Inability to fully share business register microdata creates problems for a number of statistical programs and research needs. As noted above, it harms the accuracy of industry output, compensation, and productivity trend measures (especially for fast-growing and innovative industries, such as information technology) which, in turn, affects the ability of downstream users, such as the Federal Reserve, BEA, and researchers, to use the data effectively. It also inhibits the ability of the statistical agencies to consistently adjust sampling frames for the entry and exit of new businesses in a timely manner and to identify and classify businesses (again, see National Research Council, 2006). For example, both the Census Bureau and BLS require establishment-level data for multiunit firms. The Census Bureau requests multiestablishment firms to break out employment and payroll numbers by establishment in its COS; for BLS, the UI program’s MWR is used (refer to Appendix A for details). Because the timeliness and comprehensiveness of the COS and MWR are not the same, measures of employment, payroll, and establishment birth and death trends for multiunit firms are incomplete and inconsistent.

While the statistical agencies already share data—effectively in some cases—a more extensive data-sharing arrangement between BLS and Census would likely lead to improvements in both lists. BLS industry coding, physical location addresses, multiunit data from the MWR, and employment data for single units are recognized as being very thorough, and this level of detail would be—and, to some extent, already is—beneficial for use in Census programs.16 The Census Bureau is particularly interested in the data of multiunit companies within states, as well as in BLS data for the client businesses of professional employer organizations (PEOs). PEOs (or employee leasing) firms typically supply human resource management services (e.g., payroll accounting, benefits administration) to their clients. The Census Bureau’s tax record-based data do not accurately indicate the geographic location and industry of leased employees working at client sites; rather, they indicate the industry and location of the PEO itself. BLS would benefit from an evaluation of firm information that is collected as part of the Census Bureau’s COS. Access to Census data could potentially add

programs, and they agree to use confidential information for statistical purposes. Authorized state employees can share microdata within the agency, but they are under the same limitations as BLS employees in terms of what can be publicly released (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006).

16

The Census Bureau receives over 3 million industry codes, county codes, employment figures, and physical location addresses each year from BLS. While this data-sharing project reduces costs for the Census Bureau and relieves respondent burden, much of the potential benefit to the statistical system is left untapped since BLS cannot obtain IRS-sourced data from the Census Bureau.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement