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Foreign Direct Investment

FDI Technical Notes

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis have developed research data on employment, wages, and occupations for establishments that have at least one foreign owner with at least 10 percent ownership during 2012. Establishments with such ownership are considered to be in a foreign direct investment relationship. We refer to these as establishments with foreign ownership. Establishments without such a relationship are called domestically owned.

Data for establishments not identified as foreign owned, either because they are domestically owned or because their foreign-owned status could not be verified, are provided for comparison purposes.

Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. These tabulations provide insight into this important segment of the U.S. economy. Academic research has shown, for example, that manufacturing establishments with foreign ownership tend to be more productive and pay higher wages than domestically owned plants. (See Doms, Mark E., and J. Bradford Jensen. "Comparing wages, skills, and productivity between domestically and foreign-owned manufacturing establishments in the United States." Geography and ownership as bases for economic accounting. University of Chicago Press, 1998. 235-258.)

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These data are the result of a cooperative effort between the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Data from BEA’s 2012 Benchmark Survey of Foreign Direct Investment in the United States were used to identify establishments in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) for this period that were part of companies with partial or complete foreign ownership. These same establishments were then identified in the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey data for the 3-year period of 2011–13. Special adjustments (described below) were made to the OES methodology to estimate employment and wages by occupation for establishments with foreign ownership.


Establishments. An individual establishment is generally defined as a single physical location at which one, or predominantly one, type of economic activity is conducted. Most employers covered under the state UI laws operate only one place of business.

North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes. NAICS codes are the standard used by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data. Industrial codes are assigned by state agencies to each establishment based on responses to questionnaires where employers indicate their principal product or activity. If an employer conducts different activities at various establishments, separate industrial codes are assigned, to the extent possible, to each establishment.

Foreign ownership. For these data, establishments with foreign ownership were identified if they could be matched with a company reporting at least 10 percent total foreign ownership in BEA’s 2012 Benchmark Survey of Foreign Direct Investment in the United States.

Ultimate beneficial owner (UBO). The UBO of a U.S. affiliate is that person or entity, proceeding up the affiliate’s ownership chain, beginning with and including the foreign parent, that is not owned by more than 50 percent by another person. Unlike the foreign parent, the UBO of an affiliate may be located in the United States.

BLS data

Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) data are the product of a federal-state cooperative program. The data are derived from summaries of the employment and total pay of workers covered by state and federal unemployment insurance (UI) legislation and are provided to BLS by State Workforce Agencies. The summaries are a result of the administration of state unemployment insurance programs that require most employers to pay quarterly taxes based on the employment and wages of workers covered by UI.

Monthly employment and quarterly wage data for private, state, and local government workers covered by state UI laws are compiled from quarterly contribution reports submitted to the State Workforce Agencies by employers. In addition to the quarterly contribution reports, employers who operate multiple establishments within a state complete a questionnaire, called the "Multiple Worksite Report," which provides detailed information on employment, wages, and industry for each of their establishments. QCEW employment and wage data are derived from microdata summaries of 9.1 million employer reports of employment and wages submitted by states to BLS in 2012.

UI and Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) coverage is broad and has been basically comparable from state to state since 1978, when the 1976 amendments to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act became effective, expanding coverage to include most state and local government employees. In 2012, UI and UCFE programs covered workers in 131.7 million jobs. The estimated 126.9 million workers in these jobs (after adjustment for multiple jobholders) represented 95.5 percent of civilian wage and salary employment. Covered workers received $6.491 trillion in pay, representing 93.7 percent of the wage and salary component of personal income and 40.0 percent of the gross domestic product.

Major exclusions from UI coverage include self-employed workers, most agricultural workers on small farms, all members of the Armed Forces, elected officials in most states, most student workers at schools, employees of certain small nonprofit organizations and railroad workers covered by the railroad unemployment insurance system.

