Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (ICPSR 36312)

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United States Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics

This is an external resource to which ICPSR links as a courtesy. These data are not available from ICPSR. Users should consult the data owners (via Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages) directly for details on obtaining these resources.


The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program is a cooperative program involving the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the United States Department of Labor and the State Employment Security Agencies (SESAs). The QCEW program produces a comprehensive tabulation of employment and wage information for workers covered by State unemployment insurance (UI) laws and Federal workers covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program. Publicly available data files include information on the number of establishments, monthly employment, and quarterly wages, by NAICS industry, by county, 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 (national, State, and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)). To download and analyze QCEW data, users can begin on the QCEW Databases page. Downloadable data are available in formats such as text and CSV.

Data for the QCEW program that are classified using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) are available from 1990 forward, and on a more limited basis from 1975 to 1989. These data provide employment and wage information for arts-related NAICS industries, such as:

Arts, entertainment, and recreation (NAICS Code 71)
  • Performing arts and spectator sports
  • Museums, historical sites, zoos, and parks
  • Amusements, gambling, and recreation
Professional, scientific, and technical services (NAICS Code 54)
  • Architectural services
  • Graphic design services
  • Photographic services
Retail trade (NAICS Code 44-45)
  • Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores
  • Book, periodical, and music stores
  • Art dealers

For years 1975-2000, data for the QCEW program provide employment and wage information for arts-related industries are based on the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. These arts-related SIC industries include the following:

  • Book stores (SIC 5942)
  • Commercial photography (SIC Code 7335)
  • Commercial art and graphic design (SIC Code 7336)
  • Museums, Botanical, Zoological Gardens (SIC Code 84)
  • Dance studios, schools, and halls (SIC Code 7911)
  • Theatrical producers and services (SIC Code 7922)
  • Sports clubs, managers, & promoters (SIC Code 7941)
  • Motion Picture Services (SIC Code 78)

The QCEW program serves as a near census of monthly employment and quarterly wage information by 6-digit NAICS industry at the national, state, and county levels. At the national level, the QCEW program provides employment and wage data for almost every NAICS industry. At the State and area level, the QCEW program provides employment and wage data down to the 6-digit NAICS industry level, if disclosure restrictions are met.

Employment data under the QCEW program represent the number of covered workers who worked during, or received pay for, the pay period including the 12th of the month. Excluded are members of the armed forces, the self-employed, proprietors, domestic workers, unpaid family workers, and railroad workers covered by the railroad unemployment insurance system. Wages represent total compensation paid during the calendar quarter, regardless of when services were performed. Included in wages are pay for vacation and other paid leave, bonuses, stock options, tips, the cash value of meals and lodging, and in some States, contributions to deferred compensation plans (such as 401(k) plans). The QCEW program does provide partial information on agricultural industries and employees in private households.

Data from the QCEW program serve as an important source for many BLS programs. The QCEW data are used as the benchmark source for employment by the Current Employment Statistics program and the Occupational Employment Statistics program. The UI administrative records collected under the QCEW program serve as a sampling frame for BLS establishment surveys.

In addition, data from the QCEW program serve as a source to other Federal and State programs. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) of the Department of Commerce uses QCEW data as the base for developing the wage and salary component of personal income. The Employment and Training Administration (ETA) of the Department of Labor and the SESAs use QCEW data to administer the employment security program. The QCEW data accurately reflect the extent of coverage of the State UI laws and are used to measure UI revenues; national, State and local area employment; and total and UI taxable wage trends.

These data are not available from NADAC. Users should consult the QCEW Web site for details on obtaining the data and other resources, such as Tools and Tutorials. Users new to QCEW data are encouraged to use the Guide to Downloadable Files.

BLS publishes data from the QCEW program every quarter in the County Employment and Wages press release. This is usually released 6 to 7 months after the end of the quarter. The QCEW program also publishes a subset of its quarterly data through the Create Customized Tables system. The full quarterly industry detail data at all geographic levels are available in several file formats or data files.

In addition, QCEW publishes the annual bulletin Employment and Wages, Annual Averages about 10 months after the end of the year. The 2002 edition is the first to appear on the internet in its entirety. For more information about this, please see the Publications section of the QCEW home page. Also, the cooperating SESAs issue quarterly and/or annual reports of QCEW data.

In accordance with BLS policy, data provided to the Bureau in confidence are not published and are used only for specified statistical purposes. BLS withholds publication of UI-covered employment and wage data for any industry level when necessary to protect the identity of cooperating employers. Totals at the industry level for the States and the Nation include the nondisclosable data suppressed within the detailed tables. However, these totals cannot be used to reveal the suppressed data.

For additional information, see Frequently Asked Questions. Users may also refer to the Contact QCEW page if they require more specific help.