Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin

February 2019

Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages Program is Rich Data Source

If you are searching for comprehensive data on South Dakota employers, workers and pay by industry, location or size class, the Labor Market Information Center (LMIC) has just what you need.

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program provides a powerful source of data on establishment, employment and pay levels by industry, geographic area and employer size class. LMIC conducts this statistical program in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Each year LMIC publishes an annual online report on QCEW data and narrative analysis, providing a comprehensive summary of what’s going on in South Dakota’s economy. In concert, the archived yearly reports provide a rich history of South Dakota industry employment and wages.

2017 Summary Report Shows Power of QCEW Data

Examples of information available in the annual report provide good snapshots of all the data available in the QCEW program. Using the 2017 summary as an example, we see this program covers data on the number of establishments, employment and wages for South Dakota. Here are a few highlights:

  • The average number of workers in South Dakota grew by 2,289 or 0.5 percent from 2016 to 2017.
  • South Dakota's average annual pay increased by $1,256 or 3.1 percent from 2016 to 2017.

Also included is data by supersector industry group and more detailed industries. For example:

  • The trade, transportation and utilities supersector had the largest number of establishments (8,478) and workers (86,428) in 2017. This is in part because retail trade accounted for almost half of the establishments and over half of the workers within this supersector.
  • The supersector group with the highest annual pay, at $57,507, was financial activities (which includes finance and insurance and real estate, rental and leasing).
  • At a more detailed industry sector level, management of companies and enterprises retained its ranking of highest paid in 2017 with an average annual wage of $102,825. This sector is classified within the professional/business services supersector group.

Within the annual online summary, a comparison graph complements each subsector data table, illustrating a graphical look at the over-the-year trend. We can read the narrative analysis of a particular industry for insights about various economic activities affecting its employment levels or pay.

  • For example, in the 2017 online summary, we learned the Retail Trade sector had a decrease over the year in establishments and worker levels, losing 262 establishments and 873 workers (-1.6 percent). Included in this industry’s narrative analysis is the following: This was the first drop in worker levels since 2010. Advanced technology has played a role in how people shop. This has caused some brick and mortar stores to focus more on an online presence, with some stepping away from offering storefronts. Some establishments offer self-checkouts and many offer phone apps for those who prefer to shop that way, all of which may have contributed to the decrease in workers.

All this data is available not only for statewide South Dakota, but for its metro areas and counties as well. For example:

  • The Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area's Retail Trade industry had 1,118 establishments in 2017, with employment of 18,605 and annual pay of $30,185.
  • The county with the highest annual pay for 2017 was Union County at $54,475.

Only Source of Employment and Wages by Employer Size Group

In addition to richly detailed employment and wage data by industry, the QCEW program produces data on establishments, employment and wages stratified by size of establishment. The size class of each establishment is determined by the March employment level. These size class data are available at the state, county and MSA level by industry for private ownership. Again using the 2017 report for examples:

  • Employers in the 0-9 workers size class had the largest number of establishments, accounting for 77.8 percent of all establishments.
  • The distribution of employees by establishment size shows a different picture than the distribution of establishments. Smaller businesses (fewer than 10 workers) have a much smaller slice of the pie, employing only 19.5 percent of the covered workers in South Dakota in 2017.
  • The data on size of employers is also available by industry. For example, the 2017 summary showed South Dakota has 12 large Manufacturing establishments (having 500 or more workers each).

Tracking Longer-Term Trends

Quarterly and annual data from the QCEW program are available within the virtual labor market data system, providing a wealth of historical information. In fact, the number of workers data is available for each month within a quarter. The table below shows the number of establishments, average number of workers, total wage, average weekly wage and average annual wage for the past 17 years—all data available thanks to the QCEW program. This data includes private and government ownership categories. Except for a few recessionary years, the data shows stable growth statewide each year.

