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Labor Market Information - Frequently Asked Questions

This page contains answers to frequently asked questions for many labor market information programs and products. The programs are listed in alphabetical order with the questions listed below. Click the button of the question you are interested in and content will expand (+) below it providing further information. To collapse (-) the information just click the button again.

Current Employment Statistics (CES)

A. The establishment payroll survey, known as the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, is based on a survey of approximately 149,000 businesses and government agencies representing approximately 651,000 worksites throughout the United States. The primary statistics derived from the survey are monthly estimates of employment, hours, and earnings for the Nation, States, and major metropolitan areas. Preliminary National estimates for a given reference month are typically released on the third Friday after the conclusion of the reference period in conjunction with data derived from a separate survey of households, the Current Population Survey (CPS). The reference period for the CES survey is the pay period which includes the 12th of the month.

A. Several industries have employment levels that fluctuate throughout the year and have predictable seasonal movements depending on which month is being estimated. Examples of this would be the surge in retail trade employment during the holiday shopping season or the increase in the spring and summer months for construction and leisure and hospitality employment. Seasonal adjustment uses an ARIMA modeling formula to try to remove these expected, seasonal movements and allows data users to find economic movements easier. It also allows for users to compare month-to-month movements since seasonal gains and losses are removed. Currently, the CES program seasonally adjusts the major sectors for statewide data and at the total nonfarm level only for the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs).

A. Monthly estimates generally have a preliminary and a final estimate. So a January preliminary estimate will be recalculated and updated with the February preliminary estimate and is then referred to as the “final” estimate. This value will ultimately get revised again with benchmarking (see below).

A. The benchmark adjustment, a standard part of the CES survey estimation process, is a once-a-year re-anchoring of the sample-based employment estimates to job counts available principally through Unemployment Insurance (UI) tax records filed by employers with the State’s labor market information agency. This process is done between the December and January preliminary estimates. Additionally, those values not subject to unemployment insurance tax also get added in along with any historical corrections to the series, typically in the form of employment wedges. Additionally, seasonal adjustment gets re-calculated for the prior five years, so data users are encouraged to completely replace their historical data to ensure the most current data is being used. The updated benchmark data is released with the January preliminary estimate in March.

College Student Retention Survey

A. The purpose of the study was to gather information regarding students’ intentions to either remain in Iowa or locate outside of Iowa following graduation or upon program completion. The survey also asked students to rate what factors were most important to them when deciding where to locate and then provide their perception of Iowa when it came to those same factors.

A. Iowa Workforce Development partnered with community colleges, state universities and private institutions (both for-profit and non-profit) including career/technical schools that had one or more locations in Iowa for survey distribution. Participating educational institutions sent the survey to their students by email. All survey data was collected online.

A. 8,693 students, from 35 educational institutions (including all three state universities and 15 community colleges) participated in the 2017 study. Responses also represent students from 53 states and U.S. territories. In addition, students from 97 countries participated in the study.

A. Students were asked to describe how important certain factors are in their decision making process regarding where they will choose to live after they've completed their training/eduction. They were given four sets of factors to consider: employment considerations (e.g. availability of jobs, wages, benefits, etc.); financial characteristics (e.g. cost of housing, taxes, living expenses, etc.); quality of life (e.g. crime rate, nearness of family, weather, diversity, etc.); and availability of entertainment options (e.g. night life, hiking/biking trails, cultural attractions, etc.). After rating how important each factor was in their decision they were asked whether they felt that Iowa had that characteristic or not. 

A. Less than half, 46.0 percent, of students surveyed in 2017 indicated they plan to stay in Iowa when they complete their training/education. A much smaller percentage, 26.7 percent, say they plan to leave Iowa. One opportunity discovered through the survey is that 27.3 percent of students have not decided whether to stay in Iowa or leave.

Education Outcomes

A. Effective educational programming is always in demand as it supports the State’s economy and the prosperity of all Iowans. To assist colleges and universities in their efforts to determine the effectiveness of their educational programming, Iowa Workforce Development (IWD) provides analysis using wage data that measures the success of students in the workforce.

IWD uses wage records from the state’s unemployment insurance (UI) database to answer questions regarding the employment rate of graduates, earning levels and industry of employment. All of these measures can also be broken down by student demographics such as gender, academic program, and type of degree. All of the wage data as well as student records are used for research purposes only and are reported as aggregated data to protect individuals’ identities.

