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Redesigning Data Collection Strategies for Cost-Reduction in Two Bureau of Labor Statistics Surveys. Michael A. Searson U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics International Conference on Establishment Surveys Montréal , Canada June 2007. Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) Program.

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redesigning data collection strategies for cost reduction in two bureau of labor statistics surveys

Redesigning Data Collection Strategies for Cost-Reduction in Two Bureau of Labor Statistics Surveys

Michael A. Searson

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

International Conference on Establishment Surveys

Montréal , Canada

June 2007

quarterly census of employment and wages qcew program
Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) Program

Fed/State Cooperative Statistical Program

  • Program started with the passage of Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA)
  • BLS provides funding, deliverables, manuals, guidelines, and methodologies to State agencies
  • States collect & edit data (decentralized approach)
qcew statistics
QCEW Statistics
  • 4th Quarter 2006 Stats:
    • 8.9 Million establishments
    • 135.9 Million employment
    • $1.516 Trillion Wages
data coverage
Data Coverage
  • 98 Percent of all non-farm salary Workers in the U.S.
  • 45 Percent of U.S. Agricultural Workers.
data sources for the cew program
Data Sources for the CEW Program
  • Primary

Administrative Records of the State Workforce Agencies - UI Tax departments.

  • Secondary

Supplemental forms designed by BLS to meet additional program statistical needs. These are administered by the State LMI staff.

qcew collection forms
QCEW Collection Forms
  • Status Determination
  • Quarterly Contribution Report
  • Annual Refiling Survey (ARS)
  • Multiple Worksite Report (MWR)
  • Report of Federal Employment & Wages
status determination form sdf
Status Determination Form (SDF)
  • Used to determine an employer’s liability for Unemployment Insurance
  • Basis for initial assignment of industrial, geographic and ownership codes
  • Mandatory for employers to file
  • Initial source of UI Tax and physical location addresses
status determination form issues
Status Determination Form Issues
  • Expected economic activities may change over time
  • Limited space on SDF for:

- economic activity information

- physical location addresses (PLA)

- geographical location information

  • Increasing volume of SDFs
  • State staff knowledge
  • One-Stop Business Registration

- impacts access & quality of initial industry code information

purpose of ars
Purpose of ARS
  • Review and Update (if necessary)
  • Mailing & Physical Location addresses
  • County code
  • Single/multi-worksite status
  • Industry code (NAICS)
annual refiling survey ars
Annual Refiling Survey (ARS)
  • About the Form:
  • BLS designed (standardized)
  • Mandatory in 23 States
  • 1/3 of Universe reviewed annually (historically)
  • Sample based on 7th & 8th digit of EIN
  • Verification System
  • Minimum 75% response rate in units or 80% employment for States
ars key points
ARS - Key Points
  • ARS updates are impacted by quality and processing of SDF information
    • Space provided on form
    • Staff training
    • Data omissions - PLA
    • Limited access
  • Multi-state employers receive ARS forms for each state where they have employees
growth in establishments exceeds the increase in funds for the states
Growth in Establishments Exceeds the Increase in Funds for the States
  • Survey of Staff Time Usage:
  • Data Collection and Review%
  • ARS 22
  • MWR 12
  • Total 34
survey costs
Survey Costs
  • Printing - Forms, Cover Letters, Flyers
  • Handling - Folding, Stuffing, Opening, Scanning, Filing
  • PostageOut & Return
  • $ .41 $ .56
  • Review
  • Data Entry - Response code and updates, if necessary
strategy to cut costs
Strategy to Cut Costs
  • Reduce scope of survey
  • Stretch survey to 4 year cycle
  • Touch-tone Response System (TRS)
  • Contracting out ARS data collection
  • Fax collection
  • Web collection
  • Central review by BLS staff
three ars collection forms
Three ARS Collection Forms
  • NVS – Single worksite accounts
  • NVM – Multiple worksite accounts
  • NCA – Unclassified accounts
ars scope cutbacks
ARS Scope Cutbacks
  • Recent budgetary cutbacks lead to the following changes in the ARS Survey:
    • Size cuts have eliminated businesses with 0, 1, and 2 employees from being surveyed
    • Government accounts are not surveyed
    • Private Households are not surveyed
    • Move from 3 to 4 year cycle
matrix analysis approach
Matrix Analysis Approach
  • Number of Alternative Survey Options
  • Evaluate based on “Boxes” Checked
  • Other Factors:
    • Some alternative strategies may save $, but take a long time to implement
    • Some not so cost-effective but easy to implement
    • Some strategies may require more follow-up for non-response, thus reducing total cost savings
touchtone response system trs
Touchtone Response System (TRS)
  • Eligible employers have the option to call a toll-free number to respond to the survey
  • Eliminates return postage and manual processing and review
trs eligibility
TRS Eligibility
  • Single worksite employers
  • Valid NAICS code
  • Specific county code assigned
  • Good physical location address
trs facts
2002

