Frequently Asked Questions

Note: The content of this page was modified in September 2013

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A. OES data overview


  1. What does the OES program produce?

    The OES program produces employment and wage estimates for over 800 occupations. These are estimates of the number of jobs in certain occupations, and estimates of the wages paid to them. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual States, and for metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), metropolitan divisions, and nonmetropolitan areas; national occupational estimates for specific industries are also available.

  2. What are the OES data used for?

    The OES program is the only comprehensive source of regularly produced occupational employment and wage rate information for the U.S. economy, as well as States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and all metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas in each State.

    Occupational employment data are used to develop information regarding current and projected employment needs and job opportunities. This information is used in the production of State education and workforce development plans. These data enable the analysis of the occupational composition of different industries, and the comparison of occupational composition across States and local areas, including analysis for economic development purposes. OES employment estimates also are used as job placement aids by helping to identify industries that employ the skills gained by enrollees in career-technical training programs. In addition, OES survey data serve as primary inputs into occupational information systems designed for those who are exploring career opportunities or assisting others in career decision making.

    OES data are used by several other BLS and government programs, such as the BLS Employment Projections program, the Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Employment Standards Administration (ESA). OES data are used to establish the fixed employment weights for the Employment Cost Index and in the calculation of occupational rates for the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Wage data also are provided to ETA's Foreign Labor Certification program for use in administering the H1-B visa program.

    Employment and wage data for detailed science, engineering, mathematical, and other occupations are provided to the National Science Foundation, along with the complete staffing patterns for all industries.

    Occupational wage data are used by job seekers and employers to determine salary ranges for different occupations in different locations and in different industries. OES employment and wage data also can be found in ETA's CareerOneStop.

    Many users of OES data use data provided by the State Labor Market Information programs. OES data are used by workforce investment boards and economic development programs to attract businesses. The data provide information on labor availability by occupation as well as average wages. OES is frequently cited as the most popular labor market information program within States.

    Finally, employment and wage data are used by academic and government researchers to study labor markets and wage and employment trends. These data inform the so-called “good-jobs/bad-jobs” debate on how business cycles and structural economic change affect wages and employment across the range of occupations; and how many and what types of jobs are impacted by off-shore outsourcing. Currently, OES staffing patterns and wage data are being used by MedPAC in research to improve the calculation of Medicare reimbursement rates.

  3. What are the differences between the Bureau's Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) wage estimates and National Compensation Survey (NCS) wage estimates?

    Both the OES and the NCS programs provide information on wages and salaries by occupation, but they have different strengths. The table below provides a summary of some of the important similarities and differences.

    Comparison of OES data and NCS data

    OES

    NCS

    Information for detailed occupations X
    Mean, 10th, 25th, 50th (median), 75th, and 90th percentile wages X X
    Greatest range of occupations and geographic areas X
    Jobs classified by type of work performed X X
    Collect information on duties and responsibilities of the job X
    Provides wage information for an average of all workers in the occupation X
    Provides wage information for occupations at specific levels of work X
    Best for general wage profile of a large number of occupations in a large number of areas X
    Include full and part-time workers who are paid a wage or salary X X
    Assumes standardized work schedules from the surveyed establishment X
    Obtains actual work schedules from the surveyed establishment X
    Exclude agricultural, fishing and foresting industries, and private household workers X X
    Includes U.S. Postal Service and Federal government employment X

  4. What is the difference between industry-specific and cross-industry estimates?

    Industry-specific estimates

    • Calculated with data collected from establishments in one particular industry.
    • Since different industries employ people in different occupations, the occupations in the staffing pattern for a particular industry will not be the same as the occupations in the staffing pattern for another industry.
    • Available at the national level; research estimates available at the state level.

    Cross-industry estimates

    • Calculated with data collected from establishments in all the industries for which a particular occupation is reported.
    • Not every occupation is reported in every industry.
    • For example, the cross-industry occupational employment estimate for mechanical engineers is the sum of all the industry-specific estimates for mechanical engineers. Likewise, cross-industry occupational wage estimates for mechanical engineers are calculated from data collected from establishments in all the industries where mechanical engineers are reported.
    • Available at the national, state, and metropolitan area levels.

  5. Why does the OES program produce estimates from more than one year's data?

    Significant reductions in sampling error can be achieved by taking advantage of a full three years of data, covering 1.2 million establishments and about 62 percent of the employment in the United States. This feature is particularly important in improving the reliability of estimates for detailed occupations in small geographical areas. Combining multiple years of data is also necessary to obtain full coverage of the largest establishments. In order to reduce respondent burden, the OES survey samples these establishments with virtual certainty only once every three years. While there are significant advantages, there are also limitations associated with this estimation procedure in that it requires “updating” for the earlier years of data and limits the usefulness of OES data for time series analysis. (See Can OES data be used to compare changes in employment and wages over time? for more information.)

    The May 2013 employment and wage estimates were calculated using data collected in the May 2013, November 2012, May 2012, November 2011, May 2011, and November 2010 semi-annual panels. The older panels' wage data have been adjusted to the May 2013 reference period using the over-the-year wage change in the most applicable Employment Cost Index series. The employment from the six panels has been benchmarked to the average of the November 2012 and May 2013 employment in each industry cell.

