevented respondents from looking for work in the last four weeks
  • If respondents or anyone in their household needed medical care for something other than coronavirus, but couldn’t get it because of the coronavirus pandemic in the last four weeks

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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