The May job report had a “misclassification” that caused the unemployment rate to appear lower than it is. Here is what happened

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When the official US government employment report for May was released on Friday, it included a note at the bottom indicating that there had been a major “error” and that the unemployment rate should probably be above the rate of 13.3% widely reported.

The Special Note stated that if this misclassification had not occurred, the “overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than that reported”, which means that the unemployment rate would be ” about 16.3% in May.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that publishes monthly employment reports, said it was working to fix the problem.

“BLS and the Census Bureau are investigating the reasons why this classification error continues to occur and are taking further steps to resolve the problem,” said a note at the bottom of the Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Some saw this as a sign that President Donald Trump or one of his staff could have tweaked the data to improve it, especially since most forecasters had predicted that the unemployment rate would be close to 20% in May, compared to 14.7% in April. . But economists and former BLS leaders from all political backgrounds strongly rejected the idea that Trump or anyone else had tampered with the data.

Economists say the BLS was trying to be as transparent as possible about the difficulty of collecting real-time data during a pandemic. The BLS admitted that some people who should have been classified as “temporary unemployed” during the closure were instead wrongly classified as employed but “absent” from work for “other reasons”.

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