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Economic News Release
QCEW QCEW Program Links

County Employment and Wages Technical Note

Technical Note 
These data are the product of a federal-state cooperative program, the Quarterly 
Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program, also known as the ES-202 program. 
The data are derived from summaries of employment and total pay of workers covered 
by state and federal unemployment insurance (UI) legislation and provided by State 
Workforce Agencies (SWAs). The summaries are a result of the administration of 
state unemployment insurance programs that require most employers to pay quarterly 
taxes based on the employment and wages of workers covered by UI. QCEW data in this 
release are based on the 2012 North American Industry Classification System. Data 
for 2012 are preliminary and subject to revision. 

For purposes of this release, large counties are defined as having employment le-
vels of 75,000 or greater. In addition, data for San Juan, Puerto Rico, are pro-
vided, but not used in calculating U.S. averages, rankings, or in the analysis in 
the text. Each year, these large counties are selected on the basis of the prelimi-
nary annual average of employment for the previous year. The 329 counties presented 
in this release were derived using 2011 preliminary annual averages of employment. 
For 2012 data, seven counties have been added to the publication tables: Okaloosa, 
Fla.; Tippecanoe, Ind.; Johnson, Iowa; St. Tammany, La.; Saratoga, N.Y.; Delaware, 
Ohio; and Gregg, Texas. These counties will be included in all 2012 quarterly re-
leases. One county, Jackson, Ore., which was published in the 2011 releases, will 
be excluded from this and future 2012 releases because their 2011 annual average 
employment levels were less than 75,000. The counties in table 2 are selected and 
sorted each year based on the annual average employment from the preceding year. 

The preliminary QCEW data presented in this release may differ from data released 
by the individual states. These potential differences result from the states' con-
tinuing receipt of UI data over time and ongoing review and editing. The individual 
states determine their data release timetables. 
Differences between QCEW, BED, and CES employment measures 

The Bureau publishes three different establishment-based employment measures for 
any given quarter. Each of these measures--QCEW, Business Employment Dynamics (BED), 
and Current Employment Statistics (CES)--makes use of the quarterly UI employment 
reports in producing data; however, each measure has a somewhat different universe 
coverage, estimation procedure, and publication product. 

Differences in coverage and estimation methods can result in somewhat different 
measures of employment change over time. It is important to understand program dif-
ferences and the intended uses of the program products. (See table.) Additional in-
formation on each program can be obtained from the program Web sites shown in the 

Summary of Major Differences between QCEW, BED, and CES Employment Measures

            |         QCEW        |         BED          |         CES
 Source     |--Count of UI admini-|--Count of longitudi- |--Sample survey:
            |  strative records   |  nally-linked UI ad- |  486,000 establish-
            |  submitted by 9.2   |  ministrative records|  ments
            |  million establish- |  submitted by 6.7    |
            |  ments in first     |  million private-sec-|
            |  quarter of 2012    |  tor employers       |
 Coverage   |--UI and UCFE cover- |--UI coverage, exclud-|Nonfarm wage and sal-
            |  age, including all |  ing government, pri-|  ary jobs:
            |  employers subject  |  vate households, and|--UI coverage, exclud-
            |  to state and fed-  |  establishments with |  ing agriculture, pri-
            |  eral UI laws       |  zero employment     |  vate households, and
            |                     |                      |  self-employed workers
            |                     |                      |--Other employment, in-
            |                     |                      |  cluding railroads, 
            |                     |                      |  religious organiza-
            |                     |                      |  tions, and other non-
            |                     |                      |  UI-covered jobs
 Publication|--Quarterly          |--Quarterly           |--Monthly 
 frequency  |  -7 months after the|  -8 months after the |  -Usually first Friday
            |   end of each quar- |   end of each quarter|   of following month
            |   ter               |                      |
 Use of UI  |--Directly summarizes|--Links each new UI   |--Uses UI file as a sam-
 file       |  and publishes each |  quarter to longitu- |  pling frame and annu-
            |  new quarter of UI  |  dinal database and  |  ally realigns (bench-
            |  data               |  directly summarizes |  marks) sample esti-
            |                     |  gross job gains and |  mates to first quar-
            |                     |  losses              |  ter UI levels
 Principal  |--Provides a quarter-|--Provides quarterly  |--Provides current month-
 products   |  ly and annual uni- |  employer dynamics   |  ly estimates of employ-
            |  verse count of es- |  data on establish-  |  ment, hours, and earn-
            |  tablishments, em-  |  ment openings, clos-|  ings at the MSA, state,
            |  ployment, and wages|  ings, expansions,   |  and national level by
            |  at the county, MSA,|  and contractions at |  industry
            |  state, and national|  the national level  |
            |  levels by detailed |  by NAICS supersec-  |
            |  industry           |  tors and by size of |
            |                     |  firm, and at the    |
            |                     |  state private-sector|
            |                     |  total level         |
            |                     |--Future expansions   |
            |                     |  will include data   |
            |                     |  with greater indus- |
            |                     |  try detail and data |
            |                     |  at the county and   |  
            |                     |  MSA level           |
 Principal  |--Major uses include:|--Major uses include: |--Major uses include:
 uses       |  -Detailed locality |  -Business cycle     |  -Principal national
            |   data              |   analysis           |   economic indicator
            |  -Periodic universe |  -Analysis of employ-|  -Official time series 
            |   counts for bench- |   er dynamics under- |   for employment change
            |   marking sample    |   lying economic ex- |   measures
            |   survey estimates  |   pansions and con-  |  -Input into other ma-
            |  -Sample frame for  |   tractions          |   jor economic indi-
            |   BLS establishment |  -Analysis of employ-|   cators
            |   surveys           |   ment expansion and |
            |                     |   contraction by size|   
            |                     |   of firm            |
            |                     |                      |
 Program    |   |    |
 Web sites  |                     |                      |


