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Handbook of Methods Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey Collections & Data Sources

Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey : Collections & Data Sources

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) sampling frame is made up of establishments from two sources: the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program (QCEW) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

The QCEW database contains approximately 9.4 million establishments. This database is a combination of private sector and state and local government establishments covered by state unemployment insurance (UI) programs and federal government establishments covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program.

A frame of railroad establishments is provided by the FRA. This is added to the QCEW database to complete the JOLTS sampling frame. Establishments are assigned industry codes based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

Data collection scope

JOLTS has a sample of approximately 20,700 units. There is a defined set of criteria that determines whether establishments are in the scope of the sample or out of the scope.

In-scope establishments. All nonagricultural industries except private households are within the scope of the JOLTS survey. Within the agriculture industry, only establishments that provide agricultural services are considered in scope. In addition to the private sector, JOLTS selects a public sector sample of civilian federal, state, and local government units.

Out-of-scope establishments. The following types of establishments are classified as out of scope for the JOLTS survey:

  • Establishments that are out of business
  • Establishments with an invalid NAICS code (000000 or 999999) or a missing code
  • Agricultural establishments (NAICS 11), except logging (NAICS 1133)
  • Private households (NAICS 814110)
  • Establishments with no legal name or trade name
  • Establishments outside of the 50 states and the District of Columbia
  • Establishments that report zero employment for the most recent 6 months on the sampling frame

Data collection process

JOLTS data are collected at a data collection center in Atlanta, GA. Interviewers (also called data collectors) refine the addresses and contact information for their assigned sample units (establishments). An enrollment package is mailed to the establishment, and the interviewer follows up by telephone to solicit participation. Once an establishment is enrolled, data collection begins.

Data are collected from respondents every month. Initial data collection takes place via Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) for approximately 5 months. This allows the respondent time to learn the JOLTS data elements and definitions and establishes monthly reporting. After this period of CATI collection, the respondent is encouraged to move to self-reporting, and they can choose to report by web or email for the remainder of their time.

Respondents are provided a data collection form to assist them in determining the values of the data elements they report. Specially designed forms are provided to respondents for education establishments or temporary help and employee-leasing establishments.

Special collection procedures.  BLS devotes additional resources to the collection, editing, and review of data for the employment services industry and state-run colleges and universities.  The implied measure of employment change derived from the JOLTS data (by subtracting separations from hires for a given month) can be overstated, compared with total nonfarm employment change as measured by the BLS Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey. Much of the difference between the CES employment levels and the derived JOLTS employment levels is attributable to the employment services industry and to state government education—specifically, colleges and universities. Businesses in the employment services industry have a difficult time reporting hires and separations of temporary help workers. Colleges and universities have difficulty reporting hires and separations of student workers and adjunct professors. BLS analysts more closely examine reported data that do not provide a consistent picture over time and then recontact the respondents as necessary.

Data review process

All reported data are reviewed at two levels. The review ensures, to the degree possible, that the data adhere to JOLTS definitions and reference periods.

The first level of data review is conducted after reported data have been input into the web collection system and into the CATI system and processed electronically through a series of system checks. Any data that fails the system checks are flagged for the data collection center staff to review.  The following automated checks are performed on the reported data:

  • A check is performed to verify that the sum of quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations equals total separations for every series.
  • A check is performed to verify that the sums of lower level series add to the upper level series. This includes subsector breakouts adding to supersector level, government plus private adding to total nonfarm, and regions adding to total nonfarm.

The second level of review is performed by JOLTS staff at the BLS national office. Reported data pass through a second round of screening based on a different set of criteria to check for common problems and potential errors. For example, checks are run to compare reported employment values to sampled employment values and to check for unusually high rates by data element.

Last Modified Date: July 13, 2020