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Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW)
Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW)
Updated over a week ago

Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) is a dataset published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). QCEW is the backbone of Lightcast’s core LMI data, providing establishment counts, monthly employment, and quarterly wages, by NAICS industry, by county, and by ownership sector, for the entire United States. These data are aggregated to annual levels, to higher industry levels (NAICS industry groups, sectors, and supersectors), and to higher geographic levels (nation, state, and Metropolitan Statistical Area [MSA]).

Lightcast produces a slightly modified form of the BLS QCEW dataset.

  • Lightcast provides estimates for suppressed data (roughly 60% of QCEW data points are suppressed). For more on the importance of unsuppression, see this article.

  • Lightcast alters the NAICS classification of public-sector employment to make it more compatible with other data sources. For more information, see this article.

  • Lightcast transforms the data to use consistent county and NAICS definitions from 2001 to the present; original QCEW data does not use consistent definitions year-to-year.

Strengths of QCEW

  • Because QCEW is based on official government documentation (via state and federal unemployment agencies), the data is highly reliable and is considered the “gold standard” of industry data and of employment counts in the United States.

  • QCEW is comprehensive, capturing 95% of US wage-and-salary jobs.

  • QCEW can be viewed at a variety of detail levels, both geographically (by county, MSA, state, or national levels) and by industry level (available at 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6-digit levels).

Weaknesses of QCEW

  • There is about a five- to six-month lag between when the initial data is collected and when it is released. The releases occur quarterly.

  • Much of QCEW’s private-sector county level data (approximately 60%) is suppressed to protect the confidentiality of certain local businesses.

  • QCEW does not report on self-employed, military, railroad, and certain farm, domestic, and non-profit workers, among others.

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