Business Employment Dynamics Technical Note

Technical Note

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 Bureauís 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 Analysisís 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 Web sites 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- |  623,000 establish-
           |  submitted by 9.6   |  ministrative records|  ments
           |  million employers  |  submitted by 7.7    |
           |                     |  million private sec-|
           |                     |  tor employers       |
-----------|---------------------|----------------------|------------------------
Coverage   |--UI and UCFE cover- |--UI Coverage, exclud-|Nonfarm wage and sal-
           |  age:  all employers|  ing government, pri-|  ary 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;
           |                     |                      |  including: railroads,
           |                     |                      |  religious organiza-
           |                     |                      |  tions, and other non-
           |                     |                      |  UI-covered jobs
           |                     |                      |
-----------|---------------------|----------------------|------------------------
Publication|--Quarterly          |--Quarterly           |--Monthly 
frequency  |  -6 months after the|  -7 months after the |  -First Friday
           |   end of each quar- |   end of each quarter|   of following month
           |   ter               |                      |
-----------|---------------------|----------------------|------------------------
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 annu-
           |  new quarter of UI  |  dinal database and  |  ally realigns (bench-
           |  data               |  directly summarizes |  marks) sample esti-    
           |                     |  gross job gains and |  mates to first quar-  
           |                     |  losses              |  ter UI levels
-----------|---------------------|----------------------|------------------------
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 at the county  |
           |                     |  and MSA level       |
-----------|---------------------|----------------------|------------------------
Principal  |--Major uses include:|--Major uses include: |--Major uses include:
uses       |  -Detailed locality |  -Business cycle     |  -Principal national
           |   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  |                     |                      |
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Coverage

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 ďMultiple Worksite 
Report,Ē 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 7.7 
million private sector employer reports out of 9.6 million total reports of employment and wages 
submitted by states to BLS in the first quarter of 2016. 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. As 
an illustration, 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 2016:

                         Number of active establishments included in                       
                   Business Employment Dynamics data at the national level                 
                                                                                           
 Total establishments QCEW program.................................................... 9.6 
                                                                                           
   Excluded: Public sector............................................................ 0.3 
           Private households......................................................... 0.2 
           Zero employment............................................................ 1.3 
           Establishments in Puerto Rico..............................................     
                 and the Virgin Islands............................................... 0.1 
                                                                                           
 Total establishments included in Business                                                 
 Employment Dynamics data............................................................. 7.7 

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 
adjusted data.

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 
death statistics.

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 
growth rate.

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.

Linkage methodology

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 to 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 4-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. 
 
Sizing methodology

The method of dynamic sizing is used in calculations for the BED size class data series. Dynamic 
sizing allocates each firmís 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 firmsí sizes over time. 
Additionally, it allocates each job gain or loss to the actual size class where it occurred.

Annual Data

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. 

Seasonal adjustment

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 
activity.

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-12 ARIMA. 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 published.

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 
dataset. 

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 
complications.

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 an annual bulletin: 
Employment and Wages Annual Averages, are available upon request from the Division of 
Administrative Statistics and Labor Turnover, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of 
Labor, Washington, DC 20212; telephone 202-691-6567; (http://www.bls.gov/cew/); (e-mail: 
QCEWInfo@bls.gov). 

The CES program produces monthly estimates of employment, its net change, 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 number: 1-800-877-8339.





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Last Modified Date: July 26, 2017