  6. How is the OES survey conducted?

    The OES survey is a semi-annual mail survey of non-farm establishments. The BLS produces the survey materials and selects the establishments to be surveyed. The sampling frame (the list from which establishments to be surveyed are selected) is derived from the list of establishments maintained by State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) for unemployment insurance purposes. Establishments to be surveyed are selected in order to obtain data from every metropolitan and nonmetropolitan area in every State, across all surveyed industries, and from establishments of varying sizes. The SWAs mail the survey materials to the selected establishments and make follow-up calls to request data from nonrespondents or to clarify data. The collected data are used to produce occupational estimates at the National, State, and sub-State levels.

  7. When will this year's OES estimates be available?

    Estimates are generally released in late March or early April. Please check the OES homepage around that time for a scheduled release date.


B. Data we have

  
  1. Does OES have estimates for specific industries?

    Yes. The table in Where can OES estimates be found? shows where to find OES estimates, including national industry-specific occupational employment and wage estimates. For more information on the industry classification system used by OES, please see What is the NAICS?

    Industry data is generally only available at the national level. For May 2012 and May 2013, however, some industry-specific OES estimates for individual States are available for research purposes. Please see the OES Research Estimates page for more information.

  2. Does OES have estimates for individual States?

    Yes. The table in Where can OES estimates be found? shows where to find OES estimates, including cross-industry occupational employment and wage estimates for individual States.

  3. Does OES have estimates for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas?

    Yes. The table in Where can OES estimates be found? shows where to find OES estimates, including cross-industry occupational employment and wage estimates for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

    OES has data for 586 metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, including 380 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and 34 metropolitan divisions which make up 11 of the MSAs. Please note, however, that not all areas have information for all occupations. In New England, areas are defined based on New England City and Town Areas (NECTA). A listing of the areas and their definitions can be found on the MSA definitions page.


C. Data we do not have

  
  1. Does OES produce estimates by age, race, sex, education, or any other demographic characteristics?

    No. The OES survey does not gather demographic information. The BLS Current Population Survey program provides information on employment, unemployment, and weekly earnings by a variety of demographic characteristics.

  2. Does OES produce estimates by size of establishment?

    No. The OES survey does not produce estimates based on total establishment employment. Information pertaining to the number of establishments in various employment size classes and their aggregate employment (economy wide and by industry) can be obtained by contacting the staff at the Quarterly Census of Employment & Wages program.

  3. Does OES have any data on unemployment for specific occupations?

    No. The OES survey is an occupational employment and wage survey only. Information on selected unemployment indicators (including broad occupational groups) can be found in “The Employment Situation” news release from the BLS Current Population Survey.

  4. Does OES have any information on job vacancies?

    No. The OES survey does not ask establishments for vacancy information. Another BLS program, the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), asks establishments for the number of job openings on the last business day of each month. However, the data are not available by occupation. Job seekers can find links to State job banks and to private-sector job banks at www.jobbankinfo.org.

  5. Does OES have occupational employment projections or information on occupational outlook?

    No. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Office of Employment Projections provides 10-year employment projections by occupation. For more than 50 years, the Bureau's Occupational Outlook Handbook has been a nationally recognized source of career information. It describes what workers do on the job, working conditions, the training and education needed, wages from the OES survey, and expected job prospects for a variety of occupations.

  6. Does OES have occupational employment estimates that include the self-employed?

    No. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' Office of Employment Projections provides current and projected national economy-wide occupational employment estimates that include the self-employed.

  7. Are OES industry and public/private ownership data available beyond the national level—for states and metropolitan / nonmetropolitan areas?

    No. BLS publishes estimates by industry and public/private ownership type at the national level only. Some industry-specific OES estimates for individual States, however, are available for research purposes; please see the OES Research Estimates page for more information.

  8. Do the OES wage estimates include benefits?

    No. OES wage estimates represent wages and salaries only, and do not include nonproduction bonuses or employer costs of nonwage benefits, such as health insurance or employer contributions to retirement plans. Information on cost of benefits, benefit incidence, and detailed plan provisions is available from the National Compensation Survey program.


D. Definitions, concepts, and classifications

  
  1. What is the difference between an establishment, an industry, and an occupation?

    An establishment is the physical location of a certain economic activity, for example, a factory, mine, store, or office. Generally a single establishment produces a single good or provides a single service. An enterprise (a private firm, government, or nonprofit organization) could consist of a single establishment or multiple establishments. A multi-establishment enterprise could have all its establishments in one industry (i.e., a chain), or could have various establishments in different industries (i.e., a conglomerate).

    An industry is a group of establishments that produce similar products or provide similar services. For example, all establishments that manufacture automobiles are in the same industry. A given industry, or even a particular establishment in that industry, might have employees in dozens of occupations. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) groups similar establishments into industries. What is the NAICS?

    An occupation is a set of activities or tasks that employees are paid to perform. Employees that perform essentially the same tasks are in the same occupation, whether or not they are in the same industry. Some occupations are concentrated in a few industries, while other occupations are found in the majority of industries.

  2. How are “employees” defined by the OES survey?

    “Employees” are all part-time and full-time workers who are paid a wage or salary. The survey does not cover the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers.

  3. How are “wages” defined by the OES survey?
  4. What are mean wages? What are median wages?

    The OES program produces estimates of wages by occupation, i.e., the wages paid to wage or salary employees in a given occupation in the U.S., in a particular State, or in a particular industry. These occupational wage estimates are either estimates of mean wages or percentiles, such as the median wage.

