Coming Soon: Changes to North Carolina’s Quarterly Employment and Wage Data

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) is a valuable source of data on North Carolina’s workforce. However, like most data series, QCEW data are periodically revised to incorporate improved estimation methodologies or to expand the information offered to data users. This article describes upcoming changes to North Carolina’s QCEW data and explains what these changes mean for you.

What is changing?

In August 2021, the Labor & Economic Analysis Division (LEAD) of the North Carolina Department of Commerce will implement the following changes to QCEW data we provide to customers:

  • More detailed data: to better serve the needs of data users, LEAD will vastly expand the breadth and depth of QCEW data that we release. We will now publish industry sector information at the most-detailed (“6-digit”) level available under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS); previously, we only published data at the broader industry group (“4-digit”) level. We will also publish historical data back to January of 1990; previously, we only published data back to 2000.
  • More data suppression: there will also be more suppressed data (i.e., data that are replaced with a null value) in the QCEW figures published by LEAD. We are required by law to safeguard the confidentiality of individual businesses whose data is included in the QCEW. Accordingly, we are taking this opportunity to implement a new system that better protects businesses by suppressing potentially confidential information more intensively than the previous system. As a result, some data that were previously published by our agency will no longer be made available to the general public. (There may also be some data that were previously suppressed but are now available for publication.)
  • Revised data values: we occasionally receive new information that gives us additional insight into our state’s economic condition. Accordingly, we are taking this opportunity to revise historical QCEW data to accommodate this new information. These revisions are mostly small and will primarily affect older QCEW data.

What does this mean for you?

How these changes affect you will depend on how you use QCEW data.

If you are seeking more detailed information about industry sectors, you will now have more of the data you need at your fingertips. Likewise, if you are interested in a more extensive analysis of employment trends in your region, you will now have 10 more years of historical data to investigate.

However, if you are accustomed to accessing specific data points that we previously published, you should prepare for changes in data availability. We might no longer publish information about your particular region or sector. In addition, it’s possible that the data values for your region or sector (e.g., the average wage) might change after we publish revised data.

Please note that this is the type of situation that all data users may contend with from time to time. Economic data is not set in stone; it is periodically updated based on new methodologies, the evolving needs of data users, and the shifting capabilities of organizations that produce these data. As a result, we recommend that data users consult a wide range of high-quality data sources and, if possible, avoid relying too much on any one single data point.

Contact us here at LEAD if you have any questions or would like advice regarding how to respond to these changes in QCEW data availability.