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Data Collection in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics Survey

Kenneth W. Robertson and Julie Hatch-Maxfield


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey is a large-scale, quick-response, establishment survey that utilizes numerous modes of data collection. The CES program produces monthly estimates of employment, hours, and earnings, by industry, for the nation, states, and metropolitan statistical areas. The data produced by the survey are utilized by federal and state government policy makers, and by economists, Wall Street, businesses, and others, to assess the health of the U.S. economy. The national data from the program have been designated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget as Principle Federal Economic Indicators. Data from the survey are used to produce four news releases each month.
The CES program was, for many decades, a mail-based survey. The CES program has changed its data collection strategy significantly over the last few decades. Mail is no longer the primary mode of collection for the survey; instead, mail is now primarily used as part of the strategy for soliciting cooperation from businesses new to the survey.
In this paper the authors present a broad background of the CES program, a timeline of major changes to data collection operations and procedures, and a synopsis of the current multi-modal procedures used to collect data for the survey.