An Earlier History
Surveys in the 1800's
For over a century, BLS has conducted studies
of wages by occupation and industry. The best known of the early
Bureau studies stemmed from a Senate resolution of March 3, 1891,
which instructed its Committee on Finance to investigate the effects
of tariff legislation on wages and prices. At the request of the
committee, the Bureau developed detailed data for 1889-91, a more
limited wage rate history extending back to 1860, and in some
cases to 1840.
From 1900 through the Depression
BLS continued to collect regular
surveys of wage data by occupation and industry after the turn
of the century. Changes in survey coverage were dictated mainly
by Federal government data needs. Thus, a large survey program
undertaken for the War Industries Board in 1919 produced occupational
pay rates by industry, State, and (for some industries) by city.
Between 1934 and 1940, the selection of industries studied was
determined largely by administrative needs under the National
Industrial Recovery Act, the Public Contracts Act, and the Fair
Labor Standards Act, with emphasis on nationwide data for relatively
Statistics Support the War Effort
In the early 1940's, BLS survey
activity shifted to heavy industries essential to war production.
Implementation of wage stabilization policy during the war required
a large-scale program of occupational wage studies by industry
and locality. After 1945, the emphasis on local data continued
with industry studies generally designed to yield both national
and regional estimates for occupations unique to specific industries.
Last Modified Date: October 16, 2001