Web Collection in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages Program

Sharon Stang and Emily Thomas

Abstract

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program serves as the establishment census and sample frame for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this capacity, the QCEW program conducts the Annual Refiling Survey (ARS) to review and update the classification codes and geographic location codes assigned to the approximately 9 million establishments in the United States. Around 1/3 of these worksites are reviewed each year. QCEW developed a web-based data collection program to address the data collection needs of its ARS. This paper focuses on two new innovations in data collection implemented to move the ARS to a fully web-based survey, moving away from collection on paper forms. The first is the use of a one-page letter directing respondents to web collection and the second is the use of emails to solicit response to the ARS. Both methods replace a multi-page form for respondents to fill out and return. Response rates to both email and web letters exceeded expectations and pave the way not only for significant postage savings, but introduce opportunities for data quality improvements through additional interactive questions. Particular focus is given to the design, development, testing, and implementation of the emails and web letters. Differences in the collection periodicity, employer contacts, security, survey content, email and letter design, employer size (number of worksites), solicitation procedures, testing environment, and other relevant issues were used to determine the best approach for the ARS.