Occupational Employment Statistics

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program conducts a semiannual survey designed to produce estimates of employment and wages for specific occupations. The OES program collects data on wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments in order to produce employment and wage estimates for over 800 occupations. OES covers all workers in the QCEW with specific exceptions – private households and most of the agricultural sector are excluded, but railroads are included. BLS produces occupational employment and wage estimates for approximately 415 industry classifications at the national level. The industry classifications correspond to the sector, 3-, 4-, and selected 5- and 6-digit NAICS industry groups.

The OES program surveys approximately 200,000 establishments per panel (every 6 months), taking 3 years to fully collect the sample of 1.2 million establishments. To reduce respondent burden, the collection is on a 3-year survey cycle that ensures that establishments are surveyed at most once every 3 years. The estimates for occupations in nonfarm establishments are based on OES data collected for the reference months of May and November.

The OES survey is a federal-state cooperative program between BLS and State Workforce Agencies. BLS provides the procedures and technical support, draws the sample, and produces the survey materials, while the State Workforce Agencies collect the data. State Workforce Agencies from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands participate in the survey (although data from Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands were not included in this project). Occupational employment and wage rate estimates at the national level are produced by BLS using data from the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

BEA data

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) conducts quarterly, annual, and benchmark surveys of foreign direct investment in the United States. The quarterly surveys provide information on direct investment transactions and income for the U.S. national income and product accounts, international transactions accounts (or balance of payments) and on direct investment positions for the U.S. international investment position accounts. Annual and five year benchmark surveys provide information on the activities of multinational enterprises and the more detailed information that is needed for annual and benchmark revisions of direct investment transactions, income, and positions. Reporting on BEA’s direct investment surveys is mandatory under the International Investment and Trade in Services Survey Act (P.L. 94–472, 90 Stat. 2059, 22 U.S.C. 3101–3108, as amended).

Direct investment implies that a person resident in one country exercises control or a significant degree of influence over the management of a business enterprise resident in another country. (A “person” is broadly defined to include any individual, corporation, branch, partnership, associated group, association, estate, trust, or other organization and any government—including any corporation, institution, or other entity or instrumentality of a government.)

In accordance with international guidelines, ownership or control of 10 percent or more of an enterprise’s voting securities, or the equivalent, is considered evidence of having at least a significant degree of influence over management, with control being deemed to exist if the investor owns more than 50 percent of the voting securities. Thus, foreign direct investment in the United States is ownership or control, direct or indirect, by one foreign person of 10 percent or more of the voting securities of an incorporated U.S. business enterprise or an equivalent interest in an unincorporated U.S. business enterprise. U.S. business enterprises with foreign ownership of 10 percent or more are referred to as “U.S. affiliates.” Only foreign investment in the United States that is direct investment is covered by BEA’s direct investment surveys.

Benchmark surveys, conducted every 5 years, are BEA’s most comprehensive surveys of foreign direct investment, in terms of both coverage of companies and the amount of information collected. The 2012 Benchmark Survey of Foreign Direct Investment in the United States collected detailed data on the activities of U.S. affiliates of foreign multinational enterprises in 2012. The data include balance sheets, income statements, goods and services supplied, taxes, employment and compensation of employees, U.S. trade in goods, research and development expenditures, and data used to calculate value added. The survey also collected data on transactions and positions between U.S. affiliates and their foreign parent companies.

These data are disaggregated in a number of ways, including by overall industry of the U.S. affiliate, by country and industry of ultimate beneficial owner or foreign parent, and, for employment, by state.

For more information on the benchmark survey and the methodology for the statistics, visit the BEA website.

Methodology for matching QCEW and BEA data

Establishments with foreign investment were identified in the BLS longitudinal database through an initial match to the BEA foreign direct investment enterprise data using an identification number common to both agencies. This mutual identifier, the employer identification number (EIN), is a unique nine-digit number issued by the Internal Revenue Service to identify a business entity. However, employers may have more than one EIN, and they may, for example, use different EINs for different subsidiary companies, or different EINs for different purposes. They may use different EINs in reporting employment and wages to state workforce agencies as part of the unemployment insurance system than they use in reporting financial data to the Securities and Exchange Commission. U.S. affiliates with multiple EINs are asked to report two or more EINs in BEA’s surveys of businesses with foreign ownership.