    • A mean wage is an average wage. An occupational mean wage estimate is calculated by summing the wages of all the employees in a given occupation and then dividing the total wages by the number of employees.
    • A percentile wage is a boundary. For example, an occupational median wage (50th percentile) estimate is the boundary between the highest paid 50 percent and the lowest paid 50 percent of workers in that occupation. Half of the workers in a given occupation earn more than the median wage, and half the workers earn less than the median wage. For more information, see the page on percentiles.
  5. How does OES classify occupations?

    In 1999, the OES survey began using the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The May 2010 OES estimates mark the first set of estimates based, in part, on data collected for the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification system. Most occupations in this release are 2010 occupations. In some cases, however, an estimate for a temporary occupation was created from data reported for one or more occupations in the 2000 SOC combined with data reported for one or more 2010 SOC occupations. Some occupations have the same title as a 2010 SOC occupation, but not the same content. These occupations are marked with an asterisk (*) and given a temporary code for the OES data. Starting with the May 2012 data, the OES data reflects the full set of detailed occupations in the 2010 SOC. The detailed SOC occupations are allocated among these twenty-three major groups:

    • 11-0000 Management Occupations
    • 13-0000 Business and Financial Operations Occupations
    • 15-0000 Computer and Mathematical Occupations
    • 17-0000 Architecture and Engineering Occupations
    • 19-0000 Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations
    • 21-0000 Community and Social Service Occupations
    • 23-0000 Legal Occupations
    • 25-0000 Education, Training and Library Occupations
    • 27-0000 Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations
    • 29-0000 Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations
    • 31-0000 Healthcare Support Occupations
    • 33-0000 Protective Service Occupations
    • 35-0000 Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
    • 37-0000 Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations
    • 39-0000 Personal Care and Service Occupations
    • 41-0000 Sales and Related Occupations
    • 43-0000 Office and Administrative Support Occupations
    • 45-0000 Farming, Fishing, and Forestry Occupations
    • 47-0000 Construction and Extraction Occupations
    • 49-0000 Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations
    • 51-0000 Production Occupations
    • 53-0000 Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
    • 55-0000 Military Specific Occupations (not surveyed in OES)

    More information about the Standard Occupational Classification system, including the full SOC structure, is available from the BLS SOC page. Detailed information on using the SOC to classify occupations can be found in the SOC User Guide.

  6. Is the OES classification system compatible with other occupational classification systems?

    Yes. OES uses the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, which was designed to be used by all Federal statistical agencies reporting occupational data. The SOC is fully compatible with the occupational classifications used by the U.S. Bureau of the Census and O*NET. The U.S. Census Bureau provides a number of SOC-related crosswalks, including that of Census Occupational Classification to SOC, and for mapping older versions of the SOC to newer versions. The National Crosswalk Service Center provides crosswalks between the SOC and other systems, including O*NET, Military Occupational Classification (MOC), and the OES classification system used before 1999.

  7. What is the latest news about the 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) revision?

    Please visit the BLS SOC website for more information.

  8. How does the OES program define industry classifications? What is the NAICS? What do the "OES designations" for government industries mean?

    The OES program uses definitions of industries found in the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The NAICS is used throughout the Federal Government to group establishments into industries based on the goods or services they produce. The NAICS structure makes it possible to collect and calculate establishment data by broad industrial sectors, subsectors (3-digit NAICS levels), industry groups (4-digit NAICS levels), and NAICS industries (5-digit NAICS levels).

    The OES survey produces occupational employment and wage estimates for sector, 3-, 4-, and selected 5-digit NAICS levels. With the exception of schools and hospitals, industry-specific estimates only include privately owned establishments. Schools and hospitals that are owned by State and local governments are included with the estimates of privately owned schools and hospitals in the appropriate NAICS code. OES classifies most government-owned establishments differently from the NAICS. The NAICS classifies government establishments according to their primary function and includes detailed industries within sector 92 Public Administration. The OES does not use NAICS sector 92. Instead, the OES survey produces occupational employment and wage estimates at the Federal, State, and local Government levels and denotes them with industry codes 9991, 9992, and 9993, respectively. The State and local government data consist of all State and local government establishments, except schools and hospitals. Data for State and local government, including schools and hospitals, are also available. Estimates for schools and hospitals are available for private, state, and local government ownerships combined, as well as by individual ownership types. The Federal Government estimates consist of all establishments in the executive branch of the Federal Government. Beginning in 2010, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) data is included in the Federal Government estimates as well. The judicial and legislative branches of the Federal Government are not surveyed.

    For more information on the availability and classification of public/private ownership data, please see What type of public/private ownership data does OES have?

  9. What industries are surveyed? What industries are not surveyed?

    The OES survey collects occupational employment and wage data from establishments in nonfarm industries only, and produces estimates for the following sectors, or 2-digit industries, and the 3-, 4-, and selected 5- and 6-digit industries that comprise them.

    Industries surveyed (by sector):

    • Sector 11 - Forestry and Logging
    • Sector 21 - Mining
    • Sector 22 - Utilities
    • Sector 23 - Construction
    • Sectors 31, 32, and 33 - Manufacturing
    • Sector 42 - Wholesale Trade
    • Sectors 44 and 45 - Retail Trade
    • Sectors 48 and 49 - Transportation and Warehousing
    • Sector 51 - Information
    • Sector 52 - Finance and Insurance
    • Sector 53 - Real Estate and Rental and Leasing
    • Sector 54 - Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
    • Sector 55 - Management of Companies and Enterprises
    • Sector 56 - Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services
    • Sector 61 - Educational Services
    • Sector 62 - Health Care and Social Assistance
    • Sector 71 - Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
    • Sector 72 - Accommodation and Food Services
    • Sector 81 - Other Services (except Federal, State, and Local Government)
    • Sector 99 - Federal, State, and Local Government, excluding state and local schools and hospitals, and the US Postal Service (OES Designation)

    Industries NOT surveyed:

    • NAICS 111 - Crop Production
    • NAICS 112 - Animal Production
    • NAICS 114 - Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping
    • NAICS 814 - Private Households

    For statistics on the U.S. agricultural sector, please visit the United States Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service program website.

