Department of Labor and Regulation

Title - Labor Market Information Center

Annual Refiling Survey: Ensuring employment and wage data accurately reflects employers' business activities

From the March 2013 South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program is a cooperative program between the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and state employment security agencies, such as the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation. 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 files include data on the number of establishments, monthly employment levels and quarterly wages by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry, by county and by ownership sector for the entire United States. Through the program, monthly and annual average data is available for the nation, all states and even Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA). Much of the data is collected from administrative data and verified through an annual survey.

In South Dakota, the QCEW program is administered by the Labor Market Information Center of the Department of Labor and Regulation. Like other states' agencies involved in the QCEW program, LMIC conducts the Annual Refiling Survey (ARS) for the QCEW program. The main purpose of the ARS is to verify or correct the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes assigned to business establishments. Another purpose of the ARS is to verify and/or update mailing and physical location addresses of business establishments in South Dakota, as well as geographic codes, such as county and township. The ARS also asks employers to identify new locations in the state.

Responses from the survey are used for statistical and unemployment insurance purposes in accordance with the law. Data from the ARS survey is implemented into the QCEW and aids in the overall accuracy of this program.

The QCEW program compiles a complete universe of employment and wage information by industry and county. The data is then used to evaluate labor and industry trends or to conduct special studies such as wage analyses.

To ensure the continued accuracy of the QCEW data, this information must be periodically reviewed and updated. QCEW data is utilized by many other BLS programs. For example, 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 also serve as a sampling frame for following BLS programs:

  • Current Employment Statistics
  • Occupational Employment Statistics
  • Local Area Unemployment Statistics
  • Mass Layoff Statistics
  • Industry employment projections

The ARS survey for South Dakota uses a systematic process every fall to select the establishments which will be included in the ARS survey for the upcoming year. For example, in the fall of 2012 the sampling frame of establishments selected and their data received will be used for data publications referencing March of 2013. Historically, South Dakota would sample about one third of all the active establishments currently on file, with each employer being surveyed every three years. In the past few years the sampling frame has been reduced to about one fourth of all active establishments. Some of the smaller employers (those with one or two workers) are being excluded due to federal budget constraints. These firms typically have no changes to report, but if a change is discovered during normal data processing, the new data is incorporated into the QCEW data.

Establishments selected for the survey cover all civilian employers except interstate railroads and some agricultural, domestic, charitable organization and government employers. All NAICS sectors and all firm size ranges are represented in the survey, including goods producing and service providing businesses.

The BLS has developed three distinct ARS forms for this survey, all referred to as industry verification forms:

  • The first form identifies establishments that have a single location.
  • The second form is specific to companies that have multiple establishments located in different cities and counties in South Dakota.
  • The third is for new employer accounts for which we have no product or economic activity and/or geographical information.

The main emphasis of these forms is to ask employers to check if the NAICS industry description assigned to their business accurately describes their business's main activities. If the description is correct, the employer is asked to check the appropriate box. If the description is incorrect, the employer is asked to briefly describe the business activities and the approximate percentage of the revenue or production derived from each activity. This system allows for accurate classification of business activity into the industry categories used for tracking and publishing industry employment and wage data--helping ensure labor market data are accurately portraying trends in the labor market.

Employers selected for the ARS can report via the Internet, which is a user-friendly option and allows for responders to easily record and update their data online. A Touchtone Response System (TRS) is also available, so if all the information on the form is correct and the employer meets certain conditions, they can respond by phone. Tax dollars are saved with these systems. It only takes a minute or two. The service is free. Responses can be made anytime, as these systems are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If a business is not eligible to respond by phone or use the Internet, they are asked to update a paper form and return it by mail using a postage-paid envelope provided. All the information collected through the three formats is reviewed, verified and updated.

Annual Refiling Survey (ARS)
Final Response Rates
Usable Response Rates
Year Units Employment
2005 79.5% 83.1%
2006 83.5% 85.7%
2007 83.0% 89.0%
2008 87.1% 90.9%
2009 86.8% 91.1%
2010 86.0% 91.3%
2011 87.6% 93.5%
2012 83.1% 89.8%

South Dakota has been a consistent leader in terms of response rates for this survey, including response rates for both units and employment. As the chart indicates, South Dakota exceeds the minimal requirement each year for each criterion, with a 75 percent response rate for units and an 80 percent response rate for employment. Status response reports also break down response rates by size class, NAICS sectors and also include non-respondent data.

Conducting the ARS survey each year is instrumental for the accuracy of not only the QCEW program but other statistical programs that provide additional important labor economics data as well. LMIC extends a heartfelt thank you to employers for their participation in the ARS when they are selected to participate. As with all statistic al programs conducted jointly by LMIC and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it simply would not be possible without the cooperation of South Dakota employers.

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Marcia Hultman, Secretary
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, SD 57501-2291
Tel. 605.773.3101
Fax. 605.773.6184