- 6 test States

2003

- Expanded to 40 States

2004

- All States

- 378,000 Responses

2005

- 473,000 Responses

2006

- 541,000 Responses

2007*

- 382,000 Responses

*Survey Still Active

TRS Facts

TRS normally accounts for 31% of total ARS responses

trs lessons learned
TRS Lessons Learned
  • System works very well
  • States advise us via e-mail if respondents indicate problem with TRS; few problems to date
  • Touch-tone phones set to “pulse” mode, rather than “tone” mode will not work with TRS
  • Use of Cellular telephones by respondents can create a problem
  • States and National Office MUST be on the same time line for mailing out TRS eligible forms
central annual refiling survey cars
Central Annual Refiling Survey (CARS)
  • Commercial vendor prints cover letters, flyers, and envelopes
  • Inserts all materials and mails
  • Opens returned ARS forms
  • Sorts responses into different groups based on employer responses
  • Provide electronic files of responding firms (to note receipt)
  • Return ARS forms for states to review
  • Use software to reduce outgoing postage costs
ars contracting issues
ARS Contracting Issues:
  • All States mailing at the same time would require additional TRS equipment and phone lines
  • Coordination with third-party (contractor) increases potential risks
cars cost reduction
CARS Cost Reduction
  • Postage: Uses National Change of Address and Mailstream refinement process- average outgoing mail cost $.34. Normal postage $.41
  • Business Reply Mail (BRM) averaged $.45, will be reduced to $.37 when High Volume QBRM postal service is used. Normal fee as much as $1.10
  • ARS Processing: CARS FY 07 processing costs is $.55 per respondent (excluding postage) to print, stuff, mail, receive, scan and batch NVS (single) forms. This figure involves three (3) ARS mailings, if necessary
fy 2007 cars changes
FY 2007 CARS Changes
  • All States used same (generic) TRS Flyer to standardize printing
  • Expanded from 12 to 22 States
  • Tightened processing schedule
future plans fy 2008
Future PlansFY 2008
  • Use generic state cover letters
  • Expect to increase to 28 states
  • Processing schedule shortened
future plans fy 2009
Future PlansFY 2009
  • Imaging of returned forms with some updates
  • New contract to include printing of NVM and NCA forms
fax collection issues
Fax Collection Issues
  • Limited records with fax numbers
  • Must verify fax number before faxing forms (2x fax)
  • Fax number maintenance on 3 year cycle, more on 4 year cycle
  • Too costly for data entry
web collection issues
Web Collection Issues
  • Employers not familiar with ARS form (only surveyed every 3 to 4 years)
  • Web registration process would take longer for the employer than filling out the form.
quarterly contribution report qcr
Quarterly Contribution Report (QCR)
  • Mandatory State Form
    • Monthly Employment
    • Total Quarterly Wages
    • Taxable Wages
    • Contributions Due
    • UI Staff responsibility
multiple worksite report
Multiple Worksite Report
  • Purpose:
  • Distribute employment and wage information reported at State level on QCR (tax report) to individual worksites of employer within that State.
  • Also collect business identification information (trade name, physical location address and worksite description) for users of BLS Business Register as a sampling frame or longitudinal analysis.
multiple worksite report mwr
Multiple Worksite Report (MWR)
  • Standardized BLS Form
    • Mandatory in 26 States
  • Disaggregate Statewide employment & wages on QCR
    • More than 1 location and/or industry in State
  • 128,000 Legal Entities with 1.4 M worksites
  • 18% of units on BEL
  • 38% of Total Employment
  • Emphasis on Electronic Collection
mwr facts
MWR Facts
  • States collect MWR data each calendar quarter – decentralized approach
  • Forms mailed to employer at end of each quarter
  • Due to State 30 days after the quarter ends
mwr web collection
MWR Web Collection
  • 4 “test” States in 1Q 2006
  • Limited solicitation
  • Expanded to all “eligible” employers in 3Q 2006 in test states
  • Expanded:
    • 18 States in 4Q 2006
    • 27 States in 1Q 2007
    • 30+ States in 2Q 2007
central mwr electronic processing facility
Central MWR Electronic Processing Facility
  • EDI Center, based in Chicago, IL, is a facility designed to collect data electronically from large, national firms
  • In 4Q 2006 100 enterprises encompassing:
    • 210,469 worksites
    • 8 million employees
    • 7640 Legal entities (EINs) – Federal
    • 9400 Legal entities (UINs) - State
strategies to reduce mwr data collection and processing costs
Strategies to Reduce MWR Data Collection and Processing Costs

1. EDI Center

  • Expand collection to include more large, national companies and move into medium sized employer market

2. MWRweb

  • Expand collection to include all States and small to mid-sized multi-unit employers

3. MWR Paper Form

  • Utilize a contractor to create a Central MWR Processing Facility (similar to CARS) in FY 2009
  • Use a scan-able type form for all “paper” respondents
proposed strategies
Proposed Strategies
  • Continue work with :
    • Payroll/Tax Software Developers
    • Payroll/Tax Outsourcing Firms
      • For inclusion of MWR electronic reporting in their software or as a service for their clients
    • Integrate ARS NVM survey with businesses using MWR web Collection
proposed strategies for improving industrial coding
Proposed Strategies for Improving Industrial Coding
  • Improve Quality of Initial Codes for New Employers
    • Review State SDFs
    • Review SDF procedures
    • Pursue automated employer self-coding system
  • Goal:
    • Assign correct codes at initial registration
    • Only deal with actual changes in employer’s economic activities
summary
Summary
  • Centralize data collection for both surveys
  • Use electronic collection where cost-effective
  • Use scanable type forms where employer insists on paper reporting
redesigning data collection strategies for cost reduction in two bureau of labor statistics surveys49
Redesigning Data Collection Strategies for Cost-Reduction in Two Bureau of Labor Statistics Surveys
  • For additional information contact:
  • Michael A. Searson
  • Searson.Michael@bls.gov
  • 202.691.6469
  • U.S. Bureau of Labor StatisticsPostal Square Building2 Massachusetts Ave., NE
  • Suite 4840
  • Washington, DC 20212-0001
  • www.bls.gov