Labor market continues slow recovery

New survey also shows that earnings have increased relative to the spring.

A chart depicting employment rates. [View Image] Employment Rate, Age 18-64. Black/square data is from CPS surveys. Blue/circle data is from online RPS survey. The 95% confidence interval for estimates from the RPS survey are shaded in blue. (Courtesy VCU School of Business)

The labor market continued its recovery the week of Oct. 11-17, but at a slower pace than at the start of the recovery, according to a report by economists from Virginia Commonwealth University and Arizona State University. 

“The latest [Real-Time Population Survey] results show that, since April, employment has recovered two-thirds of the way back to the pre-pandemic level,” said Adam Blandin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the VCU School of Business, who conducts the biweekly Real-Time Population Survey with Alexander Bick, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics at Arizona State.

“In early October, 68.4% of working-age adults were employed,” Blandin said. “This is a large improvement compared to roughly 60% employment in April. But the current rate is still far below the 73.8% employment rate from February, just prior to the pandemic.” 

Blandin and Bick started the Real-Time Population Survey out of a desire to use their skills as economists to help policymakers, reporters, analysts and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since launch, their research has been cited widely in national publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Business Insider, Forbes, The New York Times and The Washington Post, and has drawn attention from notable economists worldwide.

The Real-Time Population Survey closely follows the methodology of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey. Blandin and Bick have made improvements with each survey wave and plan to continue refining their methodology going forward.

The latest survey results reflect the week of Oct. 11-17. Other key findings show that earnings have also increased relative to the spring. Among those who were employed in February, 37.4% reported a loss in earnings in early April. This share declined to 27.2% in the most recent survey, indicating that some of the earnings losses suffered early on in the pandemic were temporary in nature. 

The Real-Time Population Survey is conducted in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The results from this survey do not represent official forecasts or views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, its president, the Federal Reserve System or the Federal Open Market Committee.

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About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 30,000 students in 233 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Tappahannock Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and MCV Physicians. The clinical enterprise includes a collaboration with Sheltering Arms Institute for physical rehabilitation services. For more, please visit and