Tracking Missouri's Economy:
The Current Employment Statistics Program

The Current Employment Statistics (CES) Survey provides valuable data for analyzing economic trends in Missouri. The CES is a monthly survey of business establishments, which provides estimates of employment, hours, and earnings data by industry for the nation as a whole, all States, and most major metropolitan areas since 1939. CES is a federal-state cooperative program that the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics funds in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico under standardized rules requiring standardized deliverables. MERIC administers the CES program in Missouri.

CES estimates "nonfarm wage and salaried employment". CES estimates are based on a "place of work" concept. They are an estimate of the number of jobs filled in a state or area, rather than an estimate of the number of people living in the state or area who are employed. CES numbers do not include self-employed persons, farm workers or persons working without pay. Multiple jobholders are counted for each job held. In other words, CES estimates the number of jobs, rather than the number of people.

The Missouri CES program does employment estimates for the state and for all Metropolitan Statistical Areas, or MSA's (St. Louis, MO-IL, Kansas City, MO, Springfield, Joplin, St. Joseph, MO-KS, Columbia, Jefferson City). Estimates were formerly made for Kansas City, MO-KS, but since the Kansas side is nearly as large as the Missouri side, Kansas now does estimates for the Kansas side of Kansas City. CES does not do estimates for individual counties or small labor market areas (e.g., Cape Girardeau/Sikeston, Farmington, West Plains).

Estimates of employment are carried forward month by month. Two sets of estimates are produced for each month: a "preliminary" estimate to give "current" numbers for that month and a "final" estimate to establish that month as a base for the following month's preliminary estimate. Each month's preliminary estimate is based on the final estimate for the previous month.

Estimates are based on "matched samples", i.e., samples consisting of employers reporting employment for the previous month and the current month. Samples are used as guides in making estimates. At the statewide level, the sample consists of approximately 6,300 employing units out of a total of 169,000 employing units in Missouri. However, sample employment is about 25 percent of total employment, so large firms tend to be more strongly represented in the sample.

Estimates are done by "estimating cells". An estimating cell is an industry or group of similar industries with a sample considered statistically reliable. The larger the area, the more detail there can be in estimating cells. At the statewide level, for example, there are cells for industries as specific as Motor Vehicle Manufacturing and Computer & Data Processing Services. For small MSA's like Jefferson City and St. Joseph, on the other hand, we have cells as general as Private Sector Service-Providing Industries. The number of estimating cells ranges from six (St. Joseph MSA) to 70 for statewide estimates.

The CES program uses a database, the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) to assess the accuracy of estimates. All employers covered by the Unemployment Insurance laws are required to report their employment and wages for each quarter of the year; these reports are compiled in the QCEW, which gives as close to an accurate count of employment as there is available. However, because of processing time, QCEW numbers are six to nine months after the fact, so they do not meet the "Current" requirement for Current Employment Statistics. However, a side-by-side comparison can be made of QCEW numbers with previous CES estimates. This is why CES estimates are said to be "benchmarked" to a given month (usually March of the previous year); that is the last month of QCEW data applied to CES estimates. It should be noted that there is not a direct one-to-one correspondence between CES and QCEW numbers. The QCEW includes some farm workers not counted in CES estimates. On the other hand, "presumed non-covered" (PNC) workers (workers not covered by unemployment insurance) do not show up in QCEW but are included in CES estimates. Estimates of PNC's come from direct MERIC surveys of employers and through the Census Bureau's County Business Patterns. PNC's in Missouri amount to slightly less than 120,000 of the 2,600,000 workers on our latest estimates.

The BLS requires estimates to be within 2 percent of the March QCEW, adjusted for PNC workers. Missouri has set its own standard as well, requiring estimates to be within one-half of one percent of QCEW at the statewide level, 1 percent on estimates for St. Louis and Kansas City, and the BLS-mandated 2 percent for the smaller MSA's, which are harder to estimate because of smaller samples. Once the accuracy of the estimates has been assessed, they are replaced by the adjusted QCEW numbers. Estimates are re-done for the remaining months of the year to conform to the updated benchmark. The first month of published estimates based on the new benchmark will always be for January, at which time the adjusted benchmark numbers for the previous year(s) will also be released.

Data from the Current Employment Statistics program - especially changes in employment over the last 12 months - are considered one of the most reliable indicators of how the economy is doing. As such, CES data have a variety of uses. The most visible use is in the Missouri Department of Economic Development's monthly employment release.

In addition, the CES data are a major independent variable in the regression analysis that yields state and local unemployment rates, and as such, play a major role in the allocation of job training funds. The CES historical series is also the major independent variable for another regression analysis that produces long-term employment projections, a key demand indicator for employment and job training programs, as well as an important guide for students and jobseekers choosing a field of study or career. It is a program that is heavy in numbers…but they are important numbers that provide valuable information about Missouri's economy.

See Missouri CES data.



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