WASHINGTON -- Planned technical adjustments to the way the nation's unemployment rate is calculated will boost the jobless rate -- but not by much and not until next year, officials of the Bureau of Labor Statistics said this week.
Their comments come as the agency is poised to release the details of changes to its household survey. The changes, to be released on Tuesday, are designed to produce a more accurate count of the number of unemployed people.
According to one media report, the changes could add as much as several tenths of a percentage point to the current unemployment rate. The last reported rate was 6.8%.
But John Bregger, assistant commissioner for current employment analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, disputed the report as "untrue."
In addition to releasing the new household questionnaire on Tuesday, the agency will release two sets of unemployment rates for an 18-month sample period to show how the old and new surveys yield different results.
But employment reports will not reflect survey changes until the beginning of next year, Bregger said.
Both Bregger and an agency analyst said the changes in the survey probably would cause the unemployment rate in the January employment report, released in early February, to be slightly higher. But they said the gain resulting from the new survey should be small and should be viewed as a "technical adjustment."
Officials would not comment on the size of the change until Tuesday.
Private analysts agreed that the increase should not be seen as anything other than a technical adjustment, unless the increase is big enough to affect consumer confidence, which they said is highly unlikely.
"This is not going to significantly affect peoples' Perception of the economy," said David Kelley, a senior economist with Economic Advisers Inc. in Boston. "The bond market routinely discounts technical adjustments."
Kim Rupert, a senior economist with MMS International, said the bond market would take notice of the adjustment only if traders were desperately looking for an excuse to move one way or the other.
The household survey has changed little since its last major overhaul in 1967, the agency said. Among other reasons, the revamping this time around was done to more accurately count Hispanic workers and people who work in their homes.