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October, 1988, Vol. 111, No. 10
Evaluation of mean wage estimates
in the Industry Wage Survey program
The first annual report of the Commissioner of Labor, published in 1886, included the results of an occupational wage survey conducted by what is now the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1 The results, taken from payroll records of 582 establishments in about 40 mostly manufacturing industries, contained daily mean wage rates by occupations, industry, and State.
Since that first report, the BLS has continued the study of occupational wages by industry. This Industry Wage Survey program now includes approximately 25 manufacturing and 15 nonmanufacturing studies, which represent a total of about 65 industries. About eight surveys per year are conducted. Most surveys are done on either a 3- or 5-year cycle. For each survey, average (mean) wages and wage distributions for workers in selected occupations are published on a national, regional, or locality basis.
For any statistical survey program such as the Industry Wage Survey, a measure of the sampling error should be available for each mean wage estimate derived from the survey sample to provide an indication of the quality of the survey data. Sampling errors occur because the estimates are based on observations from a subset of the population rather than from the entire population. The particular sample selected for a survey is one of a large number of possible random samples of the same size that could have been selected.
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1 For more detailed information on the early years of the Industry Wage Survey program, see H.M. Douty, "A century of wage statistics: the BLS contribution," Monthly Labor Review, November 1984,pp. 16-28.
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