BLS Information

Hurricane Katrina and the Employment Situation report

  1. What were the major data production problems faced by BLS in the aftermath of Katrina?

    The displacement of people and destruction of property affected our ability to contact some portion of the households and businesses in our household and payroll surveys. Because of the wide scale and long-lasting nature of the disaster, it was recognized that normal statistical procedures used to handle missing cases could produce estimates with a higher level of error than usual. In September and October, BLS made some adjustments to the procedures for its payroll survey to account for this problem.

  2. What was the impact on data collection for the payroll survey (Current Employment Statistics or CES survey) for September through February?

    First, it’s important to understand how the payroll survey defines employment. If workers are paid for any part of the survey reference period, they are considered as employed in the payroll survey.

    We have made extensive efforts to contact our sample members in the stricken areas and we have received some reports from firms that are operating in the disaster area.

    In addition, reports for about one-third of the sample in the disaster areas typically are sent to BLS by corporate headquarters from outside the area. BLS received reports from most of these businesses.

    The number of reports received from the affected areas was substantial, although less than normal, for September and October. Although still weaker than normal, subsequent sample receipts have improved.

  3. Did BLS do anything different in the payroll survey?

  4. Yes, for September and October. Because the number of respondents (or survey response rates) was lower for the areas affected by the hurricane than for other parts of the country, we adjusted our estimation procedures so that the information we received adequately represented all businesses in the affected areas.

    In November, estimation procedures returned to normal.

    For a description of the changes made to payroll survey procedures go to http://www.bls.gov/katrina/cpscesquestions.htm#1

  5. How did the household survey (Current Population Survey or CPS) count people affected by the hurricane?

    According to CPS concepts, persons who did any work for pay or profit and people who were temporarily absent from jobs to which they expect to return are counted as employed, even if they are not paid.

    Regarding unemployment, it should not be assumed that all people displaced from jobs were counted as unemployed in the Employment Situation report. To be counted as unemployed, an individual had to be available for and actively seeking work sometime during the 4 weeks prior to the survey collection period. Some people from the disaster area who lost jobs may not have been seeking work because they were dealing with their personal and family needs resulting from the disaster. Such individuals were classified as "not in the labor force."

    In the household survey, following standard procedures, people who moved out of sample households, including those who relocated due to the hurricane, were not followed for further interviews. People also were not surveyed in temporary shelters.

  6. Some people who relocated to households that were in the CPS sample were interviewed if they reported that they could not return (or did not know if they could return) to their usual residence.

  7. Did BLS do anything different in the household survey?

    In September, the Census Bureau, which conducts the household survey for BLS, attempted to contact all sample households in the disaster areas except those areas under mandatory evacuation at the time of the survey (Orleans and Jefferson parishes in Louisiana).Starting in October, all areas were surveyed.

  8. The household survey has used normal estimating procedures every month. Specifically, persons who could not be contacted were represented by others in the same state who were surveyed.

    Beginning in October, the Census Bureau began asking several questions in the household survey to identify persons who evacuated from their homes, even temporarily, due to Hurricane Katrina. Estimates from these questions represent only evacuees residing in households that are eligible for selection for the survey. Evacuees residing in places out of scope for the survey, such as shelters, were not interviewed; hence, they are not represented in the survey estimates. The total number of evacuees estimated from the household survey may change from month to month as people move in and out of the scope of the survey.

    Evacuees identified in CPS households in October represented about 800,000 persons 16 years and over. Just over half of the group was in the labor force in October. Their unemployment rate was about 25 percent. About 4 in 10 of the 800,000 evacuees had returned to their homes as of October.

    In November, evacuees identified in the survey represented about 900,000 persons 16 and over. About 53 percent of the group was in the labor force. About half of the evacuees identified in the survey had returned to their homes; the unemployment rate for returnees was 12.5 percent compared to 27.8 percent for those who had not returned.

