Republican Bruce Rauner claims in TV ads that Illinois has lost 90,000 jobs in five years under Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn. But Illinois has lost 3,400 jobs in five years — not 90,000 — by the standard definition of “jobs” used by practically all economists and journalists. […]
But the campaign is using BLS data that are not commonly used to measure jobs gained or lost. Rauner bases his figure on surveys of people in households, rather than on a much larger survey of millions of actual payroll records.
BLS has two sets of monthly employment data: the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program, which is based on the Current Population Survey (commonly known as the household survey), and the Current Employment Statistics program, which is based on payroll surveys of establishments and government agencies (known as the payroll survey). Mike Schrimpf, a spokesman for the Rauner campaign, said the claim is based on the household survey. Quinn took office on Jan. 29, 2009. The household survey data show there were 6,067,701 jobs in January 2009 and 5,982,030 as of January 2014 — a decline of nearly 86,000 jobs.
But the payroll survey — not the household survey — is used by practically all economists, journalists and politicians when measuring jobs. It’s what journalists use when writing stories about job gains or losses and what BLS posts prominently on its website as the prime indicator of job growth or loss. By that measure, Illinois has lost only 3,400 jobs under Quinn, with total nonfarm employment declining from 5,803,600 in January 2009 to 5,800,200 in January 2014.
What’s the difference between household and payroll surveys?
Both are monthly surveys. But the payroll data — technically called “total nonfarm employment, seasonally adjusted” — is projected from payroll records at 144,000 establishments and government agencies at 554,000 work sites nationwide. By contrast, the household survey uses a much smaller sample — about 60,000 households. The household survey is used to calculate the unemployment rate, but the payroll data is “considered to be the more accurate employment indicator,” as the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco explains in a Q&A about why the Fed uses payroll data to analyze employment trends. […]
Rauner’s larger point about the performance of the state’s economy is accurate. Illinois has lost jobs under Quinn, even though the U.S. has seen a net gain of 3.7 million jobs since January 2009. The state’s unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, up from 8 percent in January 2009, while the U.S. rate has declined from 7.8 percent to 6.7 percent. But the state’s job losses may not be as large as the Rauner campaign claims.