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Misclassification Errors and the Underestimation of the U.S. Unemployment Rate

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  • Shuaizhang Feng
  • Yingyao Hu

Abstract

Using recent results in the measurement error literature, we show that the official U.S. unemployment rate substantially underestimates the true level of unemployment, due to misclassification errors in the labor force status in the Current Population Survey. During the period from January 1996 to August 2011, the corrected monthly unemployment rates are between 1 and 4.4 percentage points (2.1 percentage points on average) higher than the official rates, and are more sensitive to changes in business cycles. The labor force participation rates, however, are not affected by this correction.

Suggested Citation

  • Shuaizhang Feng & Yingyao Hu, 2012. "Misclassification Errors and the Underestimation of the U.S. Unemployment Rate," Economics Working Paper Archive 595, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:jhu:papers:595
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thierry Magnac & Michael Visser, 1999. "Transition Models With Measurement Errors," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(3), pages 466-474, August.
    2. Peracchi, Franco & Welch, Finis, 1995. "How representative are matched cross-sections? Evidence from the Current Population Survey," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 153-179, July.
    3. Henry S. Farber, 1999. "Alternative and Part-Time Employment Arrangements as a Response to Job Loss," NBER Working Papers 7002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Abowd, John M & Zellner, Arnold, 1985. "Estimating Gross Labor-Force Flows," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(3), pages 254-283, June.
    5. Stephen R. G. Jones & W. Craig Riddell, 1999. "The Measurement of Unemployment: An Empirical Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(1), pages 147-162, January.
    6. Farber, Henry S, 1999. "Alternative and Part-Time Employment Arrangements as a Response to Job Loss," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 142-169, October.
    7. Dean R. Hyslop, 1999. "State Dependence, Serial Correlation and Heterogeneity in Intertemporal Labor Force Participation of Married Women," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(6), pages 1255-1294, November.
    8. Hu, Yingyao, 2008. "Identification and estimation of nonlinear models with misclassification error using instrumental variables: A general solution," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 144(1), pages 27-61, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Elsby, Michael W.L. & Hobijn, Bart & Şahin, Ayşegül, 2015. "On the importance of the participation margin for labor market fluctuations," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 64-82.
    2. Jung, Philip & Kuhn, Moritz, 2012. "Earnings losses and labor mobility over the life-cycle," MPRA Paper 40287, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Hyslop, Dean R. & Townsend, Wilbur, 2017. "Employment misclassification in survey and administrative reports," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 19-23.
    4. Ng, Travis, 2014. "Bailing outsourcing," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 983-993.
    5. Feng, Shuaizhang & Hu, Yingyao & Moffitt, Robert, 2017. "Long run trends in unemployment and labor force participation in urban China," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 304-324.
    6. Guerrazzi, Marco & Ksebi, Ilham, 2018. "Measuring unemployment by means of official data and administrative records: Empirical and theoretical perspectives," MPRA Paper 87227, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Hu, Yingyao, 2017. "The econometrics of unobservables: Applications of measurement error models in empirical industrial organization and labor economics," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 200(2), pages 154-168.
    8. Shuaizhang Feng & Yingyao Hu & Robert Moffitt, 2015. "Long Run Trends in Unemployment and Labor Force Participation in China," NBER Working Papers 21460, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Zhang, Yinjunjie & Xu, Zhicheng Phil & Palma, Marco A., 2017. "Misclassification Errors of Subjective Well-being: A New Approach to Mapping Happiness," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 258553, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    10. Andrew C. Chang & Phillip Li, 2018. "Measurement Error In Macroeconomic Data And Economics Research: Data Revisions, Gross Domestic Product, And Gross Domestic Income," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 56(3), pages 1846-1869, July.
    11. Feng, Shuaizhang & Hu, Yingyao & Sun, Jiandong, 2018. "On the robustness of alternative unemployment measures," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 1-5.
    12. Michael Elsby & Bart Hobijn & Sahin, Aysegül, 2013. "On the Importance of the Participation Margin for Market Fluctuations," Working Paper Series 2013-05, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
    13. DiTraglia, Francis J. & García-Jimeno, Camilo, 2019. "Identifying the effect of a mis-classified, binary, endogenous regressor," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 209(2), pages 376-390.
    14. Meyer, Bruce D. & Mittag, Nikolas, 2017. "Misclassification in binary choice models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 200(2), pages 295-311.
    15. Ragui Assaad & Caroline Krafft & Shaimaa Yassin, 2018. "Comparing retrospective and panel data collection methods to assess labor market dynamics," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 8(1), pages 1-34, December.
    16. Feng, Shuaizhang & Guo, Naijia, 2019. "Labor Market Dynamics in Urban China and the Role of the State Sector," IZA Discussion Papers 12170, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    17. Ziteng Lei & Shelly Lundberg, 2020. "Vulnerable Boys: Short-term and Long-term Gender Differences in the Impacts of Adolescent Disadvantage," Working Papers 2020-008, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    18. Nikolay Gospodinov & Ivana Komunjer & Serena Ng, 2014. "Minimum Distance Estimation of Dynamic Models with Errors-In-Variables," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2014-11, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    19. John Komlos, 2019. "Estimating Labor Market Slack, U.S. 1994-2019," CESifo Working Paper Series 7941, CESifo Group Munich.
    20. John Komlos, 2019. "The Real U.S. Unemployment Rate Is Twice the Official Rate, and the Phillips Curve," CESifo Working Paper Series 7859, CESifo Group Munich.
    21. Lu, Ruichang & Luo, Yao & Xiao, Ruli, 2014. "An MPEC estimator for misclassification models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 125(2), pages 195-199.
    22. Yingyao Hu, 2015. "Microeconomic models with latent variables: applications of measurement error models in empirical industrial organization and labor economics," CeMMAP working papers CWP03/15, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J21 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Force and Employment, Size, and Structure
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General

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