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Why Do Census And BLS Figures On New Firms Differ So Much?

The Kauffmann Foundation has been pushing its paper on how new firms are generating and retaining substantially fewer jobs than they used to, and this trend predates the recession out into the blogosphere this week. But I don’t really know what to say about it. This point on the data they used to reach the conclusion is, however, quite interesting:

Because of unknown differences in the data sources from Census and BLS — a mystery we urge other researchers to tackle — employment within business cohorts is somewhat cloudy. The Census Bureau’s data on employment appear significantly more positive than the BLS data. But, rather than attempt to sort out the differences between the two series here, we simply present both, and urge readers to recognize that, despite the differences, the overall story in both series is disturbing.

People don’t spend much time worrying about government data, but it actually matters quite a bit what we do and don’t have information on and how reliable the information is. I often wish, for example, that the government tried to track the price of urban land.

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