Employment: Preliminary annual benchmark revision shows downward adjustment of 173,000 jobs

Note: This is mostly before the sharp decline in employment due to COVID.

The BLS released the preliminary annual benchmark revision showing 173,000 fewer payroll jobs as of March 2020. The final revision will be published when the January 2021 employment report is released in February 2021. Usually the preliminary estimate is pretty close to the final benchmark estimate.

The annual revision is benchmarked to state tax records. From the BLS:

In accordance with usual practice, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is announcing the preliminary estimate of the upcoming annual benchmark revision to the establishment survey employment series. The final benchmark revision will be issued in February 2021 with the publication of the January 2021 Employment Situation news release.

Each year, the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey employment estimates are benchmarked to comprehensive counts of employment for the month of March. These counts are derived from state unemployment insurance (UI) tax records that nearly all employers are required to file. For National CES employment series, the annual benchmark revisions over the last 10 years have averaged plus or minus two-tenths of one percent of total nonfarm employment. The preliminary estimate of the benchmark revision indicates a downward adjustment to March 2020 total nonfarm employment of -173,000 (-0.1 percent).
emphasis added

Using the preliminary benchmark estimate, this means that payroll employment in March 2020 was 173,000 lower than originally estimated. In February 2021, the payroll numbers will be revised down to reflect the final estimate. The number is then “wedged back” to the previous revision (March 2019).

Construction was revised up by 6,000 jobs, and manufacturing revised down by 70,000 jobs.

This preliminary estimate showed 229,000 fewer private sector jobs, and 56,000 more government jobs (as of March 2020).