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Copyright 1993 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning

Benchmarking the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program

by: Gordon Wolford

Every year, with the completion and publication of the December Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data, many readers assume the annual average numbers for the calendar year are immediately available. This is not the case in Research & Planning (R&P) statistical programs. It’s not as simple as adding up the months and dividing by 12 to get the official annual average number.

The LAUS Program, which provides the current statewide and county labor force, employment, unemployment and unemployment rate estimates, is prepared by R&P in cooperation with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While the December preliminary and revised data are available by the end of January, the “benchmarked” monthly and annual average rate for the year are not normally completed until early April of the following year. Each month’s LAUS statistics are subject to four data revisions. Current data are preliminary, then revised the following month, then subjected to three benchmark revisions.

The nature and collection process of economic data means that it is not always available on a timely basis. As an example, all the 1990 Census data have not yet been published, even though it was collected over three years ago.

While the LAUS program uses certain census data, most of the 1990 program updates will not be used until January, 1994. Some examples of decennial census updates to come are new factors for the estimation of self-employed, unpaid family workers, and domestics in private households The 1992 LAUS benchmark was delayed until May 1993 because of difficulty compiling 1990 Census data necessary in the benchmark. The 1992 benchmarked LAUS data were published in the May 1993 issue of Wyoming Labor Force Trends. In this issue of Trends, we have included the most recent three year benchmarked annual average LAUS numbers in Local Area Unemployment Statistics Wyoming Annual Averages 1990-1992. For historical data refer to these tables rather than back issues of Trends.

In addition to the Census data used in benchmarking LAUS numbers, statewide annual averages for the labor force, employment, unemployment, and the unemployment rates come directly from other surveys. LAUS benchmarking includes statistics gathered from the Current Population Survey (CPS or household survey) and the Current Employment Statistics Survey (establishment survey). The monthly household survey contacts around 60,000 households across the nation, with about 825 households in Wyoming surveyed. The bulk of the findings are analyzed and published by BLS in monthly national publications like The Employment Situation and State And Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment.

Other statistical inputs, ratios, and formulas in benchmarking are based on non-census data accumulations and are updated annually. On a county level, Department of Employment (DOE) counts of employees covered by Wyoming State Unemployment Insurance (UI) are not available in time for use in preliminary estimates. These data are reported after the fact by covered employers under state and federal unemployment insurance laws. Once reported they are accumulated and listed in certain data formats. The time lag between reporting and publication of UI covered employment data is six months.

UI covered employment is approximately 85 percent of total employment in Wyoming. Revising the estimates with these data in the benchmarking process makes for more accurate worker numbers for the 21 smaller counties in the state. The two largest counties, Laramie and Natrona, use the Current Employment Statistics (CES) employment counts. The CES Program is also subject to revisions and benchmarks. If you compare preliminary and benchmarked LAUS counts for the same month and year, there will be some slight differences in the state and county data. LAUS data are published monthly in a current month, previous month, and one-year-ago format. The current month data are preliminary, previous month data are revised, and year ago month data are benchmarked.

Because of space limitations employment numbers are not normally published in Wyoming Labor Force Trends. Readers, however, can subtract the unemployment count from the labor force and get the number of employed. The unemployment rate represents the unemployed number as a percentage of the labor force.

The benchmarking process does not represent the correction of errors. Benchmarking represents the inclusion of more accurate and timely data in program estimates.

Gordon Wolford is a Senior Statistician who manages the LAUS statistics for Research & Planning.

Editor's Note: For further information on the LAUS program please visit the LAUS page at BLS.

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