The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) compiles employment and wage information by industry as defined in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The data about private and public-sector workers covered by Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance (UI) laws and Federal civilian workers covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program are reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). Excluded from QCEW data are members of the armed forces, the self-employed, unpaid family workers, and railroad workers covered by the railroad unemployment insurance system. These data are published four times a year and are available approximately 6 months after the end of the calendar quarter. Quarterly data are presented at the state and county level by ownership and industry, and include the number of units, employment by month, total wages, and average weekly wage. Annual data are available after each 4th Quarter. See the BLS website for a complete description of the QCEW program data.

Data Uses

Employment and wage data collected through QCEW are the most complete set of monthly employment and quarterly wage information by detailed industry at the national, state, and county levels. QCEW data are used by businesses and by public and private research organizations as one of the best sources for economic forecasting, industry and regional analysis, impact studies, and other uses. Other BLS programs also use QCEW data. For example, the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program, the Occupational Safety and Health Statistics (OSH) survey, and the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program use QCEW data as the basic source of benchmark information for employment by industry and by size of establishment. BLS provides useful tools for examining QCEW data. Visit the Business Employment Dynamics Data or BED for more state specific data.

Characteristics of the Data

Wisconsin employers in private industry provide DWD with quarterly tax reports that include monthly employment, total and taxable wages for the quarter, and contributions for wage and salaried employees. State and local governments submit reports of monthly employment and quarterly wages, and the Federal government submit similar reports for civilian employees. Covered employment reported by these sources provides a virtual census of payroll employment-about 170,000 business establishments and 2.8 million employees-in Wisconsin.

Industrial Classification

BLS NAICS industry codes are assigned to all business establishments based on a description provided by the employer. Using a production-oriented approach for categorization, business establishments with similar production processes are classified in the same industry. If an employer conducts different activities at different establishments then separate industrial codes are assigned to each establishment.


In general, QCEW monthly employment data represent the number of covered workers who worked during, or received pay for, the pay period that included the 12th day of the month. Workers on paid sick leave, paid holiday, paid vacation, and the like, are included. The employment count excludes workers who earned no wages during the entire applicable pay period because of work stoppages, temporary layoffs, illness, or unpaid vacations.


An establishment is an economic unit, such as a farm, mine, factory, or store that produces goods or provides services. It is typically a single physical location engaged in one, or predominantly one, type of economic activity for which a single industrial classification may be applied. Occasionally, a single physical location encompasses two or more distinct and significant activities. Employers who operate more than one establishment in Wisconsin may file a Multiple Worksite Report (MWR) in addition to their quarterly UI report, to provide additional detail on employment and wage data for each of their establishments. For questions about MWR reporting see MWR FAQ.


Total covered wages for a quarter are the total amount of wages paid to covered workers for services performed during the quarter. Included in total wages are taxable and nontaxable wages as well as any bonuses paid and the cash value of meals, lodging, tips, and other gratuities that were furnished as part of the job.

Disclosure Restrictions

Data provided to DWD in confidence are not published and are used only for specified statistical purposes. DWD withholds publication of UI-covered employment and wage data for any industry level when necessary to protect the identity of cooperating employers.

Imputed Data

To reduce the effect of data excluded because of late reporting, DWD imputes missing employment and wages. Imputations are calculated at the individual establishment level, normally using historical data reported by the employer. Sometimes, trends reported by employers in the same industry or information obtained from other sources also are used. If a report remains delinquent for more than one quarter and research shows that the establishment is still active, then it will again be imputed. Corrections to the data are made if employment and wage information is reported after an imputation is entered.


Wisconsin QCEW publication methods changed due to the implementation of a new processing system. The change impacted the suppression process. Suppression is used to protect the value of certain withheld data so that it is not discernable through simple calculations of other released data. The publication methodology change is effective with the release of QCEW data for the first quarter of 2022.

For more information about suppression, see BLS Confidentiality overview.

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Contact: Sarah Hoffman
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