The Business Employment Dynamics (BED) data are a product of a federal-state cooperative
program known as Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). The BED data are
compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) from existing QCEW records. Most
employers in the U.S. are required to file quarterly reports on the employment and wages of
workers covered by unemployment insurance (UI) laws and to pay quarterly UI taxes. The QCEW
is based largely on quarterly UI reports which are sent by businesses to the State Workforce
Agencies (SWAs). These UI reports are supplemented by two additional BLS data collections to
render administrative data into economic statistics. Together these data comprise the QCEW and
form the basis of the Bureau’s establishment universe sampling frame.
These reports are used to produce the quarterly QCEW data on total employment and wages and
the longitudinal BED data on gross job gains and losses. The QCEW is also the employment
benchmark for the Current Employment Statistics (CES), Occupational Employment Statistics
(OES), and Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) programs and is a major input to
the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Personal Income Accounts.
In the BED program, the quarterly QCEW records are linked across quarters to provide a
longitudinal history for each establishment. The linkage process allows the tracking of net
employment changes at the establishment level, which in turn allows the estimation of jobs gained
at opening and expanding units and jobs lost at closing and contracting units.
Differences between QCEW, BED, and CES employment measures
The Bureau publishes three different establishment-based employment measures for any given
quarter. Each of these measures—Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), Business
Employment Dynamics (BED), and Current Employment Statistics (CES)—makes use of the
quarterly UI employment reports in producing data; however, each measure has a somewhat
different universe coverage, estimation procedure, and publication product.
Differences in coverage and estimation methods can result in somewhat different measures of
employment change over time. It is important to understand program differences and the intended
uses of the program products. (See table.) Additional information on each program can be obtained
from the program websites shown in the table.
Summary of Major Differences between QCEW, BED, and CES Employment Measures
| QCEW | BED | CES
Source |--Count of UI admini-|--Count of longitudi- |--Sample survey:
| strative records | nally-linked UI ad- | 634,000 establish-
| submitted by 9.9 | ministrative records| ments
| million establish- | submitted by 7.9 |
| ments | million private sec-|
| | tor establishments |
Coverage |--UI and UCFE cover- |--UI Coverage, exclud-|Nonfarm wage and salary
| age: all employers| ing government, pri-| jobs:
| subject to state | vate households, and|--UI Coverage, exclud-
| and federal UI Laws| establishments with | ing agriculture, pri-
| | zero employment | vate households, and
| | | self-employed workers
| | |--other employment,
| | | including railroads,
| | | religious organiza-
| | | tions, and other non-
| | | UI-covered jobs
| | |
Publication|--Quarterly |--Quarterly |--Monthly
frequency | -6 months after the| -7 months after the | -—Usually the 3rd
| end of each quar- | end of each quarter| Friday after the end
| ter | | of the week including
| | | the 12th of the month
Use of UI |--Directly summarizes|--Links each new UI |--Uses UI file as a sam-
file | and publishes each | quarter to longitu- | pling frame and to ann-
| new quarter of UI | dinal database and | ually realign sample-
| data | directly summarizes | based estimates to pop-
| | gross job gains and | ulation counts (bench-
| | losses | marking)
Principal |--Provides a quarter-|--Provides quarterly |--Provides current month-
products | ly and annual uni- | employer dynamics | ly estimates of employ-
| verse count of es- | data on establish- | ment, hours, and earn-
| tablishments, em- | ment openings, clos-| ings at the MSA, state,
| ployment, and wages| ings, expansions, | and national level by
| at the county, MSA,| and contractions at | industry
| State, and national| the national level |
| levels by detailed | by NAICS super- |
| industry | sectors,3-digit |
| | NAICS, and by size |
| | of firm, and at the |
| | state private-sector|
| | total level |
| |--Future expansions |
| | will include |
| | data with greater |
| | industry detail and |
| | data at the county |
| | and MSA level |
Principal |--Major uses include:|--Major uses include: |--Major uses include:
uses | -Detailed locality | -Business cycle | -Principal federal
| data | analysis | economic indicator
| -Periodic universe | -Analysis of employ-| -Official time series
| counts for bench- | er dynamics under- | for employment change
| marking sample | lying economic ex- | measures
| survey estimates | pansions and con- | -Input into other ma-
| -Sample frame for | tractions | jor economic indi-
| BLS establishment | -Analysis of employ-| cators
| surveys | ment expansion and |
| | contraction by size|
| | of firm |
Program |--www.bls.gov/cew/ |--www.bls.gov/bdm/ |--www.bls.gov/ces/
Web sites | | |
Employment and wage data for workers covered by state UI and Unemployment Compensation for
Federal Employees (UCFE) laws are compiled from quarterly contribution reports submitted to the
SWAs 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 the location of their establishments. These reports
are based on place of employment rather than place of residence. UI and UCFE coverage is broad
and basically comparable from state to state.
