State-level unemployment rates

I tried to find an answer to this, but I didn’t succeed in finding anything. Apologies if I missed a previous answer about this.

I’m working with the CPS basic monthly microdata to look at state-level employment/unemployment trends for sub groups (e.g., race/ethnicity). Due to the sample size issues, I’m doing this for quarters rather than single months.

As a check to make sure I was using the data correctly, correct weights, etc., I tried to replicate the published BLS numbers for the not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the U.S. for May and for June. I was able to do this successfully.

I also was able to replicate the preliminary not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Virginia for May that was reported by BLS last month. However, my estimate for June is a good deal different from what was reported by BLS last week (about 0.8 percentage points difference).

So I think my questions are:

  1. Am I likely doing something wrong, or is it generally impossible to reproduce the state-level unemployment rates (and I just happened to match the published number for May)?


  1. As part of the BLS state-level employment releases, they initially provide preliminary numbers, and then those get revised the following month. Do you have any knowledge or insights into that process? The CPS basic monthly data don’t get revised, right? So what are the revisions based on, and do they show up in any public microdata?


The national unemployment rate numbers are based entirely on CPS. Because the CPS is less reliable for state-level estimates, BLS instead uses a model-based estimate for state-level unemployment rates as part of the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program. Because of this, the numbers produced from CPS microdata will not always match up with the state-level estimates from BLS.

The LAUS estimates use firm-level surveys from the Current Employment Statistics program and data on UI claims, which are revised after their initial preliminary release, so the initial LAUS unemployment rate estimate is also preliminary.

Perfect! Thanks. Exactly what I was looking for.