Proper Monthly Employment Reporting for State Unemployment Insurance and Common
The monthly employment data reported on both the Quarterly Contribution Report and
Multiple Worksite Report should be a count of all full- and part-time workers who worked
during or received pay (subject to Unemployment Insurance wages) for the pay period which
includes the 12th day of the month. The count should be unduplicated, so that for the
reference period in any month, an employee should be counted only once.
Proper Reference Period
The reference period is the pay period that includes the 12th day
of the month. Since not all pay periods are of the same duration, the following examples
use March 1996 as a reference month to illustrate proper reporting:
If the pay period is a calendar week, the reference period is March
10-16. If the pay period is weekly but does not match the calendar week, it is whatever
seven-day period includes the 12th.
Biweekly Pay Periods
Example #1 (PDF 15K)
Example #2 (PDF 15K)
If the pay period is biweekly, corresponding to two calendar weeks,
there are two possibilities: the 12th may fall into the first or second week of the pay
period. In the first case, March 10-23 is the proper reference period. If the 12th falls
in the second week of the pay period, the reference period is March 3-16. Again, If the
pay period is biweekly but does not match calendar weeks, it is whatever fourteen-day
period that includes the 12th.
Semimonthly Pay Period
Example (PDF 15K)
Some employers pay twice a month according to the calendar month. The
pay periods are generally the first through the fifteenth and the sixteenth through the
end of the month. The proper reference period in this case is March 1-15. The 12th always
falls in the first half of each month.
This case is straight forward. If the employer pays only once a month,
according to the calendar month, the pay period must include the 12th of the relevant
month. The reference period here is March 1-31.
Generating a Proper Count
Some types of incorrect counts based on an improper
reference period are described in this section. Other conceptual misunderstandings result
in erroneous data as a result of counting wage records, checks, cumulative employment, or
available employees—none of which is necessarily equal to the proper count of employees.
These improper methods are described in this section.
Some employers may mistakenly provide a count of employment as of the
time the Quarterly Contribution Report is received—possibly the pay period at the end of
the third month of the quarter or the beginning of the following month. This is not
generally the proper reference period and, as a result, the employment level reported for
that month is somewhat inaccurate. Even more serious, employment for the first two months
may be reported as the same figure or estimated. Thus, data for the first two months of
the quarter may be even more inaccurate.
The wage record count may be a more common problem, probably because
this count is also required by most States to be reported on the Quarterly Contribution
Report. In what are called "wage reporting" States, employers are required to
report what are called "wage items" or "wage records." This report is
a listing by Social Security number of all persons who received pay during the quarter
along with their total wages. Typically, the data are reported along with a count of the
number of records (persons). Some employers mistakenly believe that this wage record count
is also the employment count requested for the pay period including the 12th. They then
report that same value for each month on the Quarterly Contribution Report.
Only in an extreme case where the employment level is absolutely
constant for the entire quarter is the wage record count equal to the employment count for
each of the three reference periods (months). If there is any turnover or change in
staffing level, the wage record count will overstate the true employment level for each
reference period. The greater the degree of turnover or staffing changes, the larger the
- Count of Checks (Payments) Issued
Some employers report employment by counting the number of checks
written within the pay system for a particular period. This approach provides an accurate
employment count only if the pay system limits a person to one check per pay period
for all types of wage payments combined. Otherwise, the employment count is overstated to
the degree that employees receive more than one pay check for the reference period.
Possible types of additional payments include bonuses, commissions, overtime pay, vacation
pay, sick pay, holiday pay, moving expenses, severance pay, and contributions to an
employee savings plan (e.g., 401(k)). Generating a proper employment count is facilitated
by ensuring that any Social Security number is counted no more than once.
Using the check issued date does not guarantee reporting for the proper
reference period. The reference pay period is the pay period for which—not
in which—the employee is being paid. If an employer pays with a time lag, a check for
work in the reference period will typically be dated in a later pay period.
- Cumulative Employment Counts
Some employers have mistakenly been providing cumulative counts of
everyone who has worked for them since the beginning of some time period. That period
might be a calendar quarter, calendar year, tax year, fiscal year, or something else. The
resulting pattern of data reported shows employment for each month at or above the level
of the preceding month. When the employer's file is purged, as it is periodically, a
precipitous decline in reported employment results. Thus, employment is overstated by an
amount which grows each month until the overstatement becomes substantial (again, the
degree depends on turnover). Then a sizeable drop in reported employment appears, but it
is due to an administrative practice, rather than any economic phenomenon.
One practice that causes this type of overstatement of employment to
occur is when an employer reports the number of "active employees" each
month. Again, if the employer's active file is not updated every pay period to reflect
turnover, an overstatement of monthly employment will result until the file is
- Count of Available Employees
This count is provided typically by employers who maintain a file or
list of employees who may potentially be called upon to work. The count reported is the
number of people on that list, rather than those who actually worked or received pay (e.g.
sick pay). Employment is overstated because the count adds those who were potentially
available but did not actually work or received no pay during the relevant period to those
who did work. This situation is most likely to occur in certain industries, such as
education, retail sales, and temporary help. In these industries, employers frequently
maintain lists of certified substitute teachers, contingent sales staff, and available
Impact of Proper Reporting
The employment and wage data provided on the Quarterly Contribution
Report and Multiple Worksite Report impact directly or indirectly a large number of
important economic statistics, including the Gross Domestic Product and other measures of
the labor market and overall economy. The accuracy of these and other economic indicators
relies on the accuracy of the pay figures reported by employers.
If a review of your state Quarterly Contributions Reports indicates that
you have been filing inaccurate monthly employment counts, please contact Michael Searson
at (202) 691-6469. The BLS will assess the impact of the incorrect reporting and assist in
developing a plan to implement the necessary changes. In this manner, real changes in
employment levels will not be significantly affected by corrected employer reporting
procedures. Questions on proper employment reporting should also be addressed to Mr.
BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS
Postal Square Building
2 Massachusetts Ave., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20212
Last Modified Date: October 16, 2001