Employment and wage data for workers covered by state UI laws are compiled from 
quarterly contribution reports submitted to the SWAs by employers. For federal ci-
vilian workers covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees 
(UCFE) program, employment and wage data are compiled from quarterly reports sub-
mitted by four major federal payroll processing centers on behalf of all federal 
agencies, with the exception of a few agencies which still report directly to the 
individual SWA. In addition to the quarterly contribution reports, employers who 
operate multiple establishments within a state complete a questionnaire, called the 
"Multiple Worksite Report," which provides detailed information on the location and 
industry of each of their establishments. QCEW employment and wage data are derived 
from microdata summaries of 9.1 million employer reports of employment and wages 
submitted by states to the BLS in 2011. These reports are based on place of employ-
ment rather than place of residence. 

UI and UCFE coverage is broad and has been basically comparable from state to state 
since 1978, when the 1976 amendments to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act became ef-
fective, expanding coverage to include most State and local government employees. 
In 2011, UI and UCFE programs covered workers in 129.4 million jobs. The estimated 
124.8 million workers in these jobs (after adjustment for multiple jobholders) 
represented 95.7 percent of civilian wage and salary employment. Covered workers 
received $6.217 trillion in pay, representing 93.3 percent of the wage and salary 
component of personal income and 41.2 percent of the gross domestic product. 

Major exclusions from UI coverage include self-employed workers, most agricultural 
workers on small farms, all members of the Armed Forces, elected officials in most 
states, most employees of railroads, some domestic workers, most student workers at 
schools, and employees of certain small nonprofit organizations. 

State and federal UI laws change periodically. These changes may have an impact on 
the employment and wages reported by employers covered under the UI program. Cover-
age changes may affect the over-the-year comparisons presented in this news re-
Concepts and methodology 

Monthly employment is based on the number of workers who worked during or received 
pay for the pay period including the 12th of the month. With few exceptions, all 
employees of covered firms are reported, including production and sales workers, 
corporation officials, executives, supervisory personnel, and clerical workers.  
Workers on paid vacations and part-time workers also are included. 

Average weekly wage values are calculated by dividing quarterly total wages by the 
average of the three monthly employment levels (all employees, as described above) 
and dividing the result by 13, for the 13 weeks in the quarter. These calculations 
are made using unrounded employment and wage values. The average wage values that 
can be calculated using rounded data from the BLS database may differ from the av-
erages reported. Included in the quarterly wage data are non-wage cash payments 
such as bonuses, the cash value of meals and lodging when supplied, tips and other 
gratuities, and, in some states, employer contributions to certain deferred compen-
sation plans such as 401(k) plans and stock options. Over-the-year comparisons of 
average weekly wages may reflect fluctuations in average monthly employment and/or 
total quarterly wages between the current quarter and prior year levels. 

Average weekly wages are affected by the ratio of full-time to part-time workers as 
well as the number of individuals in high-paying and low-paying occupations and the 
incidence of pay periods within a quarter. For instance, the average weekly wage of 
the work force could increase significantly when there is a large decline in the 
number of employees that had been receiving below-average wages. Wages may include 
payments to workers not present in the employment counts because they did not work 
during the pay period including the 12th of the month. When comparing average week-
ly wage levels between industries, states, or quarters, these factors should be 
taken into consideration. 

