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State and Metro Area Employment, Hours, & Earnings

State & Area Current Employment Statistics Overview

Program Description

The Current Employment Statistics (CES) program is a monthly survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It is a federal and state cooperative program that provides employment, hours, and earnings estimates for states and metropolitan areas based on payroll records of business establishments.


Technical Note on CES Employment

Definitions. Employment data refer to persons on establishment payrolls who receive pay for any part of the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. Persons are counted at their place of work rather than at their place of residence; those appearing on more than one payroll are counted on each payroll. Establishments are classified in an industry on the basis of their principal product or activity in accordance with the most recent North American Industry Classification System Manual.

Method of estimation. Most employment data are estimated using a “link relative” technique in which a ratio (link relative) of current-month employment to that of the previous month is computed from a sample of establishments reporting for both months. The estimates of employment for the current month are obtained by multiplying the estimates for the previous month by these ratios.

For some employment series, the sample of establishments is very small or highly variable. In these cases, a model-based approach is used in estimation. These models use the direct sample estimates (described above), along with forecasts of historical (benchmarked) data. More information on the model is detailed in the paper "Bayesian Nonparametric Joint Model For Domain Point Estimates and Variances Under Biased Observed Variances" by Julie Gershunskaya and Terrance Dean Savitsky.

Annual revisions. Employment estimates are adjusted annually to a complete count of jobs, called benchmarks, derived principally from tax reports which are submitted by employers who are covered under state unemployment insurance (UI) laws. The benchmark information is used to adjust the monthly estimates between the new benchmark and the preceding one and also to establish the level of employment for the new benchmark month. Thus, the benchmarking process establishes the level of employment, and the sample is used to measure the month-to-month changes in the level for the subsequent months.

Seasonal adjustment. Seasonally adjusted payroll employment totals for states are computed by aggregating independently adjusted series for expanded supersectors. Revisions of historical data for the most recent 5 years are made once a year, coincident with annual benchmark adjustments. With the release of January 2018 data, CES State and Area converted to concurrent seasonal adjustment which uses all available estimates, including those for the current month, in developing sample-based seasonal factors. Previously, CES State and Area forecasted the sample-based seasonal factors once annually and applied these factors to the sample estimates for the remainder of the year. Concurrent sample-based seasonal factors are created every month for the current month’ s preliminary estimates as well as the previous month’ s final estimates in order to incorporate the real-time estimates. Concurrent seasonally adjusted experimental series are available here.

Reliability of the estimates. All estimates from a sample survey are subject to sampling and other types of errors. Sampling error is a measure of sampling variability—that is, variation that occurs by chance because a sample rather than the entire population is surveyed. A count of the number of businesses and worksites that are surveyed each month by State can be found at Survey data are also subject to nonsampling errors, such as those which can be introduced into the data collection and processing operations. Estimates not directly derived from sample surveys are subject to additional errors resulting from the special estimation processes used. The sums of individual items may not always equal the totals shown in the same tables because of rounding.

Employment estimates. Standard errors associated with 1-, 3-, and 12-month changes in employment for Statewide supersectors can be found at Information on recent benchmark revisions for states is available upon request.

Additional Information. More complete information on the technical procedures used to develop these estimates and additional data appear in the BLS Handbook of Methods.


Data Uses

CES estimates are among the earliest economic information available to analyze current economic conditions. Because of this, CES estimates are heavily used in both the private and public sector. Below is a short list of some of the uses for CES estimates:

Private Sector

  • Guide decisions on plant location, sales, and purchases.
  • Compare your business and the industry or economy as a whole.
  • Negotiate labor contracts based upon industry or area hourly earnings and weekly hours series.
  • Determine the employment base of States and areas for bond ratings.
  • Detect and plan for swings in the business cycle using the average weekly hours series.

Public Sector

  • Evaluate the economic health of State and areas.
  • Guide monetary policy decisions.
  • Assess the growth of industries.
  • Forecast tax revenue for States and areas.
  • Measure employment, hours, and earnings as a means of determining growth in the economy.


Related Research

Shipp, Kenneth W. and David M. Talan. Geographic Estimates from the Current Employment Statistics Survey, 41st Regional Science Association International Meetings, Niagara Falls, Canada, November 1994.

Scott, Stuart, George Stamas, Thomas J. Sullivan, and Paul Chester. Seasonal Adjustment of Hybrid Economic Time Series, American Statistical Association, Toronto, Canada, August 1994.

Mance, Steve. Concurrent Seasonal Adjustment of State and Metro Payroll Employment Series, Joint Statistical Meetings, Seattle, Washington, October 2015.

