QCEW: Workplaces big
Officially named the Quarterly Census of
Employment and Wages (QCEW), this
program has also been called the ES-202, based on the
number of a previous table summarizing employment and
wages. The QCEW collects earnings by
industry, type of ownership—such as government or
private—and establishment size. Like the CES,
this survey does not collect data by occupation.
The QCEW gathers its
data from the forms that employers fill out to comply with
the unemployment insurance program. BLS
reports the wage data it collects, being careful that
individual employers cannot be identified.
Types of earnings data available from this
program include total wages, average weekly wages, and
average annual pay. Data are available for the Nation,
States, metropolitan statistical areas, and counties. For
example, private industry workers in Sussex County,
Delaware, employed in natural resources and mining made an
average of $33,299 a year in 2005, while similar workers
in Houston County, Texas, made $37,486. QCEW
data also show earnings by establishment size. Data
reveal, for example, that people who work for large
establishments tend to make more than those who work for
Because the QCEW
program is a census, it collects data from all employers
covered by unemployment insurance. It does not need to
estimate average earnings based on a sample like other BLS
Industry earnings figures from this survey
are often quite different from those of the CES
described above, largely because QCEW
earnings include all types of paid compensation, including
bonuses and exercised stock options, whereas CES
earnings measure only base pay.
Limitations. In some ways, this
program provides a more complete picture of industry
earnings than the CES does. But its
data may be less up-to-date, as data are collected every 3
months, rather than every month.
Get the data. These data are
available online in many forms, including pre-made tables
and tools set up to extract customized data. QCEW
data are also published in quarterly news releases and
in the annual Employment and Wages bulletin. For
more information, contact:
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
OEUS/DASLT, Suite 4840
2 Massachusetts Ave. NE.
Washington, DC 20212
What are earnings?
Each of the five programs discussed has
its own way of defining earnings. For example, CPS weekly
earnings data include overtime pay only if a respondent
reports that such pay is usual. NCS
and OES wage data, in contrast, do
not include overtime pay. And OES
and CPS figures incorporate tips, while NCS
data exclude them. All of the programs, however, include
the largest portion of earnings: base wages and salaries.
Additionally, earnings aren’t the only
way workers are compensated. Employee benefits, such as
paid holidays, health insurance, and retirement plans, are
part of many employees’ pay. Data on benefits are
collected in the National Compensation Survey. (For more
information, see "An overview of employee
benefits" in the summer 2005 OOQ.
The article is available online at
Data BLS does not have
BLS programs cover a
lot when it comes to earnings, but they don’t provide
every type of earnings information. For example, BLS
data can’t tell you:
Starting salaries (although data by
work level from NCS or data on
the lowest earning percentiles from OES
might offer approximations)
Earnings by college major
Changes in occupational earnings from
month to month or week to week
Earnings by specific job title.
Instead, occupational earnings data correspond with
titles in the Standard Occupational Classification
But you might still find some of this
information—gathered from sources outside of BLS—in BLS career guidance publications
like this one.
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