In the regular reports of employment and wages to state workforce agencies which become the BLS QCEW data, each employer in the U.S. is also asked to provide one EIN for each establishment. The central challenge of matching is to find all of the establishments in the QCEW that are used by each affiliate with foreign ownership, whether or not they reported the EIN used in the BLS data to BEA.

Analysts at BLS reviewed the initial computer-generated links between the EINs provided to BEA by each employer reporting foreign investment with the BLS QCEW employment data. These first links based on the EINs reported to BEA surveys are imperfect: some affiliates are matched with unrelated establishments, while other affiliates appear to be matched with only a fraction of their establishments in the QCEW. Accordingly, the lists of establishments found through automated matching were reviewed manually, and establishments matched in error were removed. When the employment found for an affiliate in the QCEW—across all establishments—was substantially lower than the employment the same affiliate reported to BEA, analysts searched the QCEW for additional establishments of that affiliate by name and address, using secondary sources such as company websites, company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, company annual reports, and other publically available sources of information. These searches identified additional EINs for each company.

Affiliates that reported EINs to BEA that did not correspond to any employer in the QCEW database were also examined in an attempt to find whatever EINs these companies might use in the reports to state workforce agencies that become BLS data. Analysts once again used company names, addresses and telephone numbers, geographic information, industry information, employment levels, and secondary sources to create a link between the two databases.

In this manual matching work, BLS analysts prioritized matching employers with foreign ownership with the largest employment levels, and those for which the initial, computerized match gave employment levels from all BLS establishments that had the greatest differences with the total employment level reported by the BEA affiliate. Analysts reviewed the matched establishments in BLS data for affiliates that reported employment of 25 or more employees to BEA. Matched establishments in the BLS data where affiliates reported fewer than 25 employees to BEA were not fully reviewed by analysts.

Differences in scope

Some of the differences between the BEA employment data and the matched QCEW data are due to differences in scope. BEA publications of foreign-invested businesses include data from Puerto Rico and other U.S. areas and territories, but these areas were not in scope for the BLS project. Below are employment figures published by BEA that are associated with these areas:

  • Puerto Rico — 20,300
  • Other U.S. territories — 17,700

In addition, most railroad employees are not covered by state unemployment insurance programs. As a result, employment data for these employers are not available through the QCEW and are not included in BLS tabulations for this project.

Timing issues also affect the difference in employment between BEA and BLS tabulations. Employers reported their employment levels to BEA at the end of their fiscal years, and provided the date when this fiscal year ended. In cases where a firm experienced large fluctuations in their employment, companies were asked to report an average over the course of their fiscal year. These are the employment levels tabulated by BEA. BLS used these fiscal year dates in determining whether each BEA affiliate was “adequately matched” to BLS data, but the employment levels in these tabulations are average monthly employment levels for 2012 in BLS data.

Differences in employment levels between BEA publications and these BLS estimates

BLS and BEA agreed on criteria for assessing the adequacy of the matched statistics. Affiliates with foreign ownership were considered to be “adequately matched” with BLS establishment data if the total employment of all matched BLS establishments for a particular affiliate was within 20 percent of the total employment reported in the BEA survey. Employment differentials that exceeded this 20 percent threshold were generally not counted as foreign-invested companies in BLS tabulations. When the employment of a BEA affiliate matched the employment of a single establishment in the BLS data, but the total employment of all establishments using the same EIN in the BLS data exceeded the 20 percent parameter, the affiliate was NOT considered “adequately matched.”

However, if, after completing the review of an affiliate, BEA analysts determined that the BLS data were an accurate representation of the affiliate, even if the employment levels in the BLS data were not within 20 percent of the employment level reported to BEA, it was considered adequately matched and thus included in the BLS tabulations of establishments with foreign ownership.

