Marcia Hultman

Cabinet Secretary

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LMI Myth Busting Series

LMI Myth Busting: Benchmarking


Labor market data we publish with a “preliminary, subject to revision” notation indicates the data has not been approved by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


In the majority of cases, even data we publish as “preliminary, subject to revision” has been approved for publication by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Instead, “preliminary, subject to revision” means the data has not yet been benchmarked. Benchmarking is a process through which estimates are revised using additional data from other sources that were not available at the time of estimation.

For example, see the table of South Dakota nonfarm wage and salaried worker levels published in the monthly South Dakota e-Labor Bulletin. Within the footer of the table, you’ll see a notation the data for the current year is preliminary and subject to revision. Labor force data is also initially published as “preliminary, subject to revision,” such as the county labor force data published in the Labor Bulletin.

When new data relevant to nonfarm worker estimates become available, such as South Dakota Reemployment Assistance tax records and results of surveys conducted on employers not covered by Reemployment Assistance, the monthly nonfarm estimates are benchmarked—or revised—as appropriate based on worker levels reflected in those additional data sources. The benchmarking sources show actual employment counts and are used to revise estimated data. Revised estimates are then published, replacing all previously published data.

For most data series, the benchmarking process occurs after all final monthly data for the year is available—typically within the first few months of the following year.

Data which is revised through the benchmarking process is always published as soon as possible in our virtual labor market data system. This is why we recommend using the virtual system to download the most recent data available at any point in time, rather than using data in tables which users may save or print from previous issues of the Labor Bulletin. The Labor Bulletin tables present the most current data available at the time of publication. But the virtual system always reflects the most current data available at any point in time.

For assistance using the virtual system or more information about benchmarking, please contact us.

Benchmarking is also explained on our Definitions page.