Employment has increased notably in the last month, but still remains well below its pre-crisis level: VCU researchers

The labor market continues to see an increase in activity, increasing 2.9 percentage points between the weeks of May 24-30 and June 7-13, according to a report by economists from Virginia Commonwealth University and Arizona State University.

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“Virtually all states have begun to reopen their economies. But crucial questions remain about the kind of labor market recovery we are likely to see,” said Adam Blandin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the VCU School of Business who conducts the biweekly Real-Time Population Survey with Alexander Bick, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics at Arizona State. “Will we see a V-shaped recovery, where employment declines sharply, but then recovers almost as quickly? Or will we see an L-shaped recovery, where employment declines sharply and then does not recover for several years?

“Our estimates provide a preliminary view of labor market conditions, and suggest that the answer is somewhere in between these two stories,” Blandin said. “Specifically, employment has increased notably in the last month, but still remains well below its pre-crisis level.”

Blandin and Bick started the Real-Time Population Survey out of a desire to use their skills as economists to help policymakers, reporters, analysts and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since launch, their research has been cited widely in national publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Business Insider, Forbes, The New York Times and The Washington Post, and has drawn attention from notable economists worldwide.

The Real-Time Population Survey closely follows the methodology of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey. Blandin and Bick have made improvements with each survey wave and plan to continue refining their methodology going forward.

The latest survey results reflect the week of June 7-13. Among the key findings:

  • The unemployment rate fell as well, partly because of an increase in labor force participation.
  • The net increase in employment is being driven primarily by individuals working for a new employer, as opposed to individuals returning to former employers.

The Real-Time Population Survey is conducted in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The results from this survey do not represent official forecasts or views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, its president, the Federal Reserve System or the Federal Open Market Committee.

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