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Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic on County Employment and Wages News Release and Data

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) publishes data on establishment counts, monthly employment, and total quarterly wages each quarter. The QCEW totals for the first quarter 2020, published on August 19, 2020, in the County Employment and Wages news release, were the first to reflect possible impacts from COVID-19.

  1. How are people who are absent from their jobs counted by QCEW? Workers who are paid by their employer for all or any part of the pay period including the 12th of the month are counted as employed in the QCEW, even if they were not actually at their jobs. Workers who are temporarily or permanently absent from their jobs, but are not being paid, are not counted as employed even if they are continuing to receive benefits.
  2. Will data collection for QCEW be affected by COVID-19? QCEW data collection may be affected by the availability of state unemployment insurance (UI) staff, state labor market information (LMI) staff, BLS data collection staff, and business respondents. Most QCEW data come from state LMI departments processing data from their UI tax extracts. QCEW also collects Multiple Worksite Report (MWR) data electronically through the MWR website and the Electronic Data Interchange center. QCEW manages a print contract to collect MWR data for most states. The remaining states (Hawaii, Mississippi, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia) print and mail forms directly. QCEW anticipates that respondent availability to receive printed solicitations will be affected by increased telework and fewer respondents in offices where mail is sent. We are offering respondents increased electronic reporting options, working with our contractor to scan as much data as possible electronically, and researching other options to increase web reporting. QCEW depends on the availability of data provided by each business to the state UI system, and on data provided by businesses directly to BLS. If we are unable to reach some respondents, collection will be adversely affected.
  3. Will BLS attempt to quantify the overall impact of COVID-19 on QCEW estimates? BLS's primary goal for QCEW is to provide accurate levels of employment, establishment counts, and total quarterly wages. It will not be possible to precisely quantify the impact of COVID-19 on employment, establishment counts, or wages because its effects cannot be separated from other influences on the economy, particularly at the national level. Comparisons of employment changes for a specific month against those of recent months may provide a general indication of the impacts at the national level. QCEW data for states and metropolitan areas may provide further indications of an impact at the local level.

Last Modified Date: August 19, 2020