In a recent conversation, I was suggested that national working hours aggregates, as provided by bureaus of statistics, are based on surveys on time use.

Is that true? Can macro labor data, which is used for so many different puzzles and theories, be vulnerable to things such as time-varying biases in estimating time use? How are national working hour statistics computed?


1 Answer 1


Referring to USA, the place to go and learn a lot (if not everything) about the matter is The Bureau of Labor Staitstics

Indicatively, for one of BLS's many outputs, they report that:

Payroll survey — methods and measurement issues

The Current Employment Statistics (CES) program, also known as the payroll survey or the establishment survey, is a monthly survey of approximately 143,000 businesses and government agencies representing approximately 588,000 worksites throughout the United States. From the sample, CES produces and publishes employment, hours, and earnings estimates for the nation, states, and metropolitan areas at detailed industry levels.

The CES employment series are estimates of nonfarm wage and salary jobs, not an estimate of employed persons; an individual with two jobs is counted twice by the payroll survey. The CES employment series excludes employees in agriculture, private households, and the self-employed.

...The entire sample is redrawn annually, and a supplemental sample of new business births is selected midway through the year. About one-fourth of the sample is rotated out each year and replaced with newly selected businesses.

All new sample is solicited by computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI), and data are collected for the first 5 months via this mode. After the initiation period, many sample units are transferred to one of several less costly reporting methods that are self-initiated by the respondent...

Estimation Methodology. CES monthly employment estimates are made using a two-part estimator. The sample reports are used to estimate month-to-month employment change from continuing businesses and a birth/death model is used to account for new firm births that otherwise would not be sampled in a timely fashion.

Estimate review. CES uses automated edit and screening techniques to identify potentially erroneous sample data; respondents are re-contacted as needed to validate or correct their reported information. After the microdata edit process is complete, monthly estimates are calculated. Automated edits of the estimates are supplemented by analysts who look for errors and outliers and provide final validation of the series before publication.

Seasonal Adjustment. The seasonal adjustment process removes from the series the effects of normal variation from recurring events within a year, such as holidays and weather changes, and helps reveal underlying economic trends. CES uses a concurrent seasonal adjustment methodology, meaning that it incorporates estimates up through and including the current month’s data to achieve the best possible series.

Monthly Revisions. CES first preliminary estimates of employment, hours, and earnings are published each month approximately 3 weeks after the reference period. Estimates are then revised twice before being held constant until the annual benchmarking process. Second preliminary estimates for a given month are published the month following the initial release, and final sample-based estimates are published 2 months after the initial release.


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