  10. What is a Location Quotient?

    In general, a location quotient (LQ) is a ratio that compares the concentration of a resource or activity—employment, for example—in a defined area to that of a larger area or base. Using OES data, LQs can be used to compare local area occupational employment in a metropolitan statistical area or State to that of the nation as a whole. LQs greater (less) than one indicate a local concentration of employment that is higher (lower) than that of the U.S. as a whole.


    Location Quotient =

    (Area occupational employment / Area total employment)

                                                                                                              

    (U.S. occupational employment / U.S. total employment)

  11. Where can Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Definitions be found?

    The most recent Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan area definitions are available here.

  12. What is the SOC?

    The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system is used by Federal statistical agencies to classify workers and jobs into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, analyzing, or disseminating data. The 2010 SOC system contains 840 detailed occupations, aggregated into 461 broad occupations. In turn, the SOC combines these 461 broad occupations into 97 minor groups and 23 major groups.

    An alphabetical list of 2010 SOC definitions is available here.


E. How to get OES data

  
  1. Where can OES estimates be found?

    All OES data 1988 - present can be found here.

    Please see the table below for a summary of data availability by data type.

    OES Employment and Wage Estimates


     


    Cross-industry


    Industry-specific and by public/private ownership

    National

    National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates


    OES National Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates


    By State

    State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates


    Some estimates are available for research purposes. See the OES Research Estimates page.


    By Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area

    Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates


    May be available from State Workforce Agencies. Contact the appropriate office on the State Contact List


  2. Are OES estimates available in print form?

    No. Hard copies of OES estimates are not available. All pages on the BLS website, including OES estimates pages, however, can be converted to a printable format by clicking on the print button near the top right corner of the page. In addition, a variety of OES publications are available in PDF format.

  3. What are the different ways to obtain OES estimates from this website?

    OES data can be obtained in three ways, each having its own unique advantages and disadvantages:

    1. Browsing HTML tables
    2. Using the database query tool
    3. Downloading Excel spreadsheets

    HTML tables Navigate to the OES Data page and click on the "HTML" links according to your desired level of analysis.

    Advantages:
    • Fastest and most convenient way to access OES data.
    • Provide an overview of the estimates produced by the OES survey.
    • Links within each HTML page that provide access to additional information.

    Disadvantages:
    • Data selections are not customizable.
    • Not all data variables produced by the OES survey (such as percentile wages) are displayed.

    Database query tool Navigate to the OES Query System, then choose the appropriate specifications. The resulting table can be viewed in either HTML or Microsoft Excel format.

    Advantages:
    • Highly customizable; provides fast answers to specific questions without having to look through large tables or spreadsheets.
    • Ability to select data according occupations, industries, geographic areas, and data variables.

    Disadvantages:
    • Only most recent year of data is available.
    • Not all data variables produced by OES are available.

    Downloading the Data Navigate to the OES Data page and click on the "XLS" links to download Microsoft Excel spreadsheet files.

    Advantages:
    • The only way to comprehensively access all available OES data (all years, all data variables).

    Disadvantages:
    • The sheer wealth of information may overwhelm some data users. As such, this format is recommended for users who would like to use the OES data in order to make calculations or conduct economic research.
  4. Are OES data available for previous years?

    Yes. The OES survey began in 1997, and data is available annually for 1997 - present. No data is available for 1996. Limited data from an older version of the survey is available for 1988 - 1995. All years of OES data are available here. Please see the descriptive paragraphs below for more information on the limitations of the older data.

    NOTE: If you are using OES data from previous years, please be sure to read Can OES data be used to compare changes in employment or wages over time? before conducting any analyses.

    State data

      1997 - present
    • Cross-industry data available
    • 1988 - 1995
    • No OES data available
    • Check with State workforce agencies for possible datasets.

    Metropolitan area data

    Nonmetropolitan area data

      2006 - present
    • Cross-industry data available
    • 1988 - 1995
    • No OES data available
    • Check with State workforce agencies for possible datasets.

    Ownership data

    Occupation data

      2010 - present
    • 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system in use.
    • 1999 - 2009
    • 2000 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system in use.
    • 1988 - 1998
    • OES proprietary occupational classification system in use.

