At the beginning of each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the change in payroll employment for the previous month. This estimate of jobs gained or lost over the month is closely watched by policymakers and those who work in financial markets and the media. When the estimate is revised in subsequent months, however, data users sometimes perceive a very different picture of the job market than what was initially reported. Data users frequently ask why the number was revised. The short answer is, the revised estimate includes additional information that was not available at the time of the initial release— information that makes the revised estimate more accurate.
This BEYOND THE NUMBERS article explains the data collection process that BLS conducts every month to produce the estimate of U.S. employment. The article also should help clarify why BLS releases revisions to the initial estimate so that users will understand the change, if any, in the data.