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Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages

QCEW Overview

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program publishes a quarterly count of employment and wages reported by employers covering more than 95 percent of U.S. jobs available at the county, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), state and national levels by detailed industry. For more detailed information about the QCEW program, see the QCEW Handbook of Methods (HOM).

Data Available

QCEW produces a comprehensive tabulation of data on the number of establishments, monthly employment and quarterly wages for workers covered by State unemployment insurance (UI) laws and Federal workers covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program. These data are aggregated to many different levels, starting at the 6-digit NAICS industry level, to higher industry levels (NAICS industry groups, sectors, and supersectors), and to higher geographic levels (MSA, State, and national). At the national level, the QCEW program publishes establishment, employment and wage data for nearly every NAICS industry. At the State, county and MSA level, the QCEW program publishes establishment, employment, and wage data down to the 6-digit NAICS industry level, if disclosure restrictions are met. Establishment counts and wage data are available quarterly and annually. Employment data are available monthly and annually. In addition to richly detailed employment and wage data, the QCEW program produces data on establishments, employment, and wages stratified by size of establishment for the first quarter of each year.

BLS publishes data from the QCEW program every quarter in the County Employment and Wages press release, within 5 months after the end of each referenced quarter. About two weeks after this release is available, the QCEW program also publishes full quarterly industry detail data, at all geographic levels in several file formats, through our data files. Additional QCEW data tools include Open Data Access, the QCEW Data Viewer, and the QCEW State and County Map. More information about current and future news release and full data access can be found on our release calendar. Historical data availability details, from these QCEW database tools, can be found on the QCEW Data Availability page.

In addition, QCEW publishes the annual bulletin Employment and Wages, Annual Averages about 8 months after the end of the referenced year. The 2002 edition was the first to appear on the internet in its entirety.

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QCEW monthly employment data represent 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, paid vacation, and the like are also covered. Federal employment data are based on reports of monthly employment and reports of quarterly wages, both submitted quarterly to state agencies. Reports are submitted for all federal installations with employees covered by the act, except for certain national security agencies, which are excluded for security reasons.

Employment Exclusions

Besides excluding the aforementioned national security agencies, QCEW excludes proprietors, the unincorporated self-employed, unpaid family members, certain farm and domestic workers from having to report employment data, and railroad workers covered by the railroad unemployment insurance system. Excluded as well are workers who earned no wages during the entire applicable pay period because of work stoppages, temporary layoffs, illness, or unpaid vacations. Excluded from QCEW federal government employment are elected officials in the executive or legislative branch, members of the armed forces or the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, individuals serving on a temporary basis in case of fire, storm, earthquake, or other similar emergency, and individuals employed under a Federal relief program to relieve them from unemployment. For a complete list of federal government exclusions, see Appendix A of the UCFE Instructions for Federal Agencies. Excluded from QCEW state and local government employment are elected officials, members of a legislative body or members of the judiciary, members of the state National Guard or Air National Guard, and employees serving on a temporary basis in case of fire, storm, snow, earthquake, flood or similar declared emergency. For a complete list of state and local governments excluded services, see the coverage section of the most recent Comparison of State UI Laws.

For more information about QCEW Employment Exclusions, see Table A. Coverage Exclusions.

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QCEW wages data represent the total compensation paid during the calendar quarter, regardless of when the services were performed. In most states, covered employers report total compensation paid during the calendar quarter, regardless of when the services were performed. A few state laws, however, specify that wages be reported for or be based on the period during which services are performed rather than the period during which compensation is paid. Under most state laws or regulations, wages include bonuses, stock options, severance pay, the cash value of meals and lodging, tips and other gratuities. In some states, wages also include employer contributions to certain deferred compensation plans, such as 401(k) plans.

Wage Exclusions

Covered employer contributions to old-age, survivors, and disability insurance; health insurance; UI; workers' compensation; and private pension and welfare funds are not reported as wages. Employee contributions for the same purposes, however, as well as money withheld for income taxes, union dues, and so forth, are reported, even though they are deducted from the worker’s gross pay.

For more information about QCEW Coverage, see the QCEW Handbook of Methods - Concepts.

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Data Sources

QCEW microdata

For each state, the QCEW microdata are fundamentally a byproduct of the unemployment insurance (UI) accounting system in that state. The states receive a Quarterly Contributions Report (QCR) from all 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.


The QCEW conducts two surveys in addition to collecting administrative data. Approximately one-third of all private sector U.S. businesses with more than three employees are contacted annually to verify their main business activity and physical location address via the Annual Refiling Survey (ARS). Eligible multiple-establishment employers are required to report quarterly employment and wage data via the Multiple Worksite Report (MWR). Both surveys collect data via paper forms and electronically.

For more information about QCEW Data Sources, see the QCEW Handbook of Methods - Data Sources.

For more information related to QCEW reports and employment counts by type and data source, go to our QCEW Data Source Counts page.

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QCEW universe of business establishments consists of those establishments which are reporters to the BLS in partnership with the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (a total of 53 entities). The original source of data is the Quarterly Contribution Reports (QCRs) submitted to State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) by employers subject to state and federal unemployment insurance (UI) laws.

For more information about QCEW Design, see the QCEW Handbook of Methods - Design.

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Data from QCEW are aggregations of various kinds of business establishment data, including geographical, industry, ownership, and establishment size data. QCEW data are not estimates. On occasion, when business establishment data are of poor quality or missing entirely, they may be imputed. Proration is used to handle multiple-establishment employers for whom the top employment and wage levels are known but distribution at the establishment level is unknown.

For more information about QCEW Calculation, see the QCEW Handbook of Methods - Calculation.

For more information about QCEW Imputation Methodology, see our QCEW Imputation Methodology page.

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In accordance with BLS policy, data reported under a promise of confidentiality are published in a way so as to protect the identifiable information of reporters. BLS withholds the publication of UI-covered employment and wage data for any industry level when necessary to protect the identity of employers. Totals at the industry level for the states and the nation include the undisclosed data suppressed within the detailed tables without revealing those data. QCEW confidentiality concepts and practices are largely based on the Statistical Policy Working Paper 22 (PDF) developed by the Federal Committee on Statistical Methods.

For more information about Confidentiality, see the BLS Confidentiality of Data Collected for Statistical Purposes.

For more information about Confidentiality concepts, as it relates to QCEW data disclosure, please see this document about Confidentiality and Data Disclosure.

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Industry Classification

Employment and wage data developed in the QCEW program have been classified by industry since 1938. An industrial code, based on a description provided by the employer on a questionnaire, is assigned to each establishment by the State workforce agency. If a private or government employer conducts different activities at various establishments or installations, separate industrial codes are assigned, to the extent possible, to each establishment.

QCEW currently uses the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to classify industries for establishments.

For more information about QCEW Industry Classification, see the QCEW Industry Classification Systems.

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Forms of Publication

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Data from the QCEW program serve as an important input to many BLS programs. The QCEW data are used as the benchmark source for employment by the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program and the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program. The UI administrative records collected under the QCEW program serve as a sampling frame for BLS establishment surveys.

In addition, data from the QCEW program serve as an input to other Federal and State programs. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the Department of Commerce uses QCEW data as the base for developing the wage and salary component of personal income. The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) of the Department of Labor and the State workforce agencies use QCEW data to administer the employment security program. The QCEW data accurately reflect the extent of coverage of the State UI laws and are used to measure UI revenues; national, State and local area employment; and total and UI taxable wage trends.

For more information about QCEW Uses, see the QCEW Handbook of Methods - Uses and Users.

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Last Modified Date: December 20, 2023