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Feb 3 -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) invites public comment by April 5, 2021 on 1) its proposal to conduct periodic a QCEW Business Supplement (QBS) to establishments on subjects of interest to policymakers and researchers and 2) the draft design of the first QBS survey instrument "Business Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic 2.0."
 
BLS intends to implement a new collection for a QCEW Business Supplement (QBS). Through the QBS, the BLS will be able to capture information on the US economy in a more efficient and timely manner than is currently possible. The QBS is intended to be a versatile collection instrument that will allow BLS to quickly collect and publish information so that stakeholders and data users can understand the impact of specific events on the US economy as they occur, improving the relevancy of the data.

The QBS is designed to incorporate new questionnaires as the need arises based on topics of relevance. BLS initially published a notice requesting comments on this collection in 85 FR 3426, on January 21, 2020, but the collection was postponed so the BLS could collect the Business Response Survey (BRS). The initial collection under the QBS will be a follow-up to the BRS, conducted in 2020, which captured information about changes to businesses operations, employment and workforce flexibilities, and benefits that occurred as a result of the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic. The BRS was a one-time collection which provided critical information on the U.S. business response to the Coronavirus pandemic to help provide policy makers and data users with additional information to help inform decisions.  
 
The first QBS survey is proposed to be "Business Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic 2.0." A follow-up survey to the BRS, it will collect information on how establishments are coping with the transition from the height of the pandemic into a period of economic recovery.

The BLS will use the Annual Refiling Survey (ARS) as a platform for conducting the QBS. Each year, the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) Program conducts the ARS by reaching out to approximately 1.2 million establishments requesting verification of their main business activity, and their mailing and physical location addresses. The fully web-based ARS allows for an accelerated timeframe for collection and provides a low-cost platform for conducting the quick, short surveys of the QBS. The QBSs accompanying the ARS will have little data collection overhead, leveraging the respondent contact process undertaken as part of the production ARS. QBS Respondents already logged into the ARS secure website will be directed to a QBS and asked to answer a limited number of additional survey questions after completing the ARS.

The QBS, based on the ARS data collection platform, will allow BLS to leverage the multitude of information already known about the sample units to allow for targeted sampling. It also will permit BLS to target only the units meeting the specific set of characteristics desired allowing BLS to delve into specific areas of economic interest without burdening establishments which do not meet the specific targeted features.

The QBS is designed to encourage a fast response and minimize respondent burden on the public by limiting the number of questions on each survey and by asking questions that respondents should be able to answer without research or referring to records. In this manner, BLS can provide information that is needed quickly and is not collected elsewhere.

The QBS is designed to incorporate new questionnaires as the need for data arises, as frequently as twice a year. The BLS plans to conduct multiple small surveys under the QBS clearance. The initial survey will focus on how establishments are coping with the current status of the Coronavirus pandemic and the transition period that they are currently experiencing. Questions will cover a range of establishment topics including changes in telework, paid sick leave, demand for products and services, changes in products or services ordered, rehiring activities, recruitment activities, mandated closures, and government assistance.
 
Draft QBS survey instrument -- Business Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic 2.0: https://www.dropbox.com/s/93rnz1hdyzdpzt7/QBS_Questionnaire_DRAFT_031921.docx?dl=0
BLS Business Response Survey webpage: https://www.bls.gov/brs/
QBS draft Supporting Statement, with technical documentation: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/6llpigwtx93e7ie/AAC1k_Wkw0Y4z3iIV1fJxcvma?dl=0
FR notice inviting public comments: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/02/03/2021-02208/information-collection-activities-comment-request
 
Point of contact: Ed Robison, Division Chief of the Statistical Methods Staff, Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, BLS 202-691-6363  robison.edwin@bls.gov

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