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CPS Basic JAN20-JUL20 Series Re-release

January through July 2020 estimates from the Current Population Survey corrected for occupation coding error 

On September 23, 2020, the Census Bureau made corrections to data in the Current Population Survey associated with the introduction in January 2020 of a new occupation classification system. For the vast majority of the corrected series, the impact was negligible. Most major series, including the official unemployment rate, were not affected. The error primarily affected a relatively small number of specific occupations and the aggregate occupation groups associated with those detailed occupations. At the major and intermediate occupation group level, the changes were very minor relative to the large size of the categories.

New industry and occupational classification systems were introduced into the CPS beginning with data for January 2020. As part of the implementation of these new classification systems, a new edit check that looks at the combination of occupation and educational attainment for specific occupations was introduced. Under the new procedure, if the reported educational attainment does not support the occupation claimed, the occupation is edited to an occupation that is in line with the education. For example, someone who says that they are a physician but also reports they have completed some college but not a bachelor’s degree will be reassigned to a medical care occupation that does not require a professional degree. Thus, a person without a medical degree would not be included in the radiologists occupation group, but would instead be included in the radiologic technologists and technicians group.

Unfortunately, errors were made in programming this education-occupation edit, resulting in incorrect data for the months of January 2020 through July 2020. As mentioned previously, changes at the major and intermediate occupation group level were very minor. Many of the changes occurred within aggregate occupation groups and did not involve relocating workers to other aggregate categories.

At the same time as the new classification systems and education-occupation edits checks were introduced, another edit check was inadvertently discontinued. This edit—which ensures that people who report working for the postal service are coded as federal employees, rather than as private wage and salary workers or as self-employed—has been restored and is incorporated in the revised data.

Because of the interaction between the corrected occupation edit, other industry and class of worker edits, and the allocation methods used in constructing CPS estimates, all estimates by occupation, industry, and class of worker were subject to change. However, the majority of series either did not change or had very minor changes. 

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