Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW)

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) tool tracks wages and employment by industry at the state, regional, county and municipal levels. QCEW data, which are available on a quarterly and annual basis, are a comprehensive and accurate source of employment and wage information and a key component in many economic research projects.

Select this link to use the QCEW tool


Quarterly census of employers for compiling employment and wage statistics. Data are available by industry, ownership type, states, regions, counties and minor civil divisions.

Data Source
All establishments covered under the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program are required to report wage and employment statistics quarterly to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Federal government establishments are also covered by the QCEW program. These data are edited and verified for research and analysis purposes.

National Data

What Can It Provide?
The QCEW can provide a wide variety of employment and wage information, including:

  • Industry employment and wage information at the state, regional, county and minor civil division levels.
  • Annual data from 1980 to present and quarterly data from 1988 to present.
  • Employment density maps. QCEW data are used to set maximum Unemployment Insurance benefits levels and assist in forecasting the solvency of Minnesota's UI Trust Fund.
  • Data that the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis uses in preparing county business patterns and in estimating gross domestic product.
  • Data for a sampling frame and for benchmarking by federal and state statistical programs.
  • Data for state revenue forecasting, for employment density studies for developing transportation policies, and for economic planning and development.

How is the Data Formatted?
Viewable tables, downloadable files

The Unemployment Insurance Program covers about 97 percent of Minnesota employment. Workers and jobs excluded from these statistics include proprietors and the self-employed, railroad workers, family farm workers, full-time students working for their school, elected government officials, insurance and real estate salespeople, and others who work only on a commission basis. Employment at federal government establishments is covered by the QCEW program.

Industries are categorized by the Standard Industry Classification (SIC) system for the years 1980-2000 and by the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) for 2000-present.

Program Notes
QCEW has limitations as a time series due to non-economic code changes such as tribal employment moving from being classified as privately owned to local government in the first quarter of 2001. Also, the SIC to NAICS conversion makes 2001 industry data non-compatible with earlier data. For these and other reasons, use caution when using QCEW data as a time series.

Miscellaneous Details 

Data on Business Employment Dynamics are now available for Minnesota. These data track jobs gained and jobs lost during each quarter since 3rd quarter of 1992.

Find reconstructed NAICS data series back to 1990


How to Use the QCEW Tool

Step 1
Select one or more areas.

To select a sequential block of areas, click on the first area and <shift>-click on the last area you would like in the sequence

To select non-sequential areas, <ctrl>-click on each desired area.

Selecting one of the varies area types within Minnesota will bring you to another selection box. Choose the county, city etc. from this group using the same method described above. If you select more than one area type, for example Minnesota Counties and Minnesota Planning Areas, the second selection box will contain both a list of counties and a list of planning areas. Scroll down to see entire selection options.

Click “Next.”

Step 2
Select one or more

Click “Next.”

Step 3
Select one or more ownership categories. Click on the box next to each ownership you would like to view.

Click “Next.”

Step 4
Select Industry. There are three methods you can use to select the industry you would like to view:

There are three methods you can use to select the industry you would like to view:

1) Enter the industry codes, separated by commas in the text box. Click “Next.”

2) To view all industries by super sector or sector, click on box labeled “Select all 11 super sectors” or “Select all 20 sectors.” Total, All Industries will be displayed with each of these options.

3) Select individual industries by checking the box next to each industry you would like to view. The NAICS classification system is hierarchical, displayed in the following form:

  • Super-Sectors(11)
  • Sectors(20)
  • 3-Digit Industrial
  • 4,5,6-Digit Industrial

Data for every industry selected may not be present for two possible reasons; the industry may not be present within the selected geography, or the data may be non-disclosable for this geography. Data are non-disclosable when their presentation would reveal information regarding an individual employer.

To view industries within the NAICS classification, click on “+”. If available, the sectors, 3-digits industries and 4,5,6-digit industries will display. Again, check the box next to each industry you would like to view.

Click “Next.”

