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Copyright 1993 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning

Employment Estimates--What do They Tell Us?

by:  Brett Judd

People use statistics about the economy such as employment, unemployment, and inflation to make investment, purchasing, and business decisions. Yet, some people do not take the time to develop an understanding of how these statistics are generated and to assess their strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of this article is to explain the standard procedure for the estimation of employment.

In the Research & Planning (R&P) division of the Department of Employment, three separate programs are used to provide a count of the number of people employed: ES-202, Current Employment Statistics (CES), and Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS). Each program counts employment in a different way. Relationship Between LAUS, CES and ES-202 is a graphical representation of the three programs. The figures that each program produce are useful in trying to gauge the economy.

The ES-202 program is commonly referred to as “covered” employment, because it measures those employees who are covered under Wyoming’s State Unemployment Insurance (UI). Unemployment Insurance is available to those people who need temporary financial assistance while they are unemployed. The State collects quarterly UI taxes from employers to pay benefits to those workers who may become unemployed. Business and government establishments are required every quarter to report their monthly employment, wages, and contributions to the UI program. A person is considered employed if they worked full or part time or received pay for any part of the pay period including the 12th of the month. From these tax reports an employment count is obtained for each month.

The ES-202 Program provides an accurate count of employment in the state because employers are required by law to pay taxes. It is also very useful since the data is available for each major industry as well as for each county in the state. Another benefit of this program is the quarterly wage information. These quarterly wages can be broken down to obtain average weekly wages for each industry.

Since the data are available on a quarterly basis, timing is a limitation. For instance, since July and September are in the same quarter, the data are not collected until September has passed. Taking into account collecting, analyzing, and processing time, the data for the quarter will not be available until six months after the quarter. Fourth quarter 1992 figures were recently published in the August ’93 issue of Trends.

The lack of timeliness of the ES-202 data is one of the reasons for the CES Program. Employers that participate are surveyed each month. Because the data are collected on a monthly basis, employment estimates are available each month in Trends. Since the data is current, the CES employment estimates provide an initial indicator of how the labor market and the economy are doing each month. However estimates are not available for every county in the state. Trends publishes the Statewide CES Employment as well as the employment for Laramie County and Natrona County.

The number of hours worked and the payroll for each month are also collected from employers by CES department. These figures are used to calculate current estimates for average weekly earnings and average weekly hours. The CES Program provides information relating to the number of hours worked. Each month Trends publishes the average weekly earnings and the average weekly hours for mining and manufacturing in the state in the Wyoming Economic Indicators Table.

The CES employment count differs from the ES-202 employment count in two ways. First, the CES survey excludes those persons employed in production agriculture. Second, the CES survey counts those persons who are covered by unemployment insurance as well as some who are not covered. The main areas that have partial or no coverage from the State UI program are employees of railroads, interns and trainees at hospitals, working students on the payrolls of colleges and universities (college work study), elected officials, paid volunteers of local and state governments, and employees of churches and other nonprofit organizations, most agriculture, self-employed, unpaid family workers, and domestic workers in private households.

Information on the number of people employed for most of these areas are provided to the state by various sources. For example, every three years a survey is conducted by CES staff to obtain information on the number of people employed by churches and religious organizations in the state (see inset this page).


In March 1993 CES sent out surveys to 771 churches in the state. Of the total, 449 were returned for a 58.3% response rate. The total number of church employees is estimated to be 2,576. The average employment for each church is 3.34 people. This number may not seem exceptionally high, however many churches receive help from unpaid volunteers which were not included. Only those who received monetary compensation, either directly or indirectly, and worked either full-time or part-time were counted as employed.

LAUS is the third program used to measure employment. Rather than measuring the number of jobs worked, as the CES and ES-202 programs do, a distinguishing characteristic of LAUS is that it combines employed and unemployed persons to obtain a total labor force estimate. Because it tracks the unemployed and employed, LAUS is able to estimate the unemployment rate for each county in the state. This information is available on a current basis in the Civilian Labor Force and Unemployment Table. No industry information is available in LAUS.

The definition of an employed person in LAUS is someone who worked for pay or profit during the week including the 12th of the month, or worked 15 hours or more without pay in a family business or farm. Also included are those not working but temporarily absent, whether paid or unpaid, for such reasons as labor-management dispute, illness, or vacation. The employment level for LAUS is higher than the level for the other two programs because LAUS combines employment that would be counted in the ES-202 and CES programs, as well as the self-employed, unpaid family workers and those absent from work whether or not they received pay.

All three programs are vital in tracking Wyoming’s labor market and in determining an employment count, even though each counts employment using a different method.

Editor's Note: For further information on the CES, LAUS and ES-202 programs please see our LMI Brochure or visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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Last modified on June 8, 2001 by Valerie A. Davis.