© Copyright 2008 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Vol. 45 No. 7

Ask an Economist

by: Carola Cowan, BLS Programs Supervisor

QWhy doesn’t Research & Planning publish more county-level data?

AThere are two main reasons why Research & Planning (R&P) is not publishing more county-level data: confidentiality and cost. The R&P section of the Department of Employment is a statistical entity. As discussed in Szuch’s article “Understanding R&P’s Function, Part II” (2008), a statistical entity must not use data in a way that discloses individuals. Data are used to reveal statistical trends, not to identify certain persons or firms. R&P collects data under the pledge of confidentiality. One of the statutes that govern R&P’s confidentiality is the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (CIPSEA). Willfully and knowingly disclosing data that were collected under a pledge of confidentiality to unauthorized persons is a felony under this statute.

Since Wyoming has a small population – in fact, the smallest in the nation – and very few employers, we are unable to publish many county-level data. For example, Niobrara County has a population of 2,407 people according to the 2000 decennial census and had 129 employers in second quarter 2007. In order to publish data, we must have at least three employers in a category and employment for an individual employer can’t equal or exceed 75% in that category. We also have to make sure not to violate secondary disclosure rules. Secondary disclosure occurs if somebody can calculate the unpublished data from the published data. For example, if there are eight companies in the mining sector and we suppress data in subsector 211, subsector 212 has three companies, and subsector 213 has three companies, then the number of companies in subsector 211 (8-3-3=2) could be calculated. See Table 5, page 8, for an example of data that are not disclosable due to confidentiality.

One way to increase the amount of publishable data would be to increase sample size. This would require mailing, collecting, editing, and analyzing more data, all of which are very costly. Also, preparing data for publication, printing, and mailing is expensive.

Nevertheless we are able to publish some county-level data. For example, on page 21 the table “Wyoming County Unemployment Rates” contains numbers for the labor force, employed, unemployed, and unemployment rates for all counties and the state as a whole. R&P also publishes Quarterly Census of Employment and Wage (QCEW) data (as seen beginning on page 1 and at http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/toc_202.htm), Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) data (http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/OES_toc.htm), and commuting pattern data (http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/commute.htm) by county. R&P recently made county-level age and gender wage data available at http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/earnings/toc.htm.

R&P also suggests that if you cannot find the data you need at the county level, look at the next higher level of detail. For example, if you are looking for the wages for drywall installers in Sweetwater County on our website (http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/EDSPubto20081ECI/TOC000.htm) and that data is not available, check the Southwest Region and then try statewide data.

To submit a question to “Ask an Economist,” please e-mail April Szuch at aszuch@state.wy.us.


Szuch, A. (2008, March). Understanding R&P’s function, part II. Wyoming Labor Force Trends, 45(3). Retrieved June 16, 2008, from http://doe.state.wy.us/LMI/0308/a4.htm

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