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Regional Matters

April 18, 2019

Fifth District Payroll Revisions

At the beginning of every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revises past payroll employment data to adjust for sampling and nonsampling errors by incorporating additional information, including births and deaths of firms. This is accomplished by benchmarking old estimates to updated employment counts derived primarily from employer-filed data on unemployment insurance (UI) tax reports.

The revised payroll employment data for 2018, released on March 11, 2019, showed that fewer jobs were added in the Fifth District than originally reported. The revised payroll employment numbers were 77,300 jobs lower than the original estimates for December 2018, with negative revisions for all months in 2018 except for January through April. The month of December had the largest downward revision. Meanwhile, the month of January had the largest upward revision, with 27,000 more jobs than originally reported. (See chart below.)

North Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia drove the total downward revision of employment numbers in the Fifth District in December 2018. The new estimates reported 36,700 fewer jobs in North Carolina, which brought the state’s year-over-year percentage growth in payroll employment down from 2.0 percent to 1.3 percent. In West Virginia, there were 22,900 fewer jobs than originally reported in December 2018. The year-over-year percentage growth in payroll employment, however, actually increased from 0.6 percent to 2.2 percent after the revisions because the employment numbers for 2017 were revised even lower. In Virginia, there were a total of 22,500 fewer jobs than originally reported in December 2018, and the year-over-year percentage growth in payroll employment fell to 0.8 percent for the month, from 1.9 percent in previous estimates. (See chart below.)

The only state in the Fifth District in which the revisions added jobs for December 2018 was South Carolina, where the upward revision of 15,300 jobs brought the year-over-year percentage growth in payroll employment up from 2.0 percent to 2.6 percent. However, the BLS views this state’s data as preliminary due to the potential impact of a change in UI reporting.

Among the states that drove the revised employment estimates for the Fifth District in December, there were a select few industries that contributed the most to the individual revisions within each state. In Virginia and North Carolina, the industry that had the largest downward revision was trade, transportation and utilities. There were 12,200 fewer jobs than originally reported in this industry for Virginia, and 17,000 fewer jobs than originally reported for North Carolina. (See chart below.)

In West Virginia, however, the industry that contributed most to the overall downward revision was “other” services, which was revised lower by 28,300 jobs. Additionally, employment was revised lower in the educational and health services industry in every state in the Fifth District except South Carolina. Conversely, in South Carolina, the total upward revision was driven by the professional and business services industry, which was revised up by 12,200 jobs.

For a complete look at the revisions in each state, see the "Closer Look" section of the March edition of Snapshot.

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Views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond or the Federal Reserve System.

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