On May 12, the Census Bureau submitted an emergency request to OMB for clearance to add three telework questions to the 2020 Annual Business Survey (ABS), which will be distributed in July 2020. The reference period for the 2020 ABS is 2019. The Census Bureau intends to use the 2020 ABS to ascertain pre-pandemic business telework practices. The ABS for 2021 and beyond then could ascertain changes in telework practices in response to the pandemic. Information collected in the ABS can be linked to data collected from other surveys, such as Small Business Pulse Survey (SBPS), Business Enterprise Research and Development (BERD) Survey, and Annual Capital Expenditures Survey (ACES). OMB approved the request on May 29, 2020. This emergency submission does not include a Federal Register notice inviting public comment.
The proposed telework questions -- In 2019:
(1) Did the firm allow work from home?
(2) To what degree were employees of the firm engaging in work from home?
(3) What were the limiting factors for work from home?
The ABS (N = 300,000) includes all nonfarm employer businesses filing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax forms as individual proprietorships, partnerships, or any other type of corporations, with receipts of $1,000 or more. The ABS provides information on selected economic and demographic characteristics for businesses and business owners by sex, ethnicity, race, and veteran status. Further, the survey measures research and development (for microbusinesses), new business topics such as innovation and technology, as well as other business characteristics. The ABS is conducted jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the National Science Foundation.
The purpose of adding the questions to the ABS is to establish a baseline for the status of telework prior to COVID-19. The ABS is uniquely positioned to create these estimates. We may want to ask these questions again in the future to see if the pandemic has an immediate effect (in 2020) or longer run effect (in 2021) on businesses offering work at home options to their employees. The goal of adding telework content would be to:
• Create estimates of the number of businesses that provide telework options for their employees by business characteristics (for example: size, age, geography, industry)
• Create percent of workers who are teleworking by business characteristics (for example: size, age, geography, industry)
• Determine if COVID-19 impacted businesses ability/willingness to offer expanded telework options to employees during the pandemic and if those options were temporary or appear to be more permanent conditions of employment within those businesses.
The questions extend the 2015 Management and Organizational Practices Survey (MOPS) content to measure additional concepts. The proposal is also informed by other data sources, including the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), Current Population Survey (CPS), and the National Compensation Survey (NCS). Nick Bloom, a subject matter expert and one of the sponsors of the MOPS, provided input.
Census ABS website: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/abs.html
Proposed telework questions: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/DownloadDocument?objectID=101042300
Supporting Statement Parts A and B: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewDocument?ref_nbr=202005-0607-001
Point of contact; Kevin Deardorff, Chief, Economic Reimbursable Surveys Division 301-728-8140 Kevin.E.Deardorff@census.gov