    Industry data

      2012 - present
    • 2012 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) in use.
    • Data available by sector, 3-, 4-, and selected 5- and 6-digit NAICS levels.
    • 2008 - 2011
    • 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) in use.
    • Data available by sector, 3-, 4-, and selected 5- and 6-digit NAICS levels.
    • Most significant revisions from 2002 NAICS in the Information Sector, particularly within NAICS 517000 - Telecommunications.
    • 2002 - 2007
    • 2002 NAICS in use.
    • Sector and 3-digit NAICS levels not available for 2002.
    • 1997 - 2001
    • Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system in use.
    • 2-digit and 3-digit SIC levels available.
    • 1988 - 1995
    • 2-digit and 3-digit SIC levels available
    • Data for each industry available once every three years.
    • Do not include: wage estimates; State, metropolitan, or nonmetropolitan area data; or total national employment by occupation.
    • Not possible to calculate total national employment for a given occupation by summing across industries.
    • Useful mainly to data users interested in occupational staffing patterns for specific industries.
    • Please see table below for a list of industries available

    Industries available, 1988 - 1995 OES estimates

    INDUSTRY 1987 SIC CODE YEARS AVAILABLE
    Agricultural services 07 1992, 1995
    Mining 10-14 1990, 1993
    Construction 15-17 1990, 1993
    Manufacturing 20-39 1989, 1992, 1995
    Transportation and public utilities 40-49 1988, 1991, 1994
    Wholesale trade 50-51 1988, 1991, 1994
    Retail trade 52-59 1988, 1991, 1994
    Finance, insurance, and real estate 60-67 1990, 1993
    Services (includes health care, except hospitals) 70-87, 89 1990, 1993
    Hospitals 806 1989, 1992, 1995
    Educational services 82 1988, 1991, 1994
    State government - 1988, 1991, 1994
    Local government - 1988, 1991, 1994

F. Other important information about OES data

  
  1. Can OES data be used to compare changes in employment or wages over time?

    Although the OES survey methodology is designed to create detailed cross-sectional employment and wage estimates for the U.S., States, metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, across industry and by industry, it is less useful for comparisons of two or more points in time. Challenges in using OES data as a time series include changes in the occupational, industrial, and geographical classification systems, changes in the way data are collected, changes in the survey reference period, and changes in mean wage estimation methodology, as well as permanent features of the methodology.

    Changes in occupational classification The OES survey used its own occupational classification system through 1998. The 1999 OES survey data provide estimates for most of the nonresidual occupations in the 2000 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The 2004-2009 OES data provides estimates for all occupations in the 2000 SOC. The May 2010 data provides estimates for most occupations in the 2010 SOC (for more on the 2010 occupations, see below). Because of these changes, it may be difficult to compare some occupations even if they are found in both classification systems. For example, both the old OES system and the 2000 SOC include the occupation “computer programmers.” However, estimates for this occupation may not be comparable over time because the 2000 SOC has several computer-related occupations that were not included in the older classification system. Workers in newly classified occupations, such as systems software engineers and applications software engineers, may have been reported as computer programmers in the past. Therefore, even occupations that appear the same in the two systems may show employment shifts due to the addition or deletion of related occupations.

    Changes in industrial classification In 2002, the OES survey switched from the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). As a result, there were changes in many industry definitions. Even definitions that appear similar between the two industry classifications may have differences because of the way auxiliary establishments are treated. For example, under SIC the industry “grocery stores” included their retail establishments, warehouses, transportation facilities, and administrative headquarters. Under NAICS, the four establishment types would be reported in separate industries. Only the retail establishments would be included in the NAICS industry for “grocery stores.” The change in industrial classification also resulted in changes to the occupations listed on the survey form for a given industry. In 2008, the OES survey switched to the 2007 NAICS classification system from the 2002 NAICS. The most significant revisions are in the Information Sector, particularly within the Telecommunications area. Beginning in 2010, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) data is included in the Federal Government estimates.

    Changes in geographical classification In May 2005, the OES survey began using metropolitan area definitions based on new standards and the results of the Census 2000. Prior to 2005, OES had data for 334 metropolitan areas. As of 2011, OES has data for 586 metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas, including 380 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and 34 metropolitan divisions which make up 11 of the MSAs.

    Changes in the way the data are collected In the past, employment in some occupations in an industry may have been reported in a residual category rather than in the specific occupation. In order to limit the length of most survey forms to 24 pages, the forms list only the occupations that are likely to be found in the employer's industry. Prior to 2001, if an employer had an occupation that was not included on the form, the respondent may have reported the worker in an “all other” or residual category or in a related occupation. Currently, the employer is asked to report detailed occupational information for workers that cannot be placed in one of the occupations listed on the form on a separate page. This change may have the effect of showing increased employment in occupations not on the form for a particular industry. In addition, changes to the occupations listed on forms may cause employers to classify workers differently.

    Changes in the survey reference period In 2002, the reference months for the OES survey were changed from October, November, and December to May and November in order to reduce seasonal influences. Industries or occupations that have seasonal employment variations between the two sets of reference months will show employment shifts due to the change in the time of year the data were collected.

    Changes in mean wage estimation methodology In 2002, the method of calculating mean wages was changed for occupations with any workers earning above $70 per hour in order to remove a downward bias in mean wage estimates. The result of this change may be seen as higher mean wage estimates for some occupations. However, the median and percentile wage estimates would not be affected by this change.

    Permanent features of OES methodology The OES methodology that allows such detailed area and industry estimates also makes it difficult to use OES data for comparisons across short time periods. In order to produce estimates for a given reference period, employment and wages are collected from establishments in six semiannual panels for three consecutive years. Every six months, a new panel of data is added, and the oldest panel is dropped, resulting in a moving average staffing pattern. The three years of employment data are benchmarked to represent the total employment for the reference period. The wages of the older data are adjusted by the Employment Cost Index. This methodology assumes that industry staffing patterns change slowly and that detailed occupational wage rates in an area change at the same rate as the national change in the ECI wage component for the occupational group.

    The use of six data panels to create a set of estimates means that sudden changes in occupational employment or wages in the population or changes in methodology show up in the OES estimates gradually.

