Since employment data from the American Community Survey are obtained from respondents in households, they differ from statistics based on reports from individual business establishments, farm enterprises, and certain government programs. People employed at more than one job are counted only once in the American Community Survey and are classified according to the job at which they worked the greatest number of hours during the reference week. In statistics based on reports from business and farm establishments, people who work for more than one establishment may be counted more than once. Moreover, some tabulations may exclude private household workers, unpaid family workers, and self-employed people, but may include workers less than 16 years of age. An additional difference in the data arises from the fact that people who had a job but were not at work are included with the employed in the American Community Survey statistics, whereas many of these people are likely to be excluded from employment figures based on establishment payroll reports. Furthermore, the employment status data in tabulations include people on the basis of place of residence regardless of where they work, whereas establishment data report people at their place of work regardless of where they live. This latter consideration is particularly significant when comparing data for workers who commute between areas.
For several reasons, the unemployment figures of the Census Bureau are not comparable with published figures on unemployment compensation claims. For example, figures on unemployment compensation claims exclude people who have exhausted their benefit rights, new workers who have not earned rights to unemployment insurance, and people losing jobs not covered by unemployment insurance systems (including some workers in agriculture, domestic services, and religious organizations, and self-employed and unpaid family workers). In addition, the qualifications for drawing unemployment compensation differ from
the definition of unemployment used by the Census Bureau. People working only a few hours during the week and people with a job but not at work are sometimes eligible for unemployment compensation but are classified as "Employed" in the American Community Survey. Differences in the geographical distribution of unemployment data arise because the place where claims are filed may not necessarily be the same as the place of residence of the unemployed worker.
For guidance on differences in employment and unemployment estimates from different sources, go to http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/laborfor/laborguidance082504.html
- Question/Concept History -
Worked Last Week (Question 28):
From 1999-2007, an italicized instruction was added to the question to help respondents determine what to count as work. Starting in 2008, the instruction was removed and the question was separated into two parts in an effort to give respondents - particularly people with irregular kinds of work arrangements - two opportunities to grasp and respond to the correct intent of the question.
On Layoff (Question 34a):
Starting in 1999, the "Yes, on temporary layoff from most recent job" and "Yes, permanently laid off from most recent job" response categories were condensed into a single "Yes" category. An additional question (Q34b) was added to determine the temporary/permanent layoff distinction.
Temporarily Absent (Question 34b):
Starting in 2008, the temporarily absent question included a revised list of examples of work absences.
Recalled to Work (Question 34c):
This question was added in the 1999 American Community Survey to determine if a respondent who reported being on layoff from a job had been informed that he or she would be recalled to work within 6 months or been given a date to return to work.
Available to Work (Question 36):
Starting in 1999, the "Yes, if a job had been offered" and "Yes, if recalled from layoff" response categories were condensed into one category, "Yes, could have gone to work." Starting in 2008, the actively looking for work question was modified to emphasize 'active' job-searching activities.