Program Overview


QCEW (Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages) Methodology


The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) 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 QCEW program provides quarterly employment and wage statistics by industry for the Nation, State, Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA), 23 Workforce Development Board areas and counties. Information is derived from employer quarterly Unemployment Insurance Tax and Wage reports, Multiple Worksite reports and related data sources.

The QCEW program produces quarterly employment and wage statistics that include the number of establishments, monthly employment, average employment, total wages, and average weekly wage. Data are available by several different industry groupings utilizing the North American Industrial Classification System and by ownership type (private, state government, local government, and federal government). Employment and wage statistics are also available by establishment size class. Establishment and wage statistics are available quarterly and annually while employment data are available monthly and annually.

QCEW wage data represents the total compensation paid during the calendar quarter, regardless of when the services were performed. Monthly employment data represents the number of covered workers who worked during, or received pay for, the pay period that included the 12th day of the month. Covered employees in the private-sector and in the state and local government include most corporate officials, all executives, all supervisory personnel, all professionals, all clerical workers, many farmworkers, all wage earners, all piece workers, and all part-time workers. Workers on paid sick leave, paid holiday or paid vacation are also included. Federal employment data are based on reports of monthly employment and quarterly wages.

QCEW data are derived from quarterly information provided by employers on their Unemployment Insurance Quarterly Tax and Wage report. This includes information from private sector employers, as well as from state and local governments covered under the UI program. Federal government employers provide statistical reports via the Report of Federal Employment and Wages; these reports contain only employment and wages data, for each employer’s installations within each state. On occasion, when data are missing or do not meet BLS quality standards they may be imputed and some data may be prorated to handle multiple-establishment employers where the top-level employment and wage data are known but establishment level data are missing or unknown.

In addition to the collection of administrative data from employer’s tax and wage reports the QCEW program conducts two surveys. Approximately one-third of all private sector establishments with more than three employees are contacted annually to verify their main business activity and physical location address via the Annual Refiling Survey (ARS). Additional employment and wage data from multiple-establishment employers are collected via a Multiple Worksite Report (MWR).

The QCEW program utilizes the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to classify employing establishments. If an employer has multiple establishments and conducts different activities at the establishments, separate industrial codes are assigned, to the extent possible, to each establishment.

Information utilized and produced by the QCEW program is subject to strict confidentiality requirements. These requirements are in place to protect the privacy of employer information. As a result, information produced by the QCEW program is subject to both primary and secondary suppression methods. Therefore, not all data series are available for all geographies, industries, and size classes.

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