News Release Information


Thursday, July 11, 2013


Technical information:
Media contact:
  • (404) 893-4220

Occupational Employment and Wages in Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton,
May 2012

Workers in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area had an average (mean) hourly wage of $17.42 in May 2012, about 21 percent below the nationwide average of $22.01, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Regional Commissioner Janet S. Rankin noted that, after testing for statistical significance, twenty-one groups had significantly lower wages than their respective national averages, including construction and extraction; education, training, and library; and sales and related.

When compared to the nationwide distribution, local employment was more highly concentrated in 5 of the 22 occupational groups, including production, transportation and material moving, and healthcare support. Conversely, 15 groups had employment shares significantly below their national representation, including office and administrative support, management, and food preparation and serving related. (See table A and box note at end of release.)

One occupational group—production—was chosen to illustrate the diversity of data available for any of the 22 major occupational categories. Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton had 28,000 jobs in production, accounting for 19.6 percent of local area employment, significantly higher than the 6.6-percent share nationally. The average hourly wage for this occupational group locally was $14.75, measurably below the national wage of $16.59.

With employment of 3,340, team assemblers was the largest occupation within the production group, followed by upholsterers (2,380) and sewing machine operators (1,950). Among the higher paying jobs were first-line supervisors of production and operating workers and upholsterers, with mean hourly wages of $23.31 and $18.81, respectively. At the lower end of the wage scale were team assemblers ($12.53) and production workers helpers ($12.96). (Detailed occupational data for production are presented in table 1; for a complete listing of detailed occupations available go to

Table A. Occupational employment and wages by major occupational group, United States and the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area, and measures of statistical significance, May 2012
Major occupational group Percent of total employment Mean hourly wage
United States Hickory United States Hickory Percent difference (1)

Total, all occupations

100.0% 100.0% $22.01 $17.42* -21


4.9 3.4* 52.20 49.18* -6

Business and financial operations

4.9 2.2* 33.44 27.31* -18

Computer and mathematical

2.7 0.8* 38.55 31.20* -19

Architecture and engineering

1.8 0.9* 37.98 29.39* -23

Life, physical, and social science

0.8 0.3* 32.87 27.47* -16

Community and social services

1.4 1.5 21.27 18.67* -12


0.8 0.3* 47.39 32.40* -32

Education, training, and library

6.4 5.8* 24.62 19.32* -22

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media

1.3 0.5* 26.20 17.40* -34

Healthcare practitioner and technical

5.9 6.8* 35.35 30.72* -13

Healthcare support

3.0 4.4* 13.36 11.75* -12

Protective service

2.5 2.8* 20.70 14.90* -28

Food preparation and serving related

8.9 7.9* 10.28 9.17* -11

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance

3.3 2.3* 12.34 10.89* -12

Personal care and service

2.9 1.8* 11.80 10.60* -10

Sales and related

10.6 9.3* 18.26 15.51* -15

Office and administrative support

16.4 13.6* 16.54 14.57* -12

Farming, fishing, and forestry

0.3 0.1* 11.65 14.64* 26

Construction and extraction

3.8 1.9* 21.61 16.80* -22

Installation, maintenance, and repair

3.9 4.1 21.09 18.11* -14


6.6 19.6* 16.59 14.75* -11

Transportation and material moving

6.7 9.7* 16.15 14.17* -12

(1) A positive percent difference measures how much the mean wage in Hickory is above the national mean wage, while a negative difference reflects a lower wage.
* The percent share of employment or mean hourly wage for this area is significantly different from the national average of all areas at the 90-percent confidence level.

Location quotients allow us to explore the occupational make-up of a metropolitan area by comparing the composition of jobs in an area relative to the national average. (See table 1.) For example, a location quotient of 2.0 indicates that an occupation accounts for twice the share of employment in the area than it does nationally. In the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area, above average concentrations of employment were found in many of the occupations within the production group. For instance, upholsterers were employed at 77.9 times the national rate in Hickory, and sewing machine operators, at 12.5 times the U.S. average. On the other hand, electrical and electronic equipment assemblers had a location quotient of 1.1 in Hickory, indicating that this particular occupation's local and national employment shares were similar.

These statistics are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, a federal-state cooperative program between BLS and State Workforce Agencies, in this case, the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

With the release of the May 2012 estimates, OES data are based on the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system for the first time. The OES survey provides estimates of employment and hourly and annual wages for wage and salary workers in 22 major occupational groups and more than 800 detailed occupations for the nation, states, metropolitan statistical areas, metropolitan divisions, and nonmetropolitan areas. In addition, employment and wage estimates for 94 minor groups and 458 broad occupations are available in the national data for the first time. Information about the 2010 SOC is available on the BLS website at

The May 2012 OES estimates are the first to be produced using the 2012 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Information about the 2012 NAICS is available on the BLS website at .