Federal government pay levels are subject to periodic, sometimes large, fluctua-
tions due to a calendar effect that consists of some quarters having more pay pe-
riods than others. Most federal employees are paid on a biweekly pay schedule. As a 
result of this schedule, in some quarters, federal wages contain payments for six 
pay periods, while in other quarters their wages include payments for seven pay pe-
riods. Over-the-year comparisons of average weekly wages may reflect this calendar 
effect. Higher growth in average weekly wages may be attributed, in part, to a com-
parison of quarterly wages for the current year, which include seven pay periods, 
with year-ago wages that reflect only six pay periods. An opposite effect will oc-
cur when wages in the current period, which contain six pay periods, are compared 
with year-ago wages that include seven pay periods. The effect on over-the-year pay 
comparisons can be pronounced in federal government due to the uniform nature of 
federal payroll processing. This pattern may exist in private sector pay; however, 
because there are more pay period types (weekly, biweekly, semimonthly, monthly) it 
is less pronounced. The effect is most visible in counties with large concentra-
tions of federal employment. 

In order to ensure the highest possible quality of data, states verify with employ-
ers and update, if necessary, the industry, location, and ownership classification 
of all establishments on a 4-year cycle. Changes in establishment classification 
codes resulting from this process are introduced with the data reported for the 
first quarter of the year. Changes resulting from improved employer reporting also 
are introduced in the first quarter. 

QCEW data are not designed as a time series. QCEW data are simply the sums of indi-
vidual establishment records and reflect the number of establishments that exist in 
a county or industry at a point in time. Establishments can move in or out of a 
county or industry for a number of reasons--some reflecting economic events, others 
reflecting administrative changes. For example, economic change would come from a 
firm relocating into the county; administrative change would come from a company 
correcting its county designation. 

The over-the-year changes of employment and wages presented in this release have 
been adjusted to account for most of the administrative corrections made to the un-
derlying establishment reports. This is done by modifying the prior-year levels 
used to calculate the over-the-year changes. Percent changes are calculated using 
an adjusted version of the final 2011 quarterly data as the base data. The adjusted 
prior-year levels used to calculate the over-the-year percent change in employment 
and wages are not published. These adjusted prior-year levels do not match the un-
adjusted data maintained on the BLS Web site. Over-the-year change calculations 
based on data from the Web site, or from data published in prior BLS news releases, 
may differ substantially from the over-the-year changes presented in this news re-

The adjusted data used to calculate the over-the-year change measures presented in 
this release account for most of the administrative changes--those occurring when 
employers update the industry, location, and ownership information of their estab-
lishments. The most common adjustments for administrative change are the result of 
updated information about the county location of individual establishments. In-
cluded in these adjustments are administrative changes involving the classification 
of establishments that were previously reported in the unknown or statewide county 
or unknown industry categories. Beginning with the first quarter of 2008, adjusted 
data account for administrative changes caused by multi-unit employers who start 
reporting for each individual establishment rather than as a single entity. 

The adjusted data used to calculate the over-the-year change measures presented in 
any County Employment and Wages news release are valid for comparisons between the 
starting and ending points (a 12-month period) used in that particular release. 
Comparisons may not be valid for any time period other than the one featured in a 
release even if the changes were calculated using adjusted data. 

County definitions are assigned according to Federal Information Processing Stan-
dards Publications (FIPS PUBS) as issued by the National Institute of Standards and 
Technology, after approval by the Secretary of Commerce pursuant to Section 5131 of 
the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996 and the Computer Security 
Act of 1987, Public Law 104-106. Areas shown as counties include those designated 
as independent cities in some jurisdictions and, in Alaska, those designated as 
census areas where counties have not been created. County data also are presented 
for the New England states for comparative purposes even though townships are the 
more common designation used in New England (and New Jersey). The regions referred 
to in this release are defined as census regions. 
Additional statistics and other information 

Employment and Wages Annual Averages Online features comprehensive information by 
detailed industry on establishments, employment, and wages for the nation and all 
states. The 2010 edition of this publication, which was published in November 2011, 
contains selected data produced by Business Employment Dynamics (BED) on job gains 
and losses, as well as selected data from the first quarter 2011 version of this 
news release. Tables and additional content from Employment and Wages Annual Aver-
ages 2010 are now available online at The 
2011 edition of Employment and Wages Annual Averages Online will be available later 
in 2012.

News releases on quarterly measures of gross job flows also are available upon re-
quest from the Division of Administrative Statistics and Labor Turnover (Business 
Employment Dynamics), telephone (202) 691-6467; (; (e-mail:

Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals 
upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; TDD message referral phone number: 1-800-

Table of Contents

Last Modified Date: October 31, 2020