At the end of these matching efforts about 45 percent of the BEA affiliates, accounting for about 90 percent of total BEA-affiliate employment, were determined to be adequately matched to BLS data. As noted above, since matching efforts focused on affiliates with greater employment levels, those left unmatched were mostly very small. The following table provides a breakdown of the employment associated with the adequately matched records and those records excluded from BLS tabulations for establishments with foreign ownership:

Differences between BLS and BEA employment levels
Records BEA BLS-QCEW Difference

All Records

6,458,100 6,174,571 283,529

Adequately Matched

5,821,474 5,517,202 304,272

Excluded from BLS Tabulations

636,626 657,369 -20,743

OES for establishments with foreign ownership

The QCEW establishments identified as foreign-owned in 2012 through the matching process described above were then matched with those sampled in the OES survey for the November 2011 to May 2014 survey panels. Sampled establishments that did not respond to the OES survey were assigned imputed employment and wage data based on similar establishments that did respond, and total employment levels were benchmarked to total levels in the QCEW. For these special tabulations, imputations for establishments with foreign ownership were taken only from other establishments with foreign ownership (and vice versa), and employment levels for establishments with foreign ownership were benchmarked to total employment in establishments with foreign ownership identified in the QCEW (and vice versa). All other estimation procedures are as described in the OES technical documentation at

Research data tabulations

Employment and wage data on establishments with foreign ownership are available at the national, state, metropolitan statistical area, and county levels of detail. These data are provided for the total private, NAICS 2-digit, 3-digit, and 4-digit industry levels of detail (as reported for each establishment in BLS data). Country of ultimate beneficial ownership data are available for seven major world regions (as defined by BEA) and at the individual country level.

Annual figures for 2012 are available as research tabulations and are provided in an Excel file with the following variables:

  • Annual average employment
  • Total annual wages
  • Average annual wages per employee
  • Average weekly wage per employee
  • Percent of employment attributable to establishments with foreign ownership relative to the comparable QCEW figure
  • Wage ratio of establishments with foreign ownership to domestically-owned establishments

Firm size and age data are tabulated at the national total private and NAICS 2-digit industry level of detail. Industry calculations are performed at the establishment level. For these tabulations, a firm is defined to be a business, either corporate or otherwise, and may consist of one or more establishments, aggregated by the EIN. Aggregation by EIN is necessary since BLS does not possess affiliate codes for establishments without foreign ownership.

For size class data, the size of a firm is determined using the employment level of an EIN. All establishments, regardless of employment level, that compose an EIN are assigned this size definition. This approach facilitates the comparison of foreign invested companies with existing QCEW size class data that also identify a firm by its EIN.

Size class data are available for the nine standard QCEW size classes. These categories are listed below:

  • 1 to 4 employees
  • 5 to 9 employees
  • 10 to 19 employees
  • 20 to 49 employees
  • 50 to 99 employees
  • 100 to 249 employees
  • 250 to 499 employees
  • 500 to 999 employees
  • 1,000 or more employees

Age tabulations adopted the existing QCEW methodology where the age of a firm is classified according to the age of the oldest establishment among those sharing the same EIN in BLS data. Five distinct age groups are available:

  • Up to 4 years old
  • 5 to 9 years old
  • 10 to 14 years old
  • 15 to 19 years old
  • 20 years and older

Occupational employment and wage data are available for 22 major occupational groups (as defined by the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification system) at the national level for cross-industry, 2-digit NAICS, and for selected 3- and 4-digit NAICS levels of detail. Major occupational group data are also available at the cross-industry level for states and the District of Columbia. Detailed occupational data are available at the national level for cross-industry and 2-digit NAICS industry levels of detail.

Country of ultimate beneficial ownership data by major occupational group are provided for six of the seven BEA-defined major world regions (with the United States being excluded) and for specific countries.

Annual figures for 2012 are available as research tabulations and are provided in an Excel file with the following variables:

  • Employment
  • Employment as a percentage of the corresponding employment total
  • Hourly mean wages
  • Annual mean wages
  • 10th, 25th, 50th (median), 75th, and 90th hourly percentile wages
  • 10th, 25th, 50th (median), 75th, and 90th annual percentile wages
  • Relative standard errors for the employment and mean wage estimates


Last Modified: February 4, 2019