A. Unemployment insurance (UI) wage records are derived from unemployment insurance quarterly contribution reports. The state UI program does not cover federal employees, members of the armed forces, the self-employed, proprietors, unpaid family workers, church employees, and railroad workers covered by the railroad unemployment insurance system, as well as students employed in a college or university as part of a financial aid package. The UI program does provide partial information on agricultural industries and employees in private households.

A. Student records including Social Security Numbers and other data necessary for analysis (based on research questions). A certain minimum number of records per category of analysis to protect confidentiality.

A. The matched UI wage record includes the quarterly wage and employer name, address, Federal Employer Identification Number and the industry code. Statistical results include medians, averages, ranges and/or graphs. All results are reported in aggregate.

A. Information held by IWD that identifies individuals and employers is confidential. IWD will not use confidential information for any purpose other than carrying out the obligations under the specific agreement with their clients. In addition, the aggregate outcome reports produced are the property of the client.

A. IWD will safeguard the clients’ information in accordance with each participating organization’s security plan. IWD will not allow public disclosure of any information received from their clients in a manner that identifies any specific individuals. Security procedures must meet the guidelines specified in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Unemployment Insurance (UI) confidentiality law.

A. Fees for this service are based on the level of detail of the research requested by the client. The fee structure consists of three components: 1) wage record match, 2) analysis and reporting and 3) printing. The report can be delivered in electronic file format (PDF or Excel) or printed copy. The cost of research is the total of all components.

Employer Database

A. No, per our written agreement with InfoGroup, downloading the data is not allowed. Additionally, IWD is subject to display restrictions when presenting the data and limiting the number of search results.

A. No, under our agreement information can only be provided through the use of the online tool. Data on employers is only available by first selecting an individual industry. Only one industry can be selected at a time.

A. The Employer Database is updated twice a year in the spring and fall.

Industry Profiles

A. Industry profiles are generally updated biennially.

A. These profiles utilize the QCEW program data along with data from the U.S. Census Bureau and InfoGroup.

Industry Projections (Forecasts)

A. Long-Term Projections are created every two years and incorporate an even numbered base year for the State and Iowa Workforce Development Regions. For example, Long-Term Projections which had a base year of 2016 would have a projected year of 2026. Short-Term Projections for the industries and occupations are produced every year and use a quarterly 1st quarter base year which includes January, February and March.


A. A Laborshed study defines the commuting area for a specific employment center and then estimates the availability (quantity) and details the characteristics of labor (between the ages of 18 and 64) within that commuting area, based on a residential survey. The study is conducted on a ZIP code level and is not encumbered by county or state lines. The study contains details regarding the employed, unemployed, homemakers, and retirees. It defines unique pockets of labor including those that are employed and likely to change their current employment situation. Other than employment status, the Laborshed survey gathers information regarding industry of employment, occupation, wages, benefits, education level, experience/skills, job search resources, distance willing to commute, and much more.

A. The node (employment center) community typically has the largest geographic draw of labor in the Laborshed area (the region from which an employment center draws its commuting workers). Smaller, nearby communities may have their own Laborsheds but fall within the umbrella of the node community. In most cases, Laborshed information collected on the node community helps explain the general characteristics of the surrounding communities.

A. The Laborshed methodology estimates the total number of people within the Laborshed area that are likely to work in the node community. This total estimated potential labor force is derived from a logistic regression model created by and updated annually by the University of Northern Iowa. The model’s estimates are based on education level, gender, age, commuting distances, employment status and wage data collected from over 20,000 Laborshed respondents across Iowa.

A. The Laborshed unemployed figure is typically higher than the official unemployment rate released by the the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This difference is due to the fact that the Laborshed survey allows each respondent to self-identify their employment status (e.g. unemployed) without applying a rigid definition. Whereas, the BLS requires the following criteria to be met to be considered unemployed: “all persons who had no employment and were available for work, and had made specific efforts to find employment”. This definition is not applied in the Laborshed study.

A. It is possibly a request for your participation in the Laborshed survey. Iowa Workforce Development works closely with a vendor to complete a random telephone survey as part of the Laborshed study. Our vendor, Smartlead, is located in Cedar Rapids, IA and has the 319 area code for the phone number. Survey questions cover a variety of workforce and demographic-related topics such as: age; gender; employment status; availability and likeliness to change or re-enter employment; current and desired occupations; wages and benefits; and distance willing to travel for work, to name a few. It is important to note, however, that other than the respondent’s telephone number, our vendor will not ask for any personally identifying information like name, date of birth, address, or social security number.

Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS)

A. Monthly estimates generally have a preliminary and a final estimate. So a January preliminary estimate will be recalculated and updated with the February preliminary estimate and is referred to as the “final” estimate. This value will ultimately get revised again with annual processing. Each year, historical estimates from the LAUS program are revised to reflect new population controls from the Census Bureau, updated input data, and reestimation. The data for statewide incorporate a new seasonal adjustment, and the unadjusted estimates are controlled to new census division and U.S. totals. Substate area data subsequently are revised to incorporate updated inputs, reestimation, and controlling to new statewide totals. These annual revisions are published every March.

A. The LAUS program produces the official monthly estimates of labor force and unemployment for subnational areas. The concepts and definitions underlying LAUS data come from the Current Population Survey (CPS). Any differences in the numbers are the result of different survey questions, samples, and collection methods.

A. The American Community Survey 5-year Estimates are useful in finding unemployment rates by demographics. The data is available from the state level down to the census tract level in some areas. Fill out our LMI Feedback Form if you would like us to help you find the data.

Occupational Employment Statistics (OEWS)/Iowa Wage Report

A. Occupational Employment Statistics (OEWS) data is updated annually and generally released during the third quarter.

A. Occupational Wage Definitions:

  • Entry Wage is the average of the lowest third of reported wages for the occupation.
  • Experienced Wage is the average of the upper two-thirds of reported wages for the occupation.
  • 10th Percentile Wage is the point at which 10% of the employment was below this wage and 90% was above.
  • 25th Percentile Wage is the point at which 25% of the employment was below this wage and 75% was above.
  • Mean Wages is the average wage and is computed by dividing the estimated total wage for an occupation by its weighted employment.
  • Median Wage or 50th Percentile Wage is the point at which 50% of the employment was below this wage and 50% was above.
  • 75th Percentile Wage is the point at which 75% of the employment was below this wage and 25% was above.
  • 90th Percentile Wage is the point at which 90% of the employment was below this wage and 10% was above.

A. Comparing data over several years is not recommended. Data every year is subject to changes in occupational, industrial and geographical classifications, reference periods, data collection, and methodology.

A. The Iowa Wage Report is a state product that uses BLS OEWS data and estimates the wages forward one year using the Employment Cost Index to make them more current. In all other regards, the data is the same.

A. The Iowa Wage Report and the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) programs estimate occupational employment and wages paid by employers. The wages are based on straight-time and are gross pay.

The following types of pay are included in the collection of wages: base rates, commissions, cost-of-living allowances, mileage, piece rates, portal-to-portal rates and production bonuses. Also included are certain other types of pay such as: deadheading, guaranteed, hazard incentive and longevity.

The following types of pay are excluded from data collection: bonuses (attendance, holiday, stock, non-production and year-end); certain pay (back, holiday premium, jury duty, on-call, overtime, severance and weekend premium); certain allowances (clothing, tool/equipment, uniform and relocation); discounts (including merchandise discounts); draw; meal and lodging payments; prerequisites; profit-sharing payments; and shift differentials.

Occupational Projections (Forecasts)

A. Long-Term Projections are created every two years and incorporate an even numbered base year for the State and Iowa Workforce Development Regions. For example, Long-Term Projections that have a base year of 2016 would have a projected year of 2026. Short-Term Projections for the industries and occupations are produced every year and use a quarterly base year which includes January, February and March. For example, Short Term Projection using 1st Quarter of 2018 as the base year will project to 1st quarter 2019.

Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW)

A. The QCEW program covers all employment and wages of establishments which report to their state’s unemployment insurance program. This includes approximately 97 percent of all wage and salary civilian employment in the United States. This generally excludes self-employed workers, religious workers, federal government workers, students, railroad workers, elected officials, military, and other select groups.

A. The employment represents the total number of filled jobs, whether full or part-time, temporary or permanent, by place of work. The monthly reference period is the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. The wages are primarily reported from the employer’s quarterly unemployment insurance tax filing. This is supplemented by the federal government data provided by the BLS.

A. A location generally represents a single physical location (or occasionally a combined entity, such as a group of individuals working from home) that is engaged in one predominant economic activity. This is different from a single business which may consist of one or more establishments operating in several different counties.