    Given the above changes, it is difficult to make conclusive comparisons of OES data over time. However, comparisons of occupations that are not affected by classification changes may be possible if the methodological assumptions hold.

    The OES program is considering changes in methodology that would make data useful for time-series comparisons, at least at more aggregated levels, but these are only in early stages of discussion. The Bureau of Labor Statistics at present does not use or encourage the use of OES data for time-series analysis. Where users choose to make such comparisons, we would caution them to note the changes in survey procedures and the limits of the methods used with a pooled sample.

  2. How should OES data be cited?

    The suggested citation for the Occupational Employment Statistics web site is:

    Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, [date accessed] [www.bls.gov/oes/].

    The suggested citation for articles from the Occupational Employment and Wages bulletin is:

    Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment and Wages, [year], Bulletin [number], U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, [year].

  3. Why does the sum of the areas within a State not equal the statewide employment?

    The sum of the areas may differ from statewide employment for several reasons:

    • Rounding
    • The totals include data items that are not released separately due to confidentiality and quality reasons.
    • Many States include metropolitan areas that cross State lines. These cross-State metropolitan area estimates include data from each State, which should not be included in a total for a single State.
    • A small number of establishments indicate the State in which their employees are located, but do not indicate the specific metropolitan or nonmetropolitan area in which they are located. Data for these establishments are used in the calculation of the statewide estimates, but are not included in the estimates of any individual area.

  4. Why are there no estimates for a particular occupation in a specific area or industry?

    Individual occupational employment and wage estimates may be withheld from publication for a number of reasons, including failure to meet BLS quality standards or the need to protect the confidentiality of our survey respondents. In order to further ensure confidentiality, OES is not able to provide the specific reason that an estimate was not released. Unpublished OES estimates cannot be made available to the public.

    In general, if either an employment or a wage estimate (but not both) is available for an occupation, the occupation will appear in the data with the unpublished estimate footnoted “Estimate not released.” If neither an employment nor a wage estimate could be published, the occupation will not be shown in the data. Occupations for which separate data are unavailable are included in the estimates for the appropriate major group category and in the “all occupations” totals. For this reason, major group and “all occupations” employment estimates may exceed the sum of the employment estimates for the available detailed occupations.

  5. Why don't the major group or “all occupations” employment totals equal the sum of the employment estimates for detailed occupations?

    The major group and “all occupations” totals may include detailed occupations for which separate employment estimates could not be published. As a result, employment totals at the major group and “all occupations” levels may be greater than the sum of employment estimates for the detailed occupations. Please see Why are there no estimates for a particular occupation in a specific area or industry? for more information on unreleased estimates.

    Because the major group employment totals include employment for the detailed occupations in that group, summing across both detailed occupations and major groups will result in double counting of occupational employment. When this occurs, the calculated employment total will exceed the "all occupations" employment total for the area or industry. To avoid double counting, data users should exclude either the major group or detailed occupation data before summing the employment figures. In the downloadable data files, this can be accomplished by using the spreadsheet program to filter the data on the “group” field.

  6. What kind of public/private ownership data does OES have?

    OES has limited ownership estimates for years 1997-2008. After methodology changes introduced in 2006 were applied to a full 3-year sample rotation, new estimates by public/private ownership were made available in 2009.

    Ownership data can be viewed in HTML table format or downloaded in Excel spreadsheet format by following the “national industry-specific and by ownership” links on the OES Data page.

    OES has additionally created a set of ownership codes which correspond to NAICS classification. The OES “all data” and “research estimates” files contain a field with these ownership codes to help users sort and filter these very large datasets.

    Please see the reference tables below for a list of ownership codes and a summary of ownership data availability by year.

    NOTE: OES added new ownership codes and changed the way it classifies some ownership data in August 2013, so files downloaded before then may indicate different ownership codes than current files.


    OES ownership codes

    OWNERSHIP TYPE

    OWNERSHIP
    CODE

    Federal Government 1
    State Government 2
    Local Government 3
    Federal, State, and Local Government 123
    Private 5
    State Government, Local Government, and Private 235
    Federal, State, and Local Government and Private 1235
    Private plus State and Local Government Hospitals 58
    Private and Postal Service 59

    Ownership data available 2009-current

    NAICS
    CODES

    NAICS TITLE

    OWNERSHIP
    CODES

    48, 49 Transportation and warehousing 59
    491, 4911 Postal service (federal government) 1
    61 Educational services
    (including private, state, and local government schools)
    235
    611 Educational services 2, 3, 235
    6111 Educational services 3
    6111 Elementary and secondary schools 2, 3, 235
    6112 Junior colleges 2, 3, 235
    6113 Colleges, universities, and professional schools 2, 3, 235
    6114 Business schools and computer and management training
    (including private, state, and local government schools)
    235
    6115 Technical and trade schools 2, 3, 235
    6116 Other schools and instruction 3, 235
    6117 Educational support services 3, 235
    62 Health care and social assistance
    (including private, state, and local government hospitals)
    58
    622 Hospitals 2, 3, 235
    6221 General medical and surgical hospitals 2, 3, 235
    6222 Psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals 2, 235
    6223 Specialty hospitals 2, 235
    99, 999 Federal, state, and local government
    (excluding state and local government owned schools
    and hospitals and USPS)
    123
    9991 Federal government executive branch only 1
    9992 State government
    (excluding schools and hospitals)
    2
    9993 Local government
    (excluding schools and hospitals)
    3
    All other All other industries not listed above 5