South Dakota Statewide Covered Worker Annual Data
2001 - 2017

Year Number of Establishments Average Employment Total Wage Average Weekly Wage Average Annual Wage
2001 29,381 364,716 9,336,850,554 $492 $25,600
2002 29,366 363,325 9,576,884,320 $507 $26,359
2003 29,671 364,256 9,910,087,814 $523 $27,206
2004 30,213 369,627 10,453,754,789 $544 $28,282
2005 30,938 375,699 10,951,184,186 $561 $29,149
2006 31,368 383,856 11,623,744,419 $582 $30,282
2007 31,945 392,068 12,410,645,439 $609 $31,654
2008 32,306 397,109 13,033,404,203 $631 $32,821
2009 32,361 389,410 12,985,743,821 $641 $33,347
2010 32,493 389,199 13,361,396,655 $660 $34,331
2011 32,790 393,750 13,943,807,729 $681 $35,413
2012 33,088 400,473 14,630,431,511 $703 $36,533
2013 33,416 404,648 15,063,362,358 $716 $37,226
2014 33,761 410,939 15,898,891,588 $744 $38,689
2015 34,380 416,017 16,716,017,132 $773 $40,181
2016 34,783 420,465 17,309,711,067 $792 $41,168
2017 35,127 422,753 17,934,828,021 $816 $42,424

Principles of the Program

The QCEW program is the most comprehensive data source available for detailed employment and wage information by industry, serving as a near census of monthly employment and quarterly wages.

The source of the majority of QCEW microdata in this program is the employment and wage data reported by employers to the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation’s Unemployment Insurance (UI) program and to the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program. South Dakota receives Quarterly Contributions Reports (QCR) from all private sector employers as well as from state and local governments covered under the UI program. Federal government employers provide statistical reports via the Report of Federal Employment and Wages. Employment covered by these unemployment insurance programs represents about 96 percent of all wage and salary civilian employment in the state.

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, value of meals and lodging, and in some states, contributions to deferred stock options, tips and cash compensation plans (such as 401(k) plans). The QCEW program provides partial information on agricultural industries and employees in private households, providing they are liable for unemployment insurance tax.

About the Data by Industry

The QCEW program utilizes the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) to ensure consistent and accurate tabulation of employment and wage data by industry across all states and the nation. NAICS uses a production-oriented conceptual framework to group establishments into industries based on the activity in which they are primarily engaged. Establishments using similar raw material inputs, similar capital equipment and similar labor are classified in the same industry. In other words, establishments that do similar things in similar ways are classified together. NAICS provides a tool to ensure economic statistics reflect the changing economy. (Please see our definitions web page for more information on the NAICS.)

At the national level, the QCEW program publishes employment and wage data for nearly every NAICS industry. At the state and area level, the QCEW program publishes employment and wage data down to the most detailed NAICS industry level possible, if disclosure restrictions are met. In accordance with BLS policy, data are not published for any industry level when necessary to protect the identity of cooperating employers.

To ensure the appropriate NAICS industry classification of establishments over time, the QCEW program tracks changes in economic activity through the Annual Refiling Survey (ARS). The ARS survey includes built-in processes for monitoring employer business activity changes, as well as changes in ownership and physical location. The QCEW program also utilizes the Multiple Worksite Report (MWR) for collection purposes. This helps ensure validity of the QCEW data by geographic area. Eligible multiple establishment employers are required to report quarterly employment and wage data using the MWR. The ARS and MWR surveys collect data from employers via paper forms and electronically.

Uses of the Data

QCEW data is used daily by individuals, private businesses, government agencies and researchers to make informed decisions, particularly regarding pay increases and industry growth. The QCEW maintains accuracy, quality, timeliness and relevancy.

When evaluating labor trends and major industry developments, the QCEW series have broad significance. They are used in time series analyses, industry comparisons and in special studies such as analysis of wages by size of establishment. The data accurately reflect the extent of coverage of state unemployment laws and are used to measure unemployment insurance revenues; national, state and local area employment; and total and taxable wage trends.

See the 2017 QCEW annual online summary.

Use the virtual labor market data system to find quarterly or annual QCEW data for industries or geographic areas based on criteria you select.

Find technical notes about the covered worker and pay data available through the QCEW program.

Contact the Labor Market Information Center with any additional questions or for assistance using the virtual system.