Major exclusions from UI coverage are self-employed workers, religious organizations, most
agricultural workers on small farms, all members of the Armed Forces, elected officials in most
states, most employees of railroads, some domestic workers, most student workers at schools, and
employees of certain small nonprofit organizations.
Gross job gains and gross job losses in this release are derived from longitudinal histories of 7.9
million private sector employer reports out of 9.9 million total reports of employment and wages
submitted by states to BLS in the first quarter of 2017. Gross job gains and gross job losses data in
this release do not report estimates for government employees or private households (NAICS
814110) and do not include establishments with zero employment in both previous and current
quarters. Data from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are also excluded from the national data.
The table below shows, in millions of establishments, the number of establishments excluded from
the national gross job gains and gross job losses data in the first quarter 2017.
Number of active establishments included in
Business Employment Dynamics data at the national level
Total establishments QCEW program.................................................... 9.9
Excluded: Public sector............................................................ 0.3
Private households......................................................... 0.2
Zero employment............................................................ 1.5
Total establishments included in Business
Employment Dynamics data............................................................. 7.9
Unit of analysis
Establishments are used in the tabulation of the BED statistics by industry and firms are used in the
tabulation of the BED size class statistics. An establishment is defined as an economic unit that
produces goods or services, usually at a single physical location, and engages in one or
predominantly one activity. A firm is a legal business, either corporate or otherwise, and may
consist of several establishments. Firm-level data are compiled based on an aggregation of
establishments under common ownership by a corporate parent using employer tax identification
numbers. The firm level aggregation which is consistent with the role of corporations as the
economic decision makers are used for the measurement of the BED data elements by size class.
Because of the difference in the unit of analysis, total gross job gains and gross job losses by size
class are lower than total gross job gains and gross job losses by industry, as some establishment
gains and losses within a firm are offset during the aggregation process. However, the total net
changes in employment are the same for not seasonally adjusted data and are similar for seasonally
Concepts and methodology
The Business Employment Dynamics data measure the net change in employment at the
establishment or firm level. These changes come about in one of four ways. A net increase in
employment can come from either opening units or expanding units. A net decrease in
employment can come from either closing units or contracting units. Gross job gains include the
sum of all jobs added at either opening or expanding units. Gross job losses include the sum of all
jobs lost in either closing or contracting units. The net change in employment is the difference
between gross job gains and gross job losses.
The formal definitions of employment changes are as follows:
Openings. These are either units with positive third month employment for the first time in the
current quarter, with no links to the prior quarter, or with positive third month employment in the
current quarter following zero employment in the previous quarter.
Expansions. These are units with positive employment in the third month in both the previous and
current quarters, with a net increase in employment over this period.
Closings. These are either units with positive third month employment in the previous quarter, with
no employment or zero employment reported in the current quarter.
Contractions. These are units with positive employment in the third month in both the previous and
current quarters, with a net decrease in employment over this period.
Births. These are units with positive third month employment for the first time in the current
quarter with no links to the prior quarter, or units with positive third month employment in the
current quarter and zero employment in the third month of the previous four quarters. Births are a
subset of openings not including re-openings of seasonal businesses.