    Ownership data available 1997-2008

    NAICS
    CODES

    NAICS TITLE

    OWNERSHIP
    CODES

    61, 611 Educational services 1235
    6111 Elementary and secondary schools 1235
    6112 Junior colleges 1235
    6113 Colleges, universities, and professional schools 1235
    6114 Business schools and computer and management training 1235
    6115 Technical and trade schools 1235
    6116 Other schools and instruction 1235
    6117 Educational Support Services 1235
    622 Hospitals 1235
    6221 General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 1235
    6222 Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals 1235
    6223 Specialty hospitals 1235
    99, 999 Federal, state, and local government
    (excluding state and local government owned schools
    and hospitals and USPS)
    123
    9991 Federal government executive branch only 1
    9992 State government, excluding schools and hospitals 2
    9993 Local government, excluding schools and hospitals 3
    All other All other industries not listed above 5

    Ownership data NOT available, all years


    NAICS
    CODES

    NAICS TITLE

    OWNERSHIP
    CODES

    6114 Business schools and computer and management training 2, 3
    6116 Other schools and instruction 2
    6117 Educational Support Services 2
    6222 Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals 3
    6223 Specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals 3

  7. Can OES data be used to compare private and government pay for similar work?

    Occupational wages in the different ownership groups (the private sector, and state, local, and federal governments) are influenced by many factors that the OES measures cannot take into account. Thus, while one can obtain OES data that compare estimates of mean and median wages paid in a wide range of detailed occupations across ownership groups, those comparisons do not explain why they might be different. Among the many reasons are:

      Level of work performed
    • Workers may have different levels of responsibility, despite being in the same occupation.
    • Age and experience
    • More experienced workers tend to have higher wages.
    • As an example, data from the Current Population Survey show that federal workers, on average, are older and have far more work experience with their employer than the typical private-sector worker.
    • Cost of living
    • Workers concentrated in large urban areas with higher costs of living are more likely to have higher wages than those working elsewhere.
    • Establishment size
    • Workers in large establishments generally have higher wages than workers in small establishments.
    • Work schedules
    • Full-time workers tend to earn higher hourly wages than part-time workers in the same occupation.
    • The OES annual wage estimates assume a full-time, year-round schedule of 2,080 hours.
    • Unionization
    • Workers in unionized establishments may have different wages than non-union establishments.

    OES data are not designed for use in comparing federal and private sector pay because the OES data do not contain information about pay according to the level of work performed. BLS conducts a separate survey, the National Compensation Survey, which provides data by level of work for use by the President's Pay Agent. The President's Pay Agent (the Directors of the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget, and the Secretary of Labor) is charged by law with recommending federal pay adjustments to the President. Questions about federal pay comparability should be directed to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

  8. How were the occupations in the May 2010 and May 2011 estimates created from data based on the 2000 and 2010 SOC codes?

    The data for the November 2009, May 2010, November 2010, and May 2011 panels were collected based on the 2010 SOC, while data for the two older panels were collected based on the 2000 SOC. With a few exceptions, almost all the occupations are the same in the 2000 and 2010 occupational classifications systems; in other words, occupations could be combined in one year to be the equivalent of an occupation in another year. Whenever possible, the 2010 occupation was used in estimation. There were several cases, however, where occupations from the two structures had to be combined into a hybrid occupation to used temporarily in OES only.

    The starting point for combining data collected under both systems was the SOC crosswalk (see the BLS SOC page for more details). In order to better address the OES customers' need for detailed occupational data, however, sometimes OES combined data differently. For example, the SOC crosswalk shows that the 2010 SOC occupation solar photovoltaic installers was crosswalked to several 2000 occupations, including carpenters, electricians, and roofers. For the 2010 OES estimates, these lines of the crosswalk were ignored, and estimates are available for each of these occupations—carpenters, electricians, roofers—even though it is possible that in the four earlier panels of data, employers may have reported solar photovoltaic panel installers in these occupations.

    To download an occupational crosswalk between the hybrid SOC-OES 2010 and the SOC 2000 or the SOC 2010, please see the 2010 and 2011 OES classification Excel spreadsheet. Listed below are the occupations which are in the 2010 OES estimates, but not in the 2010 SOC.

    Occupations which are in the May 2010 and May 2011 OES estimates, but not in the 2010 SOC

