County Employment and Wages Technical Note

Technical Note

These data are the product of a federal-state cooperative program, the Quarterly Census of Employment and 
Wages (QCEW) program, also known as the ES-202 program. The data are derived from summaries of 
employment and total pay of workers covered by state and federal unemployment insurance (UI) legislation and 
provided by State Workforce Agencies (SWAs). The summaries are a result of the administration of state 
unemployment insurance programs that require most employers to pay quarterly taxes based on the employment 
and wages of workers covered by UI. QCEW data in this release are based on the 2012 North American Industry 
Classification System. Data for 2014 are preliminary and subject to revision.

For purposes of this release, large counties are defined as having employment levels of 75,000 or greater. In 
addition, data for San Juan, Puerto Rico, are provided, but not used in calculating U.S. averages, rankings, or in 
the analysis in the text. Each year, these large counties are selected on the basis of the preliminary annual average 
of employment for the previous year. The 340 counties presented in this release were derived using 2013 
preliminary annual averages of employment. For 2014 data, five counties have been added to the publication 
tables: Shelby, Ala.; Osceola, Fla.; Black Hawk, Iowa; Washington, Minn.; and Cleveland, Okla. These counties 
will be included in all 2014 quarterly releases. The counties in table 2 are selected and sorted each year based on 
the annual average employment from the preceding year.

The preliminary QCEW data presented in this release may differ from data released by the individual states. These 
potential differences result from the states' continuing receipt of UI data over time and ongoing review and 
editing. The individual states determine their data release timetables.

Differences between QCEW, BED, and CES employment measures

The Bureau publishes three different establishment-based employment measures for any given quarter. Each of 
these measures—QCEW, Business Employment Dynamics (BED), and Current Employment Statistics (CES)—
makes use of the quarterly UI employment reports in producing data; however, each measure has a somewhat 
different universe coverage, estimation procedure, and publication product.

Differences in coverage and estimation methods can result in somewhat different measures of employment change 
over time. It is important to understand program differences and the intended uses of the program products. (See 
table.) Additional information on each program can be obtained from the program Web sites shown in the table.

Summary of Major Differences between QCEW, BED, and CES Employment Measures

            |         QCEW        |         BED          |         CES
 Source     |--Count of UI admini-|--Count of longitudi- |--Sample survey:
            |  strative records   |  nally-linked UI ad- |  557,000 establish-
            |  submitted by 9.4   |  ministrative records|  ments
            |  million establish- |  submitted by 7.5    |
            |  ments in first     |  million private-sec-|
            |  quarter of 2014    |  tor employers       |
 Coverage   |--UI and UCFE cover- |--UI coverage, exclud-|Nonfarm wage and sal-
            |  age, including all |  ing government, pri-|  ary jobs:
            |  employers subject  |  vate households, and|--UI coverage, exclud-
            |  to state and fed-  |  establishments with |  ing agriculture, pri-
            |  eral UI laws       |  zero employment     |  vate households, and
            |                     |                      |  self-employed workers
            |                     |                      |--Other employment, in-
            |                     |                      |  cluding railroads, 
            |                     |                      |  religious organiza-
            |                     |                      |  tions, and other non-
            |                     |                      |  UI-covered jobs
 Publication|--Quarterly          |--Quarterly           |--Monthly 
 frequency  |  -6 months after the|  -8 months after the |  -Usually first Friday
            |   end of each quar- |   end of each quarter|   of following month
            |   ter               |                      |
 Use of UI  |--Directly summarizes|--Links each new UI   |--Uses UI file as a sam-
 file       |  and publishes each |  quarter to longitu- |  pling frame and to an-
            |  new quarter of UI  |  dinal database and  |  nually realign sample-
            |  data               |  directly summarizes |  based estimates to pop-
            |                     |  gross job gains and |  ulation counts (bench- 
            |                     |  losses              |  marking)
 Principal  |--Provides a quarter-|--Provides quarterly  |--Provides current month-
 products   |  ly and annual uni- |  employer dynamics   |  ly estimates of employ-
            |  verse count of es- |  data on establish-  |  ment, hours, and earn-
            |  tablishments, em-  |  ment openings, clos-|  ings at the MSA, state,
            |  ployment, and wages|  ings, expansions,   |  and national level by
            |  at the county, MSA,|  and contractions at |  industry
            |  state, and national|  the national level  |
            |  levels by detailed |  by NAICS supersec-  |
            |  industry           |  tors and by size of |
            |                     |  firm, and at the    |
            |                     |  state private-sector|
            |                     |  total level         |
            |                     |--Future expansions   |
            |                     |  will include data   |
            |                     |  with greater indus- |
            |                     |  try detail and data |
            |                     |  at the county and   |  
            |                     |  MSA level           |
 Principal  |--Major uses include:|--Major uses include: |--Major uses include:
 uses       |  -Detailed locality |  -Business cycle     |  -Principal national
            |   data              |   analysis           |   economic indicator
            |  -Periodic universe |  -Analysis of employ-|  -Official time series 
            |   counts for bench- |   er dynamics under- |   for employment change
            |   marking sample    |   lying economic ex- |   measures
            |   survey estimates  |   pansions and con-  |  -Input into other ma-
            |  -Sample frame for  |   tractions          |   jor economic indi-
            |   BLS establishment |  -Analysis of employ-|   cators
            |   surveys           |   ment expansion and |
            |                     |   contraction by size|   
            |                     |   of firm            |
            |                     |                      |
 Program    |   |    |
 Web sites  |                     |                      |