Mance, Steve. How hard is it to count? Reconciling monthly survey and administrative data: experiences from the CES program, International Conference on Establishment Surveys, Geneva, Switzerland, November 2016.

Creem, Jonathan. Outlier Review during Concurrent Seasonal Adjustment of CES State and Area Series, Joint Statistical Meetings, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2017.

Roche, Kevin and Julie Gershunskaya. Construction and Assessment of Generalized Variance Functions for an Establishment Survey, Joint Statistical Meetings, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2017.

Grieves, Christopher and Julie Gershunskaya. Testing Models for Weight Smoothing in the Current Employment Statistics Survey, Joint Statistical Meetings, Baltimore, Maryland, November 2017.


Metropolitan Area Concepts and Standards

The United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) delineates metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas according to published standards that are applied to Census Bureau data. The general concept of a metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area is that of a core area containing a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core. Current area delineations are based on OMB Bulletin No. 18-03 effective April 2018.

Standard delineations of metropolitan areas were first issued in 1949 by the then Bureau of the Budget (predecessor of OMB), under the designation "standard metropolitan area" (SMA). The term was changed to "standard metropolitan statistical area" (SMSA) in 1959, and to "metropolitan statistical area" (MSA) in 1983. The term "metropolitan area" (MA) was adopted in 1990 and referred collectively to metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), consolidated metropolitan statistical areas (CMSAs), and primary metropolitan statistical areas (PMSAs). The term "core based statistical area" (CBSA) became effective in 2000 and refers collectively to metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas.

OMB has been responsible for the official metropolitan areas since they were first delineated, except for the period 1977 to 1981, when they were the responsibility of the Office of Federal Statistical Policy and Standards, Department of Commerce. The standards for delineating metropolitan areas were modified in 1958, 1971, 1975, 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010.

Defining Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas. The 2010 standards provide that each CBSA must contain at least one urban area of 10,000 or more population. Each metropolitan statistical area must have at least one urbanized area of 50,000 or more inhabitants. Each micropolitan statistical area must have at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population.

Under the standards, the county (or counties) in which at least 50 percent of the population resides within urban areas of 10,000 or more population, or that contain at least 5,000 people residing within a single urban area of 10,000 or more population, is identified as a "central county" (counties). Additional "outlying counties" are included in the CBSA if they meet specified requirements of commuting to or from the central counties. Counties or equivalent entities form the geographic "building blocks" for metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas throughout the United States and Puerto Rico.

If specified criteria are met, a metropolitan statistical area containing a single core with a population of 2.5 million or more may be subdivided to form smaller groupings of counties referred to as "metropolitan divisions."

Principal Cities and Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area Titles. The largest city in each metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area is designated a "principal city." Additional cities qualify if specified requirements are met concerning population size and employment. The title of each metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area consists of the names of up to three of its principal cities and the name of each state into which the metropolitan or micropolitan statistical area extends. Titles of metropolitan divisions also typically are based on principal city names but in certain cases consist of county names.

Defining New England City and Town Areas. In view of the importance of cities and town in New England, the 2010 standards also provide for a set of geographic areas that are delineated using cities and towns in the six New England states. The New England city and town areas (NECTAs) are delineated using the same criteria as metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas and are identified as either metropolitan or micropolitan, based, respectively, on the presence of either an urbanized area of 50,000 or more population or an urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population. If the specified criteria are met, a NECTA containing a single core with a population of at least 2.5 million may be subdivided to form smaller groupings of cities and towns referred to as New England city and town area divisions.

Changes in Definitions over Time. Changes in the delineations of these statistical areas since the 1950 census have consisted chiefly of:

  • the recognition of new areas as they reached the minimum required city or urbanized area population, and
  • the addition of counties (or cities and towns in New England) to existing areas as new decennial census data showed them to qualify.

In some instances, formerly separate areas have been merged, components of an area have been transferred from one area to another, or components have been dropped from an area. The large majority of changes have taken place on the basis of decennial census data. However, Census Bureau data serve as the basis for intercensal updates in specified circumstances.

Because of these historical changes in geographic delineations, users must be cautious in comparing data for these statistical areas from different dates. For some purposes, comparisons of data for areas as delineated at given dates may be appropriate; for other purposes, it may be preferable to maintain consistent area delineations. Historical statistical area delineations are available for 2003 through 2009, 1999, 1993, 1990, 1983, 1981, 1973, 1970, 1963, 1960, and 1950.



Last Modified Date: March 13, 2023