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Current Employment Statistics - CES (National)

2020 CES Preliminary Benchmark Revision

In accordance with usual practice, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is announcing the preliminary estimate of the upcoming annual benchmark revision to the establishment survey employment series. The final benchmark revision will be issued in February 2021 with the publication of the January 2021 Employment Situation news release.

Each year, the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey employment estimates are benchmarked to comprehensive counts of employment for the month of March. These counts are derived from state unemployment insurance (UI) tax records that nearly all employers are required to file. For National CES employment series, the annual benchmark revisions over the last 10 years have averaged plus or minus two-tenths of one percent of total nonfarm employment. The preliminary estimate of the benchmark revision indicates a downward adjustment to March 2020 total nonfarm employment of -173,000 (-0.1 percent).

Preliminary benchmark revisions are calculated only for the month of March 2020 for the major industry sectors in table 1. The existing employment series are not updated with the release of the preliminary benchmark estimate. The data for all CES series will be updated when the final benchmark revision is issued.

Table 1 shows the March 2020 preliminary benchmark revisions by major industry sector. As is typically the case, many of the individual industry series show larger percentage revisions than the total nonfarm series, primarily because statistical sampling error is greater at more detailed levels than at an aggregated level.

NOTICE The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) is researching potential improvements to their imputation methodology. If implemented, these changes may result in larger than usual revisions to QCEW estimates for the first quarter of 2020. More information about these possible improvements is available at

Table 1. National Current Employment Statistics March 2020
Preliminary Benchmark Revisions by Major Industry Sector
(in thousands)

Total nonfarm

-173 -0.1

Total private

-229 -.2

Mining and logging

-26 -3.9


6 .1


-70 -.6

Trade, transportation, and utilities

32 .1

Wholesale trade (1)

-44.8 -.8

Retail trade (1)

-68.8 -.4

Transportation and warehousing (1)

144.4 2.5

Utilities (1)

1.4 .3


17 .6

Financial activities

28 .3

Professional and business services

-125 -.6

Education and health services

-118 -.5

Leisure and hospitality

32 .2

Other services

-5 -.1


56 .2

(1) Series are part of trade, transportation, and utilities.

Last Modified Date: August 19, 2020