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About QCEW

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The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages is a census of employers on employment and wages. Data are available by industry, ownership type, states, regions, counties and minor civil divisions.

You will see some important changes in 2016 and 2017 in QCEW’s reporting of county and community employment levels. These changes result from new geo-coding files that are making our employer distribution by county and community more accurate than ever before.

Data Source 

All establishments covered under the Unemployment Insurance 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.

What Can QCEW Provide?

  • 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.

Minnesota's Innovative Delivery of Faster and More Complete QCEW Results 

Minnesota's QCEW tool leads the nation in efficient data confidentiality screening and prompt publication.

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 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.

About BED

Minnesota Business Employment Dynamics (BED) measures gross job gains and losses at Minnesota establishments and tracks changes in employment at the establishment level, including establishment openings, closings, expansions, and contractions.

BED statistics are available on a quarterly and annual basis by detailed industry at the state, regional, county, and city levels. These statistics provide information on the dynamics inherent in the Minnesota labor market.

Data Source 

The BED statistics are derived from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program. The QCEW data include all establishments covered under the Minnesota Unemployment Insurance (UI) laws and all federal agencies covered under the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees program.

Employment levels reported in the QCEW represent the number of covered workers who were employed during the pay period including the 12th day of the calendar month.

The QCEW data are linked across quarters to give a longitudinal history for each establishment that allows for tracking employment changes over time at each establishment. Estimates of job flows represent changes in the third month employment between the current and previous quarters.

What BED Provides 

The BED statistics provide several measures on job flows by industry at the state, regional, county, and city levels from first quarter 2000 forward. These measures include gross job gains and gross job losses in total and at establishment births, openings and expansions and deaths, closings and contractions.

  • Gross Job Gains - The sum of all jobs added at either expanding or opening establishments.
  • Gross Job Losses - The sum of all jobs lost at either contracting or closing establishments.
  • Expansions - Establishments with positive third month employment in the current and previous quarters with a net increase in employment over the current quarter.
  • Openings - Establishments with positive third month employment in the current quarter and zero employment in the previous quarter.
  • Births - Establishments with positive third month employment in the current quarter and zero employment in the prior four quarters. Note that births are a subset of openings.
  • Contractions - Establishments with positive third month employment in the current and previous quarters with a net decrease in employment over the current quarter.
  • Closings - Establishments with positive third month employment in the previous quarter and zero employment in the current quarter.
  • Deaths - Establishments with positive employment in the previous quarter and zero employment in the subsequent four quarters. Deaths are only available with a one-year lag. Deaths are a subset of closings.

The definitions of annual BED statistics follow the same concepts as for quarterly BED statistics except for the time period used to compute employment changes.

While the quarterly BED data give employment flows over a given quarter, the annual BED data give employment flows over a given year. The annual BED statistics measure changes between December of the previous year and December of the current year. 

Important Notes 

The BED statistics measure job changes at the establishment level and capture establishment job flows. They are not measures of movements of workers, or worker flows, that are brought about by hires and separations.

For example, if during a given quarter a worker leaves an establishment and another worker is hired at the same establishment leaving the employment levels unchanged over the reference period, BED will show no job gain or job loss at this establishment.

The BED data can be used to compute quarterly net employment change. This is not the same as the monthly net employment change derived from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program.

Moreover, constructing a quarterly net employment change from the CES will not match the BED quarterly net employment change because of differences in coverage and methodology between the MBED and the CES. A detailed comparison between BED, CES, and QCEW can be found at www.bls.gov/news.release/cewqtr.tn.htm

More Information about BED 

Visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website at www.bls.gov/bdm/

Find additional data for Minnesota at http://www.bls.gov/bdm/bdmstate.htm#MN.

For questions about the Minnesota data, Talk to Our Experts

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