current population survey


This paper documents and attempts to explain the observed disparities
between unemployment rates computed from contemporaneous and retrospective CPS
data. The maintained hypothesis is that the discrepancies are consistent with
different definitions of unemployment between the two measures. The longitudinal
nature of the CPS, which allows a respondent's answers to be matched between one
year and the next, is exploited to examine two commonly expressed shortcomings
in the contemporaneous definition. I find that relative to the retrospective
measure, more workers with weak labor force attachment are considered unemployed
in the contemporaneous rate. In addition, discouraged workers, who are
classified as out of the labor force according to the contemporaneous definition,
may be counted as unemployed in the retrospective.

Year of Publication
Date Published
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Citation Key
Levine, P. (1990). Contemporaneous vs. Retrospective Unemployment: Through the Filter of Memory or the Muddle of the Current Population Survey?. Retrieved from (Original work published October 1990)
Working Papers