View the Results:

The results are displayed in a table, with the geography, industry, ownership category and time period selected displayed quarterly and annually, where available. There are four tabs displaying average employment, establishments, total wages and average weekly wages for the properties selected. Click on each of the tabs to view the results. On each of the tabs, you can select “Download” to see the data in an Excel table.

Above the table the Steps and each category selected in displayed. Click on “Change” to go back to any step and alter your selection choice. Alternatively, click on “Start over” to clear your selections and begin again.


Domains are the highest NAICS categories that consist of two aggregations representing either goods or service producing industries.

An establishment is defined as the smallest operating business unit for which information can be provided on the cost of resources materials, labor, and capital employed to produce output.
An establishment is generally a single physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed.

North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS)
NAICS is an industry classification system that groups establishments into industries based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged. It is a comprehensive system covering the entire field of economic activities, producing, and non-producing. The structure of NAICS is hierarchical; there are 2 domains, 11 super-sectors, 20 sectors, and 1,196 industries in NAICS.
NAICS was developed by Mexico's INEGI, Statistics Canada, and the U.S. ECPC to provide common industry definitions for Canada, Mexico, and the United States that will facilitate economic analyses of the economies of the three North American countries. The statistical agencies in the three countries produce information on inputs and outputs, industrial performance, productivity, unit labor costs, and employment. NAICS, which is based on a production-oriented concept, ensures maximum usefulness of industrial statistics for these and similar purposes.

A classification system based upon the controlling interest of the establishment primarily designed to distinguish between governmental and non-governmental establishments.

Non-governmental establishment.

Super Sector
Super sectors are the second highest NAICS categories. These 11 categories represent general categories of economic activity.

Sectors are the third highest NAICS categories. These 20 categories represent more specific categories of economic activity where the aggregated industries that make up each sector are more closely related.

Power of QCEW

Minnesota's QCEW tool has the power to reengineer QCEW data confidentiality screening and publication nationwide!

In order to administer Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs, states collect employment and wage information from all employers covered by UI laws. One result is a rich collection of state-level labor market data. In fact, these data provide firm and employment count and wage information at a level of industry, geography and ownership detail not available from any other source. These data have the potential to suit the needs of labor market information customers- in particular the workforce and economic development systems- by providing detailed, local and timely economic information.

However, there have been two obstacles to making this valuable information available to customers. First, state and Federal data confidentiality restrictions preclude the release of information that, directly or indirectly, can be attributed to a specific employer. Second, the sheer volume of data collected, and the necessity to screen it for confidentiality, can delay publication for months, causing data to be stale before getting into customers' hands.

In response to user feedback, Minnesota has developed the Quarterly Census Employment and Wages (QCEW) Screening and Selection Tool to improve our customers' access to vital local labor market information. This tool has two primary components:

  • An automated system that identifies which data elements pass confidentiality screening criteria and which must be suppressed
  • An interactive web service that allows the selection, display and downloading of publishable data.

The automation of the data confidentiality screening process has accomplished two goals. First, we are able to publish more data than have ever been available to our customers previously and more than are available to customers in any other state of the nation. Second, we are able to publish data in a more timely fashion than ever before and more quickly than any other state.

To truly benefit customers, such a large amount of data requires a user-friendly delivery system. The QCEW Screening and Selection Tool provides a dynamic web-based query interface that allows customers to select exactly which set of data they want to view. In a series of simple steps, customers define the areas, time periods, industries, and ownerships they want. Customers receive a web view of the data with a download option and a link to a graphical representation of the employment data. Our most recent addition is a link to wage distribution data for the region and industry requested, thereby enhancing the information provided through the QCEW program.

Minnesota's QCEW Screening and Selection Tool is the first in the country. It has allowed us to publish more QCEW data faster and more efficiently than any other state. By providing training and initial technical support, Minnesota could easily share this tool with other states. Minnesota's QCEW tool has the power to reengineer QCEW data confidentiality screening and publication nationwide.


More About the Data: Additional information about Quarterly Census Employment and Wages can be found at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Web site at www.bls.gov/cew/

Questions regarding the Minnesota data can be addressed to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development at 651-259-7384 or deed.lmi@state.mn.us.