Montana Labor Market Blog

Research & Analysis Bureau - Montana Department of Labor & Industry

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Which Data Source Should I Use?

Any craftsman can tell you how important it is to choose the right tool for the job. You can't substitute a pipe wrench for a socket wrench.

Likewise, you can't use QCEW data to track month-to-month employment changes. Labor Market Information is a tool, and as such, must suit the user's purpose.

Here's a brief description of each of our programs to help you choose the right data set for your purposes.


  • Program Name: Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages
  • Data Provided: Payroll Employment by Industry, Payroll Wages by Industry
  • Geographic Areas: Statewide, Counties
  • Timeframe: Quarterly

QCEW data primarily come from reports submitted by employers to the Montana Unemployment Insurance program. Employment data represents the number of workers on the payroll during the pay period including the 12th day of the month. Total wages include gross wages and salaries, bonuses, profit sharing, commissions, severance pay, and limited tips. Total wages are reported in the quarter they were paid rather than when they were earned. QCEW data is highly accurate, being a direct count of all employment rather than an estimate based on a sample portion of employers. 


  • Program Name: Local Area Unemployment Statistics
  • Data Provided: Labor Force, Employment, Unemployment, and Unemployment Rates by Area
  • Geographic Areas: Statewide, Counties, Reservations, Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs)
  • Timeframe: Monthly

LAUS data is taken from surveys and unemployment claims recorded during the monthly reference week, which is usually the week including the 12th day of each month. Statistics are an estimate of persons by place of residence, not jobs or where a person works. To be considered unemployed, an individual must have had no employment during the reference week, been available for work, and have made an effort to find employment in the four weeks leading up to the reference week.


  • Program Name: Current Employment Statistics
  • Data Provided: Employment by Industry
  • Geographic Areas: Statewide, MSAs
  • Timeframe: Monthly

The CES program provides a monthly count of persons on non-farm establishments payrolls (including employees on paid sick leave, paid holiday, or paid vacation) who work or receive pay for any part of the week that includes the 12th of the month. It is a count of jobs by place of work, not people. Individuals could be counted multiple times if they hold more than one job. Self-employed, unpaid volunteer or family workers, domestic workers in households, military personnel, and persons who are laid off, on leave without pay, or even on strike for the entire reference period are not included in the data.


  • Program Name: Occupational Employment Statistics
  • Data Provided: Employment and Wages by Occupation
  • Geographic Areas: Statewide, MSAs,  MT OES Regions (Central, East, Southwest & West)
  • Timeframe: Annual (survey conducted semiannually, but results are published annually)

The OES program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. National occupational estimates for specific industries are also available.

The OES survey is a semi-annual mail survey for all full-time and part-time wage and salary workers in nonfarm industries covered by unemployment insurance. Forms are mailed to business establishments to collect data for the payroll period including the 12th of May or November. The survey does not cover the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers. The wage rates published here are considered “informational,” meaning they cannot be used for Montana Prevailing Wage or Foreign Labor Certification purposes.


  • Program Name: Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries
  • Data Provided: Work-Related Fatalities
  • Geographic Areas: Statewide
  • Timeframe: Annual

CFOI gathers information on the fatal occupational accidents that occur in Montana, on a calendar year basis. The program provides the most complete count of fatal work injuries available because it uses diverse state and federal data sources to identify, verify, and profile fatal work injuries. Data is available by industry, gender, event of exposure, occupation, location, employee work status, and age.


  • Program Name: Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses
  • Data Provided: Work-Related Injury and Illness Rates
  • Geographic Areas: Statewide
  • Timeframe: Annual

SOII collects data through its Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, which provides annual estimates of the frequency (incidence rates) and number of occupational injuries and illnesses based on logs kept by private industry employers. Montana employers are surveyed each year about their employment average, hours worked for the year, and information on recordable occupational injuries or illnesses. From this data, incidence rates are set to reflect the number of injuries and illnesses per 100 full time workers.

Categories: Labor Market Info-101


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