Total U.S. retail sales in June 2023 were down 1.2 percent from June 2022, according to data the U.S. Census Bureau released in September. In July 2023, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) release showed compensation costs for civilian workers increased 1.0 percent for the three-month period ending in June 2023.

Have you ever wondered where government agencies get such numbers?

These agencies collect data, not only about people in the United States, but also about the U.S. economy. In fact, the Census Bureau, the BLS, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), and various other federal agencies, rely on the data-collection participation of private employers for data on labor market activity, price changes, wages, and productivity in the U.S. economy, among others things.

Quick Hits

  • The federal government relies on the participation of private employers in data collection surveys to gather data on the U.S. economy.
  • These surveys are authorized, and in some cases mandated, by federal and/or state law.
  • Employers receiving such surveys may want to consider whether participation is mandatory, and if not, whether participation is beneficial.

The Census Bureau collects data from manufacturing, construction, retail, trade, and healthcare economic sectors by conducting more than sixty monthly, quarterly, annual, and periodic surveys and censuses throughout the year. The BLS promulgates several different surveys, many of which concern employment statistics directed at private employers, and the DOD conducts annual wage surveys to collect wage data from private-sector establishments.

Employers that have received one of these surveys may be wondering how, or even if, to respond. Understanding the purpose, scope, and legal authority behind the surveys can help employers ensure compliance with applicable law.

For the most part, federal law authorizes and requires a response to Census Bureau data-collection surveys, and allows for fines for refusing to respond and possible prosecution for false answers. Federal law authorizes BLS surveys, but in many cases does notrequire participation. However, for several surveys, BLS maintains partnerships with state and territorial governments and coordinates with other federal statistical agencies for data collection. These state agencies may have statutory authority to require participation and/or levy fines for nonparticipation.

In addition to considering whether participation is mandatory, employers may want to consider whether they are covered by the particular survey, along with the scope, time burden, purpose, and potential benefits of participating, such as receiving a copy of the survey geared toward respondents.

Ogletree Deakins’ OFCCP Compliance, Government Contracting, and Reporting Practice Group will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on the Government Contractors and OFCCP Compliance, Government Contracting, and Reporting blogs as additional information becomes available.

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