A. Updated QCEW data are typically available five to six months following the end of the quarter. Along with the newest release, the prior quarter will be updated as well.

A. In some cases, this may represent an area with zero economic activity for that industry or area. More commonly, industry or area data are suppressed to protect the employer’s identity. This applies when three or fewer businesses are contained within an area; however, it may also be the case that one employer contains the majority of that economic activity in the region, forcing this value to be suppressed as well.

A. No. Due to restrictions within the Iowa code, publishing any identifiable data is prohibited.


A. Regional profiles are generally updated biennially.

A. The regional profiles use data from the BLS’ QCEW and LAUS programs, along with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, industry and occupational projections, and the IWD’s UI program.

A. Due to budget and staffing issues, we can’t produce an exact copy of the report for your specific region; however, some data elements may be gathered that can be customized to your region. Please call (515) 281-8515 for more information.

Unemployment Insurance (UI) Statistics

A. About 40 percent of unemployed persons receive UI benefits. This can vary depending on economic conditions. Persons receiving UI benefits are referred to as the “insured unemployed”. The Iowa UI Recipiency Rate is published on Iowa's Open Data Portal. Examples of reasons unemployed workers may not be receiving UI benefits include:

  • Not covered by UI (such as self-employed workers, independent contractors, students working for their school and workers in certain not-for-profit religious organizations.)
  • Exceeded their maximum benefits amount (UI benefit exhaustees).
  • Insufficient wages to qualify for benefits (labor force new entrants or reentrants).
  • Disqualify because they were fired for misconduct on the job.
  • Disqualify because they voluntarily quit without good cause attributable to the employer.
  • Disqualify because they were not able and available for work.
  • Eligible for benefits, but did not file for benefits.

For more information, see the Bureau of Labor Statistics FAQ "What do the unemployment insurance (UI) figures measure?"

A. UI Statistics are administrative statistics collected as a byproduct of Unemployment Insurance programs. There is a variety of UI data available. Examples include: UI claims and benefits paid, average weekly benefit and average duration, demographic characteristics and appeal hearing results.

A. Certain UI statistic data is available at the county level. For example, UI claims and benefits data are available at the county and statewide level. Other data sets, for example, characteristics of claimants (age and gender), are only available at the statewide level.

A. The annual Iowa Unemployment Compensation Fund Status Report and Tableau visualizations of weekly UI claims and monthly payments by county and industry are available on the Unemployment Insurance Statistics web page. 

A. The Unemployment Insurance Statistics web page has a Definition of Terms used in the Unemployment Insurance visualizations.

A. An initial claim indicates a new spell of unemployment. A continued week claimed is a request for payment for one week of unemployment. For example, a worker who is laid off for six weeks would have one initial claim and six continued weeks claimed.

A. A continued week claimed is a request for payment for a week of unemployment. A week compensated occurs when the continued claim is paid. Continued weeks claimed are usually greater then weeks compensated because a week claim may not be paid due to disqualification or excessive earnings.

A. The maximum number of weeks available in Iowa is 16 weeks. In case of a business establishment closing maximum weeks available is extended to 26 weeks. The number of weeks available is impacted by a claimant’s wages and could be as low as 8 weeks. These figures do not include special extensions which Congress may enact during times of high unemployment.

A. The U.S. Department of Labor publishes data for states in the UI Data Summary report. Links to other UI state data can also be found at their UI Data Dashboard.

A. The FAQ listed here relate to Unemployment Insurance Statistics. The Unemployment Insurance program itself has its own FAQ page which can be found at Unemployment Insurance FAQ. Iowa Workforce Development also publishes the following:

A. This is available on the U.S. Department of Labor’s State Law Information web page.

Workforce Needs Assessment & Benefit Survey

A. The Workforce Needs Assessment Survey is not mandatory but the results of this survey can help businesses assess benefit offerings, evaluate vacant job recruitment techniques for vacancies and provide feedback regarding applicants. The findings of the survey can also assist local economic development, workforce development and education professionals with meeting the needs of local businesses.

A. Employers in Iowa with 5 or more employees are invited to take the survey.

A. The Workforce Needs Assessment, which contains questions for the Employer Benefit Survey, is conducted every other year.

A. Results are reported in aggregate and any identifying information that you provide will remain confidential.