Deaths. These are units with no employment or zero employment reported in the third month of
four consecutive quarters following the last quarter with positive employment. Deaths are a subset
of closings not including temporary shutdowns of seasonal businesses. A unit that closes during the
quarter may be a death, but we wait three quarters to determine whether it is a permanent closing
or a temporary shutdown. Therefore, there is always a lag of three quarters for the publication of
All employment changes are measured from the third month of the previous quarter to the third
month of the current quarter. Not all establishments and firms change their employment levels.
Units with no change in employment count towards estimates of total employment, but not for
levels of gross job gains and gross job losses.
Gross job gains and gross job losses are expressed as rates by dividing their levels by the average
of employment in the current and previous quarters. This provides a symmetric growth rate. The
rates are calculated for the components of gross job gains and gross job losses and then summed to
form their respective totals. These rates can be added and subtracted just as their levels can. For
instance, the difference between the gross job gains rate and the gross job losses rate is the net
Establishment Births and Deaths
For the purpose of BED statistics, births are defined as establishments that appear in the
longitudinal database for the first time with positive employment in the third month of a quarter, or
showed four consecutive quarters of zero employment in the third month followed by a quarter in
which it shows positive employment in the third month. Similarly, deaths are defined as
establishments that either drop out of the longitudinal database or an establishment that had
positive employment in the third month of a given quarter followed by four consecutive quarters of
showing zero employment in the third month. Although the data for establishment births and
deaths are tabulated independently from the data for openings and closings, the concepts are not
mutually exclusive. An establishment that is defined as a birth in a given quarter is necessarily an
opening as well, and an establishment defined as a death in a quarter must also be a closing. Since
openings include seasonal and other re-openings and closings include temporary shutdowns, the
not seasonally adjusted values for births and deaths must be less than those for openings and
closings. However, because some BED series do not have many re-openings or temporary
shutdowns, as well as the fact that births and deaths are independently seasonally adjusted from
openings and closings, there may be instances in which the seasonally adjusted value of the former
is greater than the latter.
Prior to the measurement of gross job gains and gross job losses, QCEW records are linked across
two quarters. The linkage process matches establishments' unique SWA identification numbers
(SWA-ID). Between 95 and 97 percent of establishments identified as continuous from quarter to
quarter are matched by SWA-ID. The rest are linked in one of three ways. The first method uses
predecessor and successor information, identified by the states, which relates records with different
SWA-IDs across quarters. Predecessor and successor relations can come about for a variety of
reasons, including a change in ownership, a firm restructuring, or a UI account restructuring. If a
match cannot be attained in this manner, a probability-based match is used. This match attempts to
identify two establishments with different SWA-IDs as continuous. The match is based upon
comparisons such as the same name, address, and phone number. Third, an analyst examines
unmatched records individually and makes a possible match.
In order to ensure the highest possible quality of data, SWAs verify with employers and update, if
necessary, the industry, location, and ownership classification of all establishments on a 3-year
cycle. Changes in establishment classification codes resulting from the verification process are
introduced with the data reported for the first quarter of the year. Changes resulting from improved
employer reporting also are introduced in the first quarter.
The method of dynamic sizing is used in calculations for the BED size class data series. Dynamic
sizing allocates each firm’s employment gain or loss during a quarter to each respective size class
in which the change occurred. For example, if a firm grew from 2 employees in quarter 1 to 38
employees in quarter 2, then, of the 36-employee increase, 2 would be allocated to the first size
class, 5 to the size class 5 to 9, 10 to size class 10 to 19, and 19 to size class 20 to 49.
Dynamic sizing provides symmetrical firm-size estimates and eliminates any systematic effects
which may be caused by the transitory and reverting changes in firms’ sizes over time.
Additionally, it allocates each job gain or loss to the actual size class where it occurred.
