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A tale of 2 US employment surveys, at a glance

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm •  Published: May 2, 2014

The household survey also found a slight drop in the number of people who said they had jobs.

Both declines reduced the proportion of adults either working or looking for work to a three-decade low last reached in December.

The decline was a disappointment. In the first three months of the year, better hiring had drawn about 1.5 million more people into the workforce. That trend was partly reversed in April.

Unlike the payroll survey, the household survey captures farm workers, the self-employed and people who work for new companies. It also does a better job of capturing hiring by small businesses.

But the household survey is more volatile from month to month. The Labor Department surveys just 60,000 households, a small fraction of the more than 100 million U.S. households.

By contrast, the payroll survey seeks information from 145,000 companies and government agencies. They employ roughly one-third of non-farm employees. The employers send forms to the Labor Department or fill out online surveys, noting how many people they employ. They also provide pay, hours worked and other details.

Most Americans focus more on the unemployment rate, which comes from the household survey. But economists generally prefer the jobs figure from the payroll survey.