Program Overview


CES (Current Employment Statistics) Methodology


The Current Employment Statistics (CES) program is a federal-state cooperative effort between the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Labor and Economic Analysis Division (LEAD) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The CES program provides monthly estimates of employment, hours, and earnings for the Nation, State, and Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA). Information is derived from a monthly survey of employers conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The CES survey is utilized to collect monthly employment, hours, and earnings information from business establishment payroll records.

Monthly employment and wage estimates are produced for the Nation, State and MSA for several different industry groups; however, all data series are not available for all geographies. Available employment and wage estimates include employment of all employees, employment of female employees, average hours worked for all employees, average weekly wages for all employees, average hourly wages for all employees, employment for production workers, average hours worked per week for production employees, average weekly wages for production employees, and average hourly wages for production employees.

Estimates of employment in the CES program refer to persons on establishment payrolls who receive pay for any part of the reference pay period that includes the 12th of the month. Establishments are classified in industries based on the principal activity or product produced in accordance with the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Employment estimates in the CES program relate to the location of work rather than place of residence. Persons appearing on more than one payroll are counted on each payroll.

BLS utilizes different statistical techniques in the production of the CES estimates. Most employment data are estimated using a “link relative” technique in which a ratio (link relative) of current-month employment to that of the previous month is computed from a sample of establishments reporting for both months. The estimates of employment for the current month are obtained by multiplying the estimates for the previous month by these ratios.

For some employment series, the sample of establishments is very small or highly variable. In these cases, a model-based approach is used in estimation. These models use the direct sample estimates (described above), along with forecasts of historical (benchmarked) data to decrease volatility in estimation. Two different models (Fay-Herriot Model and Small Domain Model) are used depending on the industry level being estimated. For more detailed information about each model, please see the BLS website

Employment estimates are subject to monthly and annual revisions. The annual revision is referred to as the benchmark where in employment estimates are adjusted to a count of jobs as derived mainly from employer Unemployment Insurance tax reports. The benchmark information is utilized to adjust the monthly estimates between the new benchmark and the preceding benchmark and to establish the level of employment for the new benchmark month. This benchmark process establishes the level of employment and the monthly sample is used to measure the month to month changes in the level.

The CES program produces Seasonally Adjusted and Not Seasonally Adjusted data series for the Nation and State of North Carolina and for the Total Nonfarm MSA data series. All data series are not available for all geographies. Seasonal adjustments help to adjust data series changes that are attributable to normal seasonal variations. CES estimates are based on a sample of employer survey responses and are subject to sampling and other types of errors. The number of North Carolina business establishments included in the CES sample is approximately 25,000 business establishments.

Additional information regarding the CES program including data for other states and geographical areas can be accessed on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at