What are the forces moving the Minnesota economy? Adam Belz tries to identify the trends and show the connections between Minnesota and the larger U.S. and global economies. You can connect with him on Twitter: @adambelz

Minnesota is probably creating more jobs than monthly surveys show

Posted by: Adam Belz under Business trends, Economics Updated: September 19, 2012 - 5:36 PM

A state jobs report comes out Thursday at 10 a.m., but the figures are far from the final word on job growth in Minnesota.

There's strong reason to believe Minnesota created more jobs -- up to 18,000 more -- in the early part of the year than the monthly surveys showed.

These monthly jobs reports are the result of something called the Current Monthly Employment survey (CES), but the foundation for the survey is the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW).

The QCEW is, as its name makes clear, a census. State officials track down every employee for whom unemployment insurance is collected (pretty much every worker in the state), and come up with a total number of jobs in Minnesota. It’s as close to accurate as a jobs number can be.

“That’s the population,” said Matt Schoeppner, an economist at the Minnesota Management and Budget Office. “Every employee that’s covered under unemployment insurance, their employer has to report it to DEED.”

But the QCEW is only quarterly, and it generally doesn’t come out for several months after the end of the reporting period. The second quarter QCEW comes out in November.

Jobs numbers come out every month, however, because the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts a survey based on the QCEW. The BLS surveys a percentage of businesses and households, and then makes an estimate of the total number of jobs in the state. The estimates are partially extrapolated from the QCEW, and then benchmarked back to it in retrospect.

Bored yet? Let me introduce you to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He was lambasted by Democrats in May when he decided to release Wisconsin’s 2011 QCEW numbers early, because he thought the monthly survey numbers were too negative and inaccurate. The fact he did so a few weeks before his recall election added to the criticism.

Quibble with Walker's timing, but he was correct: The QCEW is a better measure of employment than the monthly surveys. (We can think of the QCEW like the U.S. Census. It’s the real number. The monthly surveys are like the American Community Surveys, conducted in the intervening years between each Census.)

What does it mean for Minnesota? The economy probably created 18,000 more jobs in the first quarter than we thought, and we should all be careful not to put too much stock in the monthly numbers, which come out tomorrow.

In the chart below, the growth rates in the QCEW and CES track each other historically, but that’s because the monthly numbers from the CES are benchmarked annually back to the QCEW. For the one period we have in which they haven't been benchmarked -- this year's first quarter -- there's a discrepancy, and it suggests Minnesota has more jobs than tomorrow's number will indicate.
 

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