OES wage and employment data for the 22 major occupational groups in the Hickory metropolitan statistical area were compared to their respective national averages based on statistical significance testing. Only those occupations with wages or employment shares above or below the national wage or share after testing for significance at the 90-percent confidence level meet the criteria.

NOTE: A value that is statistically different from another does not necessarily mean that the difference has economic or practical significance. Statistical significance is concerned with the ability to make confident statements about a universe based on a sample. It is entirely possible that a large difference between two values is not significantly different statistically, while a small difference is, since both the size and heterogeneity of the sample affect the relative error of the data being tested.

Technical Note

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey is a semiannual mail survey measuring occupational employment and wage rates for wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments in the United States. Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands are also surveyed, but their data are not included in the national estimates. OES estimates are constructed from a sample of about 1.2 million establishments. Forms are mailed to approximately 200,000 sampled establishments in May and November each year for a 3-year period. May 2012 estimates are based on responses from six semiannual panels collected in May 2012, November 2011, May 2011, November 2010, May 2010, and November 2009. The overall national response rate for the six panels is 76.6 percent based on establishments and 72.9 percent based on employment. The sample in the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area included 1,698 establishments with a response rate of 91 percent. For more information about OES concepts and methodology, go to

Area definitions

The substate area data published in this release reflect the standards and definitions established by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

The Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, N.C. Metropolitan Statistical Area  includes Alexander, Burke, Caldwell, and Catawba Counties.

Additional information

OES data are available on our regional web page at Answers to frequently asked questions about the OES data are available at Detailed technical information about the OES survey is available in our Survey Methods and Reliability Statement on the BLS website Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request – Voice phone: 202-691-5200; Federal Relay Service: 800-877-8339.

OOH Earnings Table Extraction Wizard - output frame
Table 1. Employment and wage data from the Occupational Employment Statistics survey, by occupation, Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area, May 2012
Occupation (1) Employment Mean wages
Level (2) Location quotient (3) Hourly Annual (4)

Production Occupations


First-Line Supervisors of Production and Operating Workers


Coil Winders, Tapers, and Finishers


Electrical and Electronic Equipment Assemblers


Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters


Team Assemblers


Assemblers and Fabricators, All Other




Butchers and Meat Cutters


Food Batchmakers


Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic


Cutting, Punching, and Press Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic


Drilling and Boring Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic


Grinding, Lapping, Polishing, and Buffing Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic


Milling and Planing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic




Molding, Coremaking, and Casting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic


Multiple Machine Tool Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic


Tool and Die Makers


Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers


Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Heat Treating Equipment Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Metal and Plastic


Prepress Technicians and Workers


Printing Press Operators


Print Binding and Finishing Workers


Laundry and Dry-Cleaning Workers


Pressers, Textile, Garment, and Related Materials


Sewing Machine Operators


Sewers, Hand


Textile Bleaching and Dyeing Machine Operators and Tenders


Textile Cutting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Textile Knitting and Weaving Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Textile Winding, Twisting, and Drawing Out Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Extruding and Forming Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Synthetic and Glass Fibers


Fabric and Apparel Patternmakers




Cabinetmakers and Bench Carpenters


Furniture Finishers


Model Makers, Wood


Patternmakers, Wood


Sawing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Wood


Woodworking Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders, Except Sawing


Power Plant Operators


Water and Wastewater Treatment Plant and System Operators


Grinding and Polishing Workers, Hand


Mixing and Blending Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Cutters and Trimmers, Hand


Cutting and Slicing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Extruding, Forming, Pressing, and Compacting Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Furnace, Kiln, Oven, Drier, and Kettle Operators and Tenders


Inspectors, Testers, Sorters, Samplers, and Weighers


Packaging and Filling Machine Operators and Tenders


Coating, Painting, and Spraying Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Painting, Coating, and Decorating Workers


Photographic Process Workers and Processing Machine Operators


Adhesive Bonding Machine Operators and Tenders


Paper Goods Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders


Helpers--Production Workers


Production Workers, All Other


(1) For a complete listing of all detailed occupations in Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC, see
(2) Estimates for detailed occupations do not sum to the totals because the totals include occupations not shown separately. Estimates do not include self-employed workers.
(3) The location quotient is the ratio of the area concentration of occupational employment to the national average concentration. A location quotient greater than one indicates the occupation has a higher share of employment than average, and a location quotient less than one indicates the occupation is less prevalent in the area than average.
(4) Annual wages have been calculated by multiplying the hourly mean wage by a 'year-round, full-time' hours figure of 2,080 hours; for those occupations where there is not an hourly mean wage published, the annual wage has been directly calculated from the reported survey data.
(5) Estimate not released.

Last Modified Date: July 11, 2013