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Improving the Accuracy of Economic Measurement with Multiple Data Sources: The Case of Payroll Employment Data
This paper combines information from two sources of U.S. private payroll employment to increase the accuracy of real-time measurement of the labor market. The sources are the Current Employment Statistics (CES) from BLS and microdata from the payroll processing firm ADP. We briefly describe the ADP-derived data series, compare it to the BLS data, and describe an exercise that benchmarks the data series to an employment census. The CES and the ADP employment data are each derived from roughly equal-sized samples. We argue that combining CES and ADP data series reduces the measurement error inherent in both data sources. In particular, we infer "true" unobserved payroll employment growth using a state-space model and find that the optimal predictor of the unobserved state puts approximately equal weight on the CES and ADP-derived series. Moreover, the estimated state contains information about future readings of payroll employment.
AUTHORS: Cajner, Tomaz; Crane, Leland; Decker, Ryan; Hamins-Puertolas, Adrian; Kurz, Christopher J.
Using Payroll Processor Microdata to Measure Aggregate Labor Market Activity
We show that high-frequency private payroll microdata can help forecast labor market conditions. Payroll employment is perhaps the most reliable real-time indicator of the business cycle and is therefore closely followed by policymakers, academia, and financial markets. Government statistical agencies have long served as the primary suppliers of information on the labor market and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. That said, sources of ?big data? are becoming increasingly available through collaborations with private businesses engaged in commercial activities that record economic activity on a granular, frequent, and timely basis. One such data source is generated by the firm ADP, which processes payrolls for about one fifth of the U.S. private sector workforce. We evaluate the efficacy of these data to create new statistics that complement existing measures. In particular, we develop a set of weekly aggregate employment indexes from 2000 to 2017, which allows us to measure employment at a higher frequency than is currently possible. The extensive coverage of the ADP data?similar in terms of private employment to the BLS CES sample?implies potentially high information value of these data, and our results confirm this conjecture. Indeed, the timeliness and frequency of the ADP payroll microdata substantially improves forecast accuracy for both current-month employment and revisions to the BLS CES data.
AUTHORS: Cajner, Tomaz; Crane, Leland; Decker, Ryan; Hamins-Puertolas, Adrian; Kurz, Christopher J.; Radler, Tyler