    Evacuees identified in CPS households in December represented about 1.1 million persons 16 and over. About 58 percent of the group was in the labor force. Just over half of the evacuees identified in the survey had returned to their homes; the unemployment rate for returnees was 5.6 percent, compared to 20.7 percent for those who had not returned.

    In January, evacuees identified in CPS households represented about 1.2 million persons 16 and over. About 57 percent of the group was in the labor force. About 46 percent of the evacuees identified in the survey had returned to their homes; the unemployment rate for returnees was 2.9 percent compared to 26.3 percent for those who had not returned.

    Evacuees identified in CPS households in February represented about 1.0 million persons 16 and over. About 58 percent of the group was in the labor force and about 51 percent were employed. About 53 percent of the evacuees identified in the survey had returned to their home; the unemployment rate for returnees was 4.8 percent compared to 22.6 percent for those who had not returned.

    In March, evacuees identified in CPS households represented about 1.0 million persons 16 and over. About 54 percent of the group was in the labor force and about 45 percent were employed. About 55 percent of the evacuees identified in the survey were again living in their pre-Katrina residences; the unemployment rate for that group was 5.3 percent compared to 34.7 percent for those who were living elsewhere.

  9. How well does the CPS reflect the storm’s impact?

    In September, nationally, only about 1 percent fewer households were interviewed than in August. However, in Louisiana and Mississippi, the number of interviews was down by 36 and 13 percent, respectively. Fewer-than-normal interviews also were conducted in Texas due to the evacuation caused by Hurricane Rita during the data collection period.

    In October, nationally, the total number of interviews conducted was about the same as in August. In Louisiana and Mississippi, 26 and 10 percent fewer interviews, respectively, were conducted than in August. There were 2 percent fewer conducted in Texas.

    In November, nationally, the number of interviews conducted was again about the same as in August. In Louisiana and Mississippi, however, 21 and 9 percent fewer interviews, respectively, were conducted than in August. The number of households interviewed in Texas and Florida returned to normal.

    In December, nationally, the number of interviews conducted was about the same as in August. In Louisiana and Mississippi, 20 and 14 percent fewer interviews, respectively, were conducted than in August.

    In January, nationally, the number of interviews conducted was about the same as in August. In Louisiana and Mississippi, 17 and 10 percent fewer interviews, respectively, were conducted than in August.

    In February, nationally, the number of interviews conducted remained about the same as in August. In Louisiana and Mississippi, 17 and 11 percent fewer interviews, respectively, were conducted than in August.

    In March, nationally, the number of interviews conducted remained about the same as in August. In Louisiana and Mississippi, 16 percent fewer interviews were conducted than in August. The number of households interviewed in both Texas and Florida remained normal. In future months, these operations data will not be updated in this document but will be available on request.

    To the degree that the employment status of those who were interviewed was different than the status of those missed, there is some inaccuracy in the estimates.

  10. What about Hurricane Rita?

    Hurricane Rita struck during the September data collection week for both surveys. Because data refer to the situation during the week before Hurricane Rita struck, any job loss or other impact that occurred because of that hurricane was not reflected in the September 2005 estimates.

    Hurricane Rita may have had some impact on the October and subsequent estimates; however, the area severely impacted by this storm was much smaller than the Katrina-affected area. Therefore, any impact on employment was minimal at the national level.

  11. What about Hurricane Wilma?

    Hurricane Wilma struck Florida after both surveys' October reference periods and had a negligible effect on data collection and no effect on October estimates. Hurricane Wilma may have had some impact on subsequent months' estimates; however, any impact on employment and unemployment was not discernible at the national level.

  12. What about the future?

    The household survey resumed normal interviewing procedures in October. The payroll survey returned to normal estimation procedures beginning with data for November. The household survey will continue to identify Katrina evacuees monthly until further notice.

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For more details, please see Effects of Hurricane Katrina on BLS Employment and Unemployment Data Collection and Estimation.

Hurricane Information | Labor Market Statistics

Last Modified Date: April 07, 2006

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