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Dec 14 -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, invites comments by February 12, 2024 regarding the continuation of the Annual Refiling Survey.

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program is a federal/state cooperative effort which compiles monthly employment data, quarterly wages data, and business identification information from employers subject to state Unemployment Insurance (UI) laws. These data are collected from state Quarterly Contribution Reports (QCRs) submitted to State Workforce Agencies (SWAs). The states send micro-level employment and wages data, supplemented with the names, addresses, and business identification information of these employers, to the BLS. The state data are used to create the BLS sampling frame, known as the longitudinal QCEW data.

To ensure the continued accuracy of these data, the information supplied by employers must be periodically verified and updated. For this purpose, the Annual Refiling Survey (ARS) is used in conjunction with the UI tax reporting system in each state. The information collected by the ARS is used to review the existing industry code assigned to each establishment as well as the physical location of the business establishment. As a result, changes in the industrial and geographical compositions of our economy are captured in a timely manner and reflected in the BLS statistical programs.

The ARS also asks employers to identify new locations in the state. If these employers meet QCEW program reporting criteria, then a Multiple Worksite Report (MWR) is sent to the employer requesting employment and wages for each worksite each quarter. Thus, the ARS is also used to identify new potential MWR-eligible employers.

Office of Management and Budget clearance is being sought for a revision of the ARS. Once every three years, the SWAs survey employers that are covered by the state's UI laws to ensure that state records correctly reflect the business activities and locations of those employers. States survey approximately one-third of businesses with employment greater than three each year and largely take care of the entire universe of covered businesses over a three-year cycle. The selection criterion for surveying establishments is based on the nine-digit Federal Employer Identification Number of the respondent. BLS constantly pursues a growing number of automated reporting options to reduce employer burden and costs and to take advantage of more efficient methods and procedures. Even given such actions, mailing remains an important part of the survey. The BLS developed a one-page letter rather than mailing forms for ARS solicitation. This letter explains the purpose of the ARS and provides respondents with a unique Web ID and password. Respondents are directed to the BLS online web collection system to verify or to update their geographic and industry information.

Additionally, BLS staff review selected, large multi-worksite national employers rather than surveying these employers with traditional ARS letters. This central review reduces postage costs incurred by the states in sending letters.

BLS continues to use a private contractor to handle various administrative aspects of the survey to reduce the costs associated with the ARS. This initiative is called the Centralized Annual Refiling Survey (CARS). Under CARS, BLS effectively utilizes the commercial advantages related to printing and mailing large volumes of survey letters.

Finally, BLS continues to make use of email addresses collected from the ARS and from the state UI agencies for solicitation purposes. Use of email for solicitation reduces the overall cost of data collection. BLS will also continue to make use of email solicitation of small establishments that had been excluded from the ARS for budgetary reasons. Since collection costs for email solicitation are minimal, these respondents can continue to be added back to the ARS at little cost to the government.

There are nearly 11.5 million establishments on the QCEW file. These establishments cover all civilian employers (except interstate railroads) and some agricultural, domestic, and charitable organization employers. BLS intends to continue its review of private sector employers' North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and geographic codes on a three-year cycle. Government establishments are not reviewed routinely. Each year, approximately one-third of private sector establishments are reviewed and updated, if necessary. Customarily, the BLS-3023 forms, collectively known as Annual Refiling Survey (ARS) forms, have been used in conjunction with the UI tax reporting system in each state. As a result, changes in the industrial and geographical compositions of our economy are captured in a timely manner and reflected in the BLS statistical programs.

This survey is authorized by Federal law 29 U.S.C. 2 and Section 15 of the Wagner-Peyser Act (Attachment A). Although employer cooperation is not required by Federal law, twenty-nine states and two territories have laws that make completion of the ARS mandatory. Establishments in the survey are selected across industries using the seventh and eight digits of the Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN) in order to maintain balanced panels. In year one, units in the range 00-33 are surveyed. In year two, units in the range 34-66 are surveyed. Finally, units in the range 67-99 are surveyed in year three. For establishments that have no EIN on record, selection will be based on a range of digits within the establishment's UI account number. Establishments classified in Public Administration (NAICS Sector 92) and the United States Postal Service (NAICS 491110) are not surveyed. In addition, single establishments classified as private households (NAICS 814110) are not surveyed. Finally, multi-unit establishments classified as Professional Employer Organizations (NAICS 561330) are not surveyed because establishment level industry information is requested quarterly through the Multiple Worksite Report.

ARS: https://www.bls.gov/respondents/ars/
Draft information collection instrument and technical documentation available at https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/wrfzj8ted85ac27arqhlx/h?rlkey=6zj60gr4jr3v6odd7op3pjodu&dl=0
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-27433

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