© Copyright 2006 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Vol. 43 No. 7

Improvement in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) Program and its Implications for Comparability

by: David Bullard, Senior Economist


Each year, approximately one-third of employers covered by Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Wyoming are sent a mail questionnaire to confirm that they have been assigned to the correct sector (e.g., Mining, Construction, Manufacturing) based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS; U.S. Census Bureau, 2002). If it is found that an employer has changed primary business activity, a different NAICS code is assigned to reflect that change. This is known as a noneconomic code change. Research staff also review employers’ NAICS codes if the business is sold, becomes incorporated, or otherwise changes ownership. In this manner, Research & Planning continuously ensures that employers are assigned to the correct sector. However, these noneconomic code changes also make it difficult for data users to make direct comparisons across years. Sometimes, large employers may move from one NAICS sector to another. For example, in Table 3, several employers were moved into Manufacturing from Mining and Construction explaining part of the employment increase in Manufacturing.

In a separate initiative to increase data quality, the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages unit has contacted many employers with nonclassified geographic codes in order to place them within appropriate counties. This data quality effort has resulted in a significant decrease in employment in the nonclassified geographic designation and corresponding employment increases in many counties throughout the state. While the long-run result will be higher-quality data, initially some of the employment increases at the county level may simply be the result of more accurate reporting, rather than actual increases in the number of jobs in those counties. QCEW data are usually published about six to nine months after the end of the reference quarter. The deadline for employers to file their quarterly unemployment insurance contributions report is one month after the end of the quarter (fourth quarter ended December 31 and the taxes were due on January 31). Then the data must be scanned, edited, and cleaned-up. Missing reports must be researched and errors corrected. Despite the time lag, QCEW provides employment and wage data at the county and industry level that are not available from any other source.

Each quarter, QCEW data are revised to reflect the receipt of late reports and corrections from employers. At the total level, these revisions are usually quite small. For example, when data for fourth quarter 2004 were first published in July 2005 Trends, total employment was shown in the tables as 248,625, but the tables accompanying this article show fourth quarter 2004 total employment as 248,966, a revision of 341 jobs or 0.1%.


U.S. Census Bureau. (2002, September 10). 2002 NAICS Codes and Titles. Retrieved December 18, 2003, from http://www.census.gov/epcd/naics02/naicod02.htm