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Apr 26 -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) invites comments to OMB by May 26, 2023 regarding the proposed 2023 Business Response Survey.

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages Business Supplement (QBS) is a versatile collection instrument designed to capture information on the US economy quicky and efficiently using the BLS Annual Refiling Survey as the data collection platform. The QBS collection is designed to incorporate new questionnaires as the need arises to allow BLS to collect and publish information quickly so that stakeholders and data users can understand the impact of specific events on the US economy as they occur. The initial QBS survey, the 2021 Business Response Survey, collected information on how establishments were responding to the coronavirus pandemic and was followed by the 2022 Business Response Survey that captured information on telework, hiring, and vacancies at establishments as the economy began to emerge from the pandemic.
This third QBS survey, the 2023 Business Response Survey, is being conducted on behalf of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA). It will collect information on employer's experiences with layoffs since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and their familiarity with state workforce programs to better understand current labor market conditions at this stage of the coronavirus pandemic recovery and inform ETA of business' familiarity with the Short-Time Compensation (STC) program and other state workforce programs.
The QBS allows BLS to capture information about the US economy in a more efficient manner than was previously possible. It allows the BLS and data users to be able to understand the impact of specific events (e.g., policy changes, strikes, resource shortages, health epidemics, terrorist attacks, and severe weather) on the economy in a timely manner, allowing policy makers to be able to make informed decisions.  

The QBS is intended to be versatile collection instrument, allowing the BLS to capture information relatively quickly on events affecting the US economy, such as the coronavirus pandemic. The QBS will undergo the OMB clearance process every three years with a 60-day and 30-day notice. When the need to capture new information on the economy arises, the BLS will develop successive questionnaires that are specific to those data needs. The BLS will submit separate requests to OMB to conduct each new questionnaire under the QBS clearance. Each OMB request will include additional details on each of these collections, including the estimated burden hours. The BLS will provide the public with an opportunity to comment on these questionnaires via a 30-day Federal Register notice where additional details will be provided.

The first ICR, approved by OMB in July 2021, described the general nature of the QBS collection and provided detailed information on the initial QBS survey covering the coronavirus pandemic. This ICR describes the third survey under the QBS clearance, the 2023 BRS.

The goal of the 2023 BRS, which is sponsored by the Employment and Training Administration, is to provide information about employers’ experiences with layoffs and layoff aversion programs like Short-Time Compensation (STC).  

STC, also known as work sharing or shared-work, offers an alternative to layoffs for employers experiencing a reduction in available work. STC preserves employees’ jobs and employers’ trained workforces during times of lowered economic activity. STC allows employers to reduce hours of work for employees rather than laying off some employees while others continue to work full time. Those employees experiencing a reduction in hours are allowed to collect a percentage of their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to replace a portion of their lost wages. STC cushions the adverse effect of the reduction in business activity on workers by averting layoffs and ensures that these workers will be available to resume prior employment levels when business demand increases.  

There currently is no detailed information on layoff events that have occurred in the past several years. The 2023 BRS will provide information about the nature of layoffs that occurred since January 1, 2020, the scope (number and broad occupational group of employees affected), the permanent or temporary expectation of these layoffs when they occurred, the percent of establishments that provided UI claims assistance to their laid-off workers, and the percent of establishments that rehired laid-off workers. The survey will also provide information on employers’ awareness of state workforce agency programs.    
The purpose of conducting the QBS is to facilitate collections of information about the US economy in a timely manner.  The 2023 BRS will help ETA and other policy makers understand the causes, impacts, and outcomes of layoff events that have occurred since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. This information, requested by the Department of Labor, will be used to design effective STC programs for employers and states, and inform how the Department might support state agencies and policymakers to modify programs to better protect employers and employees.

With the intended sample size, BLS plans to calculate estimates for the nation and by state, industry sector, and establishment size. This will help assess differences in layoffs by a variety of employer characteristics. BLS will publish the estimates in a public news release and provide them to ETA for use in evaluating and promoting the STC programs in the states.  

For the QBS collection, BLS utilizes available information technology to minimize government costs and respondent burden. The 2023 BRS survey responses will be collected entirely online. As in the past, data will be collected concurrently with the BLS Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program’s Annual Refiling Survey (ARS); the ARS is conducted every year to collect information about establishments’ industry in order to improve the overall quality of QCEW data. About half of the 2023 BRS sampled establishments receive the ARS, and the data collection instrument for these establishments will be appended to the ARS Web application.

Because the ARS sample does not include small establishments—without which the QBS results would not be nationally representative—a portion of the QBS sample does not receive the ARS. For establishments that are in scope for the 2023 BRS but out of scope for the ARS (establishments with one to three employees or establishments that are in low-change NAICS industries), respondents will receive a one-page letter or email blast directing them to a standalone instrument to complete the survey. For this group, BLS continues to research the possibility of relying predominantly on establishments that have an email address available for email solicitation, which would reduce the cost of printing and mailing.  

Business Response Survey: https://www.bls.gov/brs/
BLS submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202304-1220-001 Click IC List for information collection instrument, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this webpage.
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-08757

For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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