Employment and wage data for workers covered by state UI laws are compiled from quarterly contribution reports 
submitted to the SWAs by employers. For federal civilian workers covered by the Unemployment Compensation 
for Federal Employees (UCFE) program, employment and wage data are compiled from quarterly reports 
submitted by four major federal payroll processing centers on behalf of all federal agencies, with the exception of 
a few agencies which still report directly to the individual SWA. In addition to the quarterly contribution reports, 
employers who operate multiple establishments within a state complete a questionnaire, called the "Multiple 
Worksite Report," which provides detailed information on the location and industry of each of their 
establishments. QCEW employment and wage data are derived from microdata summaries of 9.2 million 
employer reports of employment and wages submitted by states to the BLS in 2013. These reports are based on 
place of employment rather than place of residence.

UI and UCFE coverage is broad and has been basically comparable from state to state since 1978, when the 1976 
amendments to the Federal Unemployment Tax Act became effective, expanding coverage to include most State 
and local government employees. In 2013, UI and UCFE programs covered workers in 134.0 million jobs. The 
estimated 128.7 million workers in these jobs (after adjustment for multiple jobholders) represented 95.8 percent 
of civilian wage and salary employment. Covered workers received $6.673 trillion in pay, representing 93.7 
percent of the wage and salary component of personal income and 39.8 percent of the gross domestic product.

Major exclusions from UI coverage include self-employed workers, most agricultural workers on small farms, all 
members of the Armed Forces, elected officials in most states, most employees of railroads, some domestic 
workers, most student workers at schools, and employees of certain small nonprofit organizations.

State and federal UI laws change periodically. These changes may have an impact on the employment and wages 
reported by employers covered under the UI program. Coverage changes may affect the over-the-year 
comparisons presented in this news release.

Concepts and methodology

Monthly employment is based on the number of workers who worked during or received pay for the pay period 
including the 12th of the month. With few exceptions, all employees of covered firms are reported, including 
production and sales workers, corporation officials, executives, supervisory personnel, and clerical workers. 
Workers on paid vacations and part-time workers also are included.

Average weekly wage values are calculated by dividing quarterly total wages by the average of the three monthly 
employment levels (all employees, as described above) and dividing the result by 13, for the 13 weeks in the 
quarter. These calculations are made using unrounded employment and wage values. The average wage values 
that can be calculated using rounded data from the BLS database may differ from the averages reported. Included 
in the quarterly wage data are non-wage cash payments such as bonuses, the cash value of meals and lodging 
when supplied, tips and other gratuities, and, in some states, employer contributions to certain deferred 
compensation plans such as 401(k) plans and stock options. Over-the-year comparisons of average weekly wages 
may reflect fluctuations in average monthly employment and/or total quarterly wages between the current quarter 
and prior year levels.

Average weekly wages are affected by the ratio of full-time to part-time workers as well as the number of 
individuals in high-paying and low-paying occupations and the incidence of pay periods within a quarter. For 
instance, the average weekly wage of the workforce could increase significantly when there is a large decline in 
the number of employees that had been receiving below-average wages. Wages may include payments to workers 
not present in the employment counts because they did not work during the pay period including the 12th of the 
month. When comparing average weekly wage levels between industries, states, or quarters, these factors should 
be taken into consideration.

Wages measured by QCEW may be subject to periodic and sometimes large fluctuations. This variability may be 
due to calendar effects resulting from some quarters having more pay dates than others. The effect is most visible 
in counties with a dominant employer. In particular, this effect has been observed in counties where government 
employers represent a large fraction of overall employment. Similar calendar effects can result from private sector 
pay practices. However, these effects are typically less pronounced for two reasons: employment is less 
concentrated in a single private employer, and private employers use a variety of pay period types (weekly, 
biweekly, semimonthly, monthly).

