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Programs Track Employment Data, But Use Slightly Different Universes

12/19/2018 10:00:00 AM

Current Employment Statistics (CES) and Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) employment data are known for their wage and salary employment counts.

Each one covers about 97 percent of wage and salary jobs in Minnesota and about 90 percent of all employment. Neither covers individuals who are self-employed, unpaid family workers, or certain agricultural workers.

The main difference between the two is that the survey-based estimates of CES allow for more timely data releases, with estimates published less than a month after the reference period; QCEW’s population data allow for more granular geographic and industry data.

Despite their similarities, comparing the total employment counts shows that CES reports around 75,000 more jobs in a given month. The two tools actually measure slightly different universes, with certain types of jobs excluded from each. Because each data set includes some jobs the other doesn’t, the difference dramatically understates the true divide. In a given month there may be more than 120,000 jobs covered by one program but omitted from the other.

The reasons for the disparity are varied. The QCEW program relies on data from unemployment insurance (UI) reports – and this leads to gaps when jobs or industries are not covered by UI laws. The lion’s share of the difference between the two data sets comes from those jobs included in CES but not covered by UI, and therefore not present, in QCEW data.

The employment difference between the two programs fluctuates, and in recent years has been steadily declining. To find out why, read Variations in Employment in the CES and QCEW Programs in Minnesota Economic Trends.

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