CPS and COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to up-end many aspects of daily life, the Census Bureau continues to collect monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) data. At time of writing, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has not indicated that data releases will be delayed or interrupted as a result of the current public health crisis. IPUMS CPS will continue to process data as quickly as possible. Updates will be provided to registered IPUMS CPS users via email; follow @ipums on Twitter for the latest data release information.

Beginning with March of 2020, the BLS is releasing supplementary information about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on collection and processing of the data underlying the monthly Employment Situation news release (referred to hereafter as the impact statement). Information relevant to CPS data will be summarized here with links to the original documentation. As the situation evolves, this page will be updated with pandemic-related news about CPS data collection and processing.

General Data Collection

During March of 2020, CPS data continued to be collected with some modifications in procedure for the safety of respondents and Census Bureau employees.

Households that normally receive in-person interviews are those first entering the survey rotation (month-in-sample one) and those that were re-entering the survey after the eight-month hiatus (month-in-sample five) (MISH). Households at other points in the CPS rotation are typically contacted via phone. Enumeration for March began on the 15th. On March 20th, the Census Bureau suspended in-person data collection and closed two of the call centers that assisted in collecting CPS data. However, data collection continued by phone and efforts were made to reach households via phone that would normally have received an in-person visit. Response rates were lower than average by about 10 percentage points in March 2020 (see table below). Response rates were even lower for those households in rotation groups that would normally have received an in-person visit (over 20 percentage points lower for month-in-sample one and over 10 percentage points for month-in-sample five).

Enumeration continued by phone exclusively in April through June of 2020. Response rates continued to be unusually low for incoming rotation groups that normally recieve in-person interviews. Low response rathes persisted during subsequent surveys for groups that entered the CPS during the pandemic.

In July of 2020, in-person interviews began again in some areas of the country and the Census Bureau call centers that usually assist with CPS data collection also returned to interviewing in a limited capacity in this month. Response rates rose slightly compared to May and June, but remain lower than average. This is particularly true among incoming rotation groups. Low response rates persist for those rotation groups that entered the CPS in May and June. Limited in-person interviewing continued into August 2020 and response rates showed similar trends to July.

In-person interviews were expanded to all areas of the country in September of 2020. In-person interviews were conducted only after attempting to reach all households by phone. The two Census Bureau call centers that normally assist with CPS interviewing also continued to conduct phone interviews on a limited basis. Response rates remained low in September, but represent an increase over previous months. Data collection continued in this manner and showed similar trends in response rates in October.

For more information on data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic, see...