US: Gallup US Payroll to Population

Thu Sep 03 07:30:00 CDT 2015

Actual Previous
level 45.3 45.5

The Gallup U.S. Payroll to Population employment rate (P2P) was 45.3 percent in August. This is down two-tenths of a percentage point from July, but is even with the rate measured in August 2012, the highest Gallup has measured for any August since tracking began in 2010. P2P rates typically begin leveling off or falling in August after having risen through the spring and summer. This year appears to be no different, though the monthly figures have been higher in 2015 than in the comparable months most previous years.

The percentage of U.S. adults participating in the workforce in August was 66.9 percent. This is even with the rate measured in July 2015 and in August of last year. Since January 2010, the workforce participation rate has remained in a narrow range, from a low of 65.8 percent to a high of 68.5 percent. But since mid-2013, it has most often remained below 67.0 percent. Workforce participation is defined as the percentage of adults aged 18 and older who are working, or who are not working but are actively looking for work and are available for employment.

Gallup's unadjusted U.S. unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in August, up nominally from July's 6.1 percent and even with the rate measured in August 2014. After years of gradual decline, Gallup's unemployment measurement has not substantially changed from the rate measured a year ago, apart from a temporary seasonal spike in January.

Gallup's measure of underemployment in August is 14.5 percent, up 0.3 points from July. This rate is still lower than in any month other than July 2015 since Gallup began tracking it daily in 2010. Gallup's U.S. underemployment rate combines the percentage of adults in the workforce who are unemployed (6.3 percent) and those who are working part time but desire full-time work (8.2 percent).

Gallup tracks daily the employment status of the U.S. population and the workforce using a set of questions designed to measure U.S. employment accurately, in accordance with International Conference of Labour Statisticians standards. Based on an individual's responses to the question series (some of which are asked of only a subset of respondents), Gallup classifies respondents into one of six employment categories: employed full time for an employer; employed full time for self; employed part time, but do not want to work full time; employed part time, but want to work full time; unemployed; and out of the workforce.

Payroll to Population is a measure of those who are employed by an employer for at least 30 hours per week, and is calculated as a percentage of the total population.

Underemployed respondents are employed part time, but want to work full time, or are unemployed. Unemployed respondents are those within the underemployed group who are not employed, even for one hour a week, but are available and looking for work. Unemployment and underemployment are calculated as a percentage of the workforce.

Because results are not seasonally adjusted and there are methodological differences in data collection, they are not directly comparable to BLS numbers. However, the two measures are correlated, and Gallup's employment metrics follow the general BLS trend. Gallup reports P2P and underemployment at the state level on a semiannual basis.

Gallup unemployment data -- collected daily since 2010 -- are correlated with unemployment rates reported by the BLS. Gallup's unique Payroll to Population employment measure gives a clear picture of the employment situation for the entire U.S. population, without the complexity of the frequently changing size of the workforce. When U.S. workforce size decreases, unemployment rates can actually improve, even though fewer people are working. In contrast, Payroll to Population declines when fewer people are working full time, and rises when more people find full-time work

Unlike unemployment rates, the P2P percentage provides information about economic energy. For example, increasing retirement rates, such as will happen as those in the U.S. baby boomer generation move through their 60s into their 70s, will result in a lower overall P2P value unless there is an unusually high influx of immigrants. This means fewer people are sustaining the economy or contributing to the tax base. This decline in employment, which goes undetected in traditional employment measures, could have significant consequences. Alternatively, an increase in P2P rates can lead to sustained economic growth.

Additionally, the U.S. government's BLS calculations involve seasonal and other adjustments each month. While valuable, these can mask underlying trends. Traditional unemployment metrics count Americans who are working at least one hour per week as employed. In contrast, Payroll to Population will increase or decrease only if there is a change in the number of Americans working at full-time jobs.