The annual gross job gains and gross job losses measure the net change in employment at the
establishment level from the third month of a quarter in the previous year to the third month of the
same quarter in the current year. The BLS publishes annual BED data based on March-to-March
changes once a year with the release of the first quarter BED data. The annual data based on over-
the-year changes for other quarters of the year are available upon request. The definitions and
methodology in measuring annual gross job gains and gross job losses are similar to the quarterly
measures. The linkage method considers all predecessor and successor relations that may come
about due to changes in ownership and corporate restructuring over the entire year. At the
establishment level, some of the quarterly job gains and job losses are offset during the estimation
over the year. Therefore, the sum of four quarters of gross job gains and gross job losses are not
equal to annual gross job gains and gross job losses. The net change in employment over the year,
however, is equal to the sum of four quarterly net changes on a not seasonally adjusted basis.
Over the course of a year, the levels of employment and the associated job flows undergo sharp
fluctuations due to such seasonal events as changes in the weather, reduced or expanded
production, harvests, major holidays, and the opening and closing of schools. The effect of such
seasonal variation can be very large.
Because these seasonal events follow a more or less regular pattern each year, their influence can
be eliminated by adjusting these statistics from quarter to quarter. These adjustments make
nonseasonal developments, such as declines in economic activity, easier to recognize. For
example, the large number of youths taking summer jobs is likely to obscure other changes that
have taken place in June relative to March, making it difficult to determine if the level of economic
activity has risen or declined. However, because the effect of students finishing school in previous
years is known, the statistics for the current year can be adjusted to allow for a comparable change.
The adjusted figures provide a more useful tool with which to analyze changes in economic
The employment data series for opening, expanding, closing, and contracting units are
independently seasonally adjusted; net changes are calculated based on the difference between
gross job gains and gross job losses. Similarly, for industry data, the establishment counts data
series for opening, expanding, closing, and contracting establishments are independently adjusted,
and the net changes are calculated based on the difference between the number of opening and
closing establishments. Additionally establishment and employment levels are independently
seasonally adjusted to calculate the seasonally adjusted rates. Concurrent seasonal adjustment is
run using X-13 ARIMA-SEATS. Seasonally adjusted data series for total private are the sum of
seasonally adjusted data of all sectors including the unclassified sector, which is not separately
The net over-the-quarter change derived by summing the BED component series will differ from
the net employment change estimated from the seasonally adjusted total private employment series
from the CES program. The intended use of BED statistics is to show the dynamic labor market
changes that underlie the net employment change statistic. As such, data users interested
particularly in the net employment change and not in the gross job flows underlying this change
should refer to CES data for over-the-quarter net employment changes.
Reliability of the data
Since the data series on Business Employment Dynamics are based on administrative rather than
sample data, there are no issues related to sampling error. Nonsampling error, however, still exists.
Nonsampling errors can occur for many reasons, such as the employer submitting corrected
employment data after the end of the quarter or typographical errors made by businesses when
providing information. Such errors, however, are likely to be distributed randomly throughout the
Changes in administrative data sometimes create complications for the linkage process. This can
result in overstating openings and closings while understating expansions and contractions. The
BLS continues to refine methods for improving the linkage process to alleviate the effects of these
The BED data series are subject to periodic minor changes based on corrections in QCEW records,
updates on predecessors and successors information, and seasonal adjustment revisions.
Annual revisions are published each year with the release of the first quarter data. These revisions
cover the last four quarters of not seasonally adjusted data and 5 years of seasonally adjusted data.
Additional statistics and other information
Several other programs within BLS produce closely related information. The QCEW program
provides both quarterly and annual estimates of employment by state, county, and detailed
industry. News releases on quarterly county employment and wages and the annual bulletin also
are available upon request from the Division of Administrative Statistics and Labor Turnover
(Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages), telephone (202) 691-6567; (www.bls.gov/cew/);
The Current Employment Statistics (CES) program produces monthly estimates of employment, its
net change, hours, and earnings by detailed industry. These estimates are part of the Employment
Situation report put out monthly by BLS.
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) program provides monthly measures of
job openings, as well as employee hires and separations.
Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request.
Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; TDD message referral phone number: 1 (800) 877-8339.