BLS Changes Survey To Record Longer Periods Of Unemployment : Planet Money With the length of unemployment for many Americans on a steady uptick, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is changing the way it records how long people have been out of work.
NPR logo BLS Changes Survey To Record Longer Periods Of Unemployment

BLS Changes Survey To Record Longer Periods Of Unemployment

Graph of number of unemployed by duration of unemployment. Jess Jiang/NPR hide caption

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Jess Jiang/NPR

Graph of number of unemployed by duration of unemployment.

Jess Jiang/NPR

With the length of unemployment for many Americans on a steady uptick, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is changing the way it records how long people have been out of work.

Currently, the BLS records the length of unemployment up to 2 years, but starting on Saturday that will increase to 5 years.

Tom Nardone, assistant commissioner for current employment analysis at the BLS, says they started talking about increasing the duration earlier this year when someone pointed out that the number of long term unemployed (those jobless 27 weeks and over) kept growing.

"We want to make all our measures as accurate as they can be. This is a change we needed to make and we’ll be glad we did it," said Nardone.

The average length of unemployment was 33.8 weeks last month, but the BLS says this change to the Current Population Survey "may result in a higher average duration of unemployment."

The change will not affect the overall unemployment rate.