    OES 2011 CODE OES TITLE HOW THE OCCUPATION IS BASED ON 2000 AND 2010 SOC CODES NOTES
    11-9013 Farmers, Ranchers, and Other Agricultural Managers This occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupation 11-9013 and the 2000 SOC occupations 11-9011 Farm, ranch and other agricultural managers and 11-9012 Farmers and ranchers 2010 occupation
    13-1078 Human Resources, Training, and Labor Relations Specialists, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 13-1071 Human Resources Specialists and 13-1075 Labor Relations Specialists and the 2000 SOC occupations 13-1071 Employment, Recruitment, and Placement Specialists and 13-1079 Human Resources, Training, and Labor Relations Specialists, All Other.
    15-1150 Computer Support Specialists* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 15-1151 Computer User Support Specialists and 15-1152 Computer Network Support Specialists and the 2000 SOC occupation 15-1041 Computer Support Specialists.
    15-1179 Information Security Analysts, Web Developers, and Computer Network Architects* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 15-1122 Information Security Analysts, 15-1134 Web Developers, 15-1143 Computer Network Architects and the 2000 SOC occupation 15-1081 Network Systems and Data Communications Analysts.
    15-1799 Computer Occupations, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupation 15-1199 Computer Occupations, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 15-1099 Computer Specialists, All Other.
    21-1798 Community and Social Service Specialists, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 21-1094 Community Health Workers and 21-1099 Community and Social Service Specialists, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 21-1099 Community and Social Service Specialists, All Other.
    25-2041 Special Education Teachers, Preschool, Kindergarten, and Elementary School* This occupation is a combination of the 2000 SOC occupation 25-2041 Special education teachers, preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school, and the 2010 SOC occupations 25-2051 special education teachers preschool, and 25-2052 special education teachers, kindergarten and elementary. 2000 occupation
    25-3999 Teachers and Instructors, All Other* This occupation is a combination of the 2000 SOC occupation 25-3099 Teachers and instructors, all other; the 2010 SOC occupations 25-2059 Special education teachers, all other, 25-3099 Teachers and instructors, all other, and the OES only occupation, substitute teachers, for which data was collected in only one-third of the panels used in 2010 estimates. Teachers and Instructors, All Other, including special education teachers not specified separately
    29-1111 Registered Nurses* This occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2000 SOC occupation 29-1111 registered nurses; and the 2010 occupations 29-1141 Registered nurses, 29-1151 nurse anesthetists, 29-1161 nurse midwives, and 29-1171 nurse practitioners. 2000 occupation
    29-1128 Therapists, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 29-1128 Exercise Physiologists, 29-1129 Therapists, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 29-1129 Therapists, All Other. Therapists, All Other, including exercise physiologists*
    29-2037 Radiologic Technologists and Technicians* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 29-2034 Radiologic Technologists, 29-2035 Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists and the 2000 SOC occupation 29-2034 Radiologic Technologists and Technicians. Radiologic Technologists and Technicians, including Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists
    29-2799 Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 29-2057 Ophthalmic Medical Technicians, 29-2092 Hearing Aid Specialists, 29-2099 Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 29-2099 Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other. Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other, including hearing aid specialists and opthalmic medical technicians
    29-9799 Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 29-9092 Genetic Counselors, 29-9099 Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 29-9099 Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other. Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Workers, All Other, including genetic counselors
    31-1012 Nursing Aides, Orderlies, and Attendants* This occupation is a combination of the 2000 SOC occupation 31-1012 Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants, and the 2010 SOC occupations 31-1014 nursing aides and 31-1015 orderlies 2000 occupation
    31-9799 Healthcare Support Workers, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 31-9097 Phlebotomists, 31-9099 Healthcare Support Workers, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 31-9099 Healthcare Support Workers, All Other. Healthcare Support Workers, All Other, including phlebotomists
    39-4831 Funeral Service Managers, Directors, Morticians, and Undertakers This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 11-9061 Funeral Service Managers, 39-4031 Morticians, Undertakers and Funeral Directors and the 2000 SOC occupation 11-9061 Funeral Directors.
    41-9799 Sales and Related Workers, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 13-1131 Fundraisers, 41-9099 Sales and Related Workers, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 41-9099 Sales and Related Workers, All Other. Sales and Related Workers, All Other, including fundraisers
    43-9799 Office and Administrative Support Workers, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 43-3099 Financial Clerks, All Other, 43-9199 Office and Administrative Support Workers, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 43-9199 Office and Administrative Support Workers, All Other. Office and Administrative Support Workers, All Other, including finance clerks not identified separately
    47-4799 Construction and Related Workers, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 47-2231 Solar Photovoltaic Installers, 47-4099 Construction and Related Workers, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 47-4099 Construction and Related Workers, All Other. Construction and Related Workers, All Other including solar photovoltaic installers
    49-9799 Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Workers, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 49-9081 Wind Turbine Service Technicians, 49-9099 Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Workers, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 49-9099 Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Workers, All Other. Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Workers, All Other, including wind turbine service technicians
    51-9151 Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators This occupation is a combination of the 2010 SOC occupation 51-9151 Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators, and the 2000 SOC occupations 51-9131 Photographic process workers, and 51-9132 Photographic processing machine operators 2010 occupation
    51-9399 Production Workers, All Other* This OES occupation is a combination of data collected for the 2010 SOC occupations 51-3099 Food Processing Workers, All Other, 51-9199 Production Workers, All Other and the 2000 SOC occupation 51-9199 Production Workers, All Other. Production workers, all other, including food processing workers not specified separately*

    NOTE: Occupation titles followed by * have the same title, but not necessarily the same content as 2010 SOC occupations.

  9. Can I use OES data to obtain prevailing wages for foreign labor certification or federal contracts?

    No. The Foreign Labor Certification (FLC) program is administered by the Employment and Training Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, and covers foreign workers who are admitted to the U.S. under H1-B and other types of visas. Although OES data are used as an input in calculating FLC prevailing wages, FLC prevailing wage data are not identical to the OES wage estimates. Employers who need prevailing wages for the purpose of foreign labor certification should use the FLC Online Wage Library instead of OES data. More information about the Foreign Labor Certification program is available from the FLC home page.

    The Davis Bacon and Related Acts (DBRA) cover federal, District of Columbia, or federally assisted construction contracts. The McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act applies to federal and District of Columbia service contracts. Both programs are administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. Prevailing wage determinations for contracts subject to DBRA or SCA should be obtained using the Wage Determinations Online program. More details about the Davis Bacon and Related Acts are available from the DBRA home page; additional information about the Service Contract Act can be found on the SCA website.

 

Last Modified Date: April 3, 2014