For example, the effect on over-the-year pay comparisons can be pronounced in federal government due to the 
uniform nature of federal payroll processing. Most federal employees are paid on a biweekly pay schedule. As a 
result, in some quarters federal wages include six pay dates, while in other quarters there are seven pay dates. 
Over-the-year comparisons of average weekly wages may also reflect this calendar effect. Growth in average 
weekly wages may be attributed, in part, to a comparison of quarterly wages for the current year, which include 
seven pay dates, with year-ago wages that reflect only six pay dates. An opposite effect will occur when wages in 
the current quarter reflecting six pay dates are compared with year-ago wages for a quarter including seven pay 

In order to ensure the highest possible quality of data, states verify with employers and update, if necessary, the 
industry, location, and ownership classification of all establishments on a 3-year cycle. Changes in establishment 
classification codes resulting from this process are introduced with the data reported for the first quarter of the 
year. Changes resulting from improved employer reporting also are introduced in the first quarter.

QCEW data are not designed as a time series. QCEW data are simply the sums of individual establishment records 
and reflect the number of establishments that exist in a county or industry at a point in time. Establishments can 
move in or out of a county or industry for a number of reasons--some reflecting economic events, others 
reflecting administrative changes. For example, economic change would come from a firm relocating into the 
county; administrative change would come from a company correcting its county designation.

The over-the-year changes of employment and wages presented in this release have been adjusted to account for 
most of the administrative corrections made to the underlying establishment reports. This is done by modifying 
the prior-year levels used to calculate the over-the-year changes. Percent changes are calculated using an adjusted 
version of the final 2013 quarterly data as the base data. The adjusted prior-year levels used to calculate the over-
the-year percent change in employment and wages are not published. These adjusted prior-year levels do not 
match the unadjusted data maintained on the BLS Web site. Over-the-year change calculations based on data from 
the Web site, or from data published in prior BLS news releases, may differ substantially from the over-the-year 
changes presented in this news release.

The adjusted data used to calculate the over-the-year change measures presented in this release account for most 
of the administrative changes--those occurring when employers update the industry, location, and ownership 
information of their establishments. The most common adjustments for administrative change are the result of 
updated information about the county location of individual establishments. Included in these adjustments are 
administrative changes involving the classification of establishments that were previously reported in the 
unknown or statewide county or unknown industry categories. Beginning with the first quarter of 2008, adjusted 
data account for administrative changes caused by multi-unit employers who start reporting for each individual 
establishment rather than as a single entity. Beginning with the second quarter of 2011, adjusted data account for 
selected large administrative changes in employment and wages. These new adjustments allow QCEW to include 
county employment and wage growth rates in this news release that would otherwise not meet publication 

The adjusted data used to calculate the over-the-year change measures presented in any County Employment and 
Wages news release are valid for comparisons between the starting and ending points (a 12-month period) used in 
that particular release. Comparisons may not be valid for any time period other than the one featured in a release 
even if the changes were calculated using adjusted data.

County definitions are assigned according to Federal Information Processing Standards Publications (FIPS PUBS) 
as issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, after approval by the Secretary of Commerce 
pursuant to Section 5131 of the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996 and the Computer 
Security Act of 1987, Public Law 104-106. Areas shown as counties include those designated as independent 
cities in some jurisdictions and, in Alaska, those designated as census areas where counties have not been created. 
County data also are presented for the New England states for comparative purposes even though townships are 
the more common designation used in New England (and New Jersey). The regions referred to in this release are 
defined as census regions.

Additional statistics and other information

Employment and Wages Annual Averages Online features comprehensive information by detailed industry on 
establishments, employment, and wages for the nation and all states. The 2013 edition of this publication, which 
was published in September 2014, contains selected data produced by Business Employment Dynamics (BED) on 
job gains and losses, as well as selected data from the first quarter 2014 version of this news release. Tables and 
additional content from Employment and Wages Annual Averages 2013 are now available online at The 2014 edition of Employment and Wages Annual Averages Online 
will be available in September 2015.

News releases on quarterly measures of gross job flows also are available upon request from the Division of 
Administrative Statistics and Labor Turnover (Business Employment Dynamics), telephone (202) 691-6467; 
(; (e-mail:

Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: 
(202) 691-5200; TDD message referral phone number: 1-800-877-8339.

Table of Contents

Last Modified Date: December 18, 2014