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Economic News Release
OEWS OEWS Program Links

Occupational Employment and Wages Technical Note

Technical Note

Scope of the survey

  The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey is a semiannual survey
measuring occupational employment and wage rates for wage and salary workers in nonfarm
establishments in the United States. The OEWS data available from the Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS) include cross-industry occupational employment and wage estimates for the
nation; over 580 areas, including states and the District of Columbia, metropolitan
statistical areas (MSAs), nonmetropolitan areas, and territories; national industry-specific
estimates for North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) sector, 3-digit, most
4-digit, and selected 5- and 6-digit industry levels; and national estimates by ownership
across all industries and for schools and hospitals.
  The OEWS survey is a cooperative effort between BLS and the state workforce agencies (SWAs).
BLS funds the survey and provides the procedures and technical support, while the SWAs collect
most of the data. OEWS estimates are constructed from a sample of about 1.1 million 
establishments. Each year, two semiannual panels of approximately 181,000 to 189,000 sampled
establishments are contacted, one panel in May and the other in November. Responses are 
obtained by Internet or other electronic means, mail, email, telephone, or personal visit. The
May 2023 estimates are based on responses from six semiannual panels collected over a 3-year
period: May 2023, November 2022, May 2022, November 2021, May 2021, and November 2020. The
unweighted sampled employment of 81.4 million across all six semiannual panels represents 
approximately 55 percent of total national employment. The overall national response rate for
the six panels, based on the 50 states and the District of Columbia, is 65.8 percent based on
establishments and 64.3 percent based on weighted sampled employment.

The occupational coding system

  The May 2023 OEWS estimates contain approximately 830 occupational categories based on the
Office of Management and Budget's 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system.
These occupational categories make up 22 of the 23 SOC major occupational groups. Major group
55, Military Specific Occupations, is not included.
  For more information about the SOC system, please see the BLS website at

The industry coding system

  The May 2023 OEWS estimates use the 2022 NAICS. For more information about NAICS, see the
BLS website at
  The OEWS survey excludes the majority of the agricultural sector, with the exception of
logging (NAICS 113310), support activities for crop production (NAICS 1151), and support
activities for animal production (NAICS 1152). Private households (NAICS 814) are also
excluded. OEWS federal government data include the U.S. Postal Service and the federal
executive branch only. All other industries, including state and local government, are covered
by the survey.

Area definitions

  The May 2023 OEWS estimates use the metropolitan area definitions delineated in Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) Bulletin 17-01. Nonmetropolitan area definitions are specific to
the OEWS program and are set in consultation with the state workforce agencies. For more 
information, please see

Survey sample

  The OEWS survey draws its sample from state unemployment insurance (UI) files. Supplemental
sources are used for rail transportation (NAICS 4821) and Guam because they do not report to
the UI program. The OEWS survey sample is stratified by metropolitan and nonmetropolitan area,
industry, and size.
  To provide the most occupational coverage, larger employers are more likely to be selected
than smaller employers. A census is taken of the executive branch of the federal government,
the U.S. Postal Service, and state government.


  Occupational employment is the estimate of total wage and salary employment in an
occupation. The OEWS survey defines employment as the number of workers who can be classified
as full- or part-time employees, including workers on paid vacations or other types of paid 
leave; workers on unpaid short-term absences; salaried officers, executives, and staff members
of incorporated firms; employees temporarily assigned to other units; and employees for whom
the reporting unit is their permanent duty station, regardless of whether that unit prepares
their paycheck. The survey does not include the self-employed, owners and partners in 
unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers.
  Wages for the OEWS survey are straight-time, gross pay, exclusive of premium pay. Base rate;
cost-of-living allowances; guaranteed pay; hazardous-duty pay; incentive pay, including
commissions and production bonuses; and tips are included. Excluded are overtime pay,
severance pay, shift differentials, nonproduction bonuses, employer cost for supplementary
benefits, and tuition reimbursements.
  The responding establishments are instructed to report hourly rates for part-time workers
and to report annual rates for occupations that are typically paid at an annual rate but do
not work 2,080 hours per year, such as teachers, pilots, and flight attendants. Other workers,
such as some entertainment workers, are paid hourly rates, but generally do not work 40 hours
per week, year round. For these workers, only an hourly wage is reported.
  OEWS receives wage rate data for the federal government, the U.S. Postal Service, and most
state government, local government, and private sector establishments. For the remaining
establishments without wage rate data, the OEWS survey data were placed into 12 wage
intervals. The intervals are defined both as hourly rates and the corresponding annual rates,
where the annual rate for an occupation is calculated by multiplying the hourly wage rate by a
typical work year of 2,080 hours.
Estimation methodology

  The OEWS survey is designed to produce estimates by combining six panels of data collected
over a 3-year period. Each OEWS panel contains approximately 181,000 to 189,000
establishments. The full six-panel sample of 1.1 million establishments allows the production
of estimates at detailed levels of geography, industry, and occupation.
  The May 2023 estimates were produced by a model-based estimation method using 3 years of
OEWS data (MB3). Under MB3, data provided by survey respondents are used to model occupational
staffing patterns and wages for all unobserved establishments in the population, including
establishments that were not sampled, sampled establishments that did not respond, and
respondents that did not meet stability criteria.
  A donor pool typically consisting of 10 nearest neighbor responding establishments is used
to predict data for each unobserved establishment; if 10 donors are not available, then as few
as 5 can be used. Donors are matched to recipients based on detailed industry, geographic
area, ownership, size, and survey panel. Within a given donor pool, donors that are more
similar to the unobserved establishment are given more weight in determining the modeled data.
  Each establishment's population employment is set as the average of its May 2023 and 
November 2022 employment from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, the UI database
from which the OEWS sample is drawn. Using adjustment factors derived from the OEWS survey
data, wages collected in earlier survey panels are adjusted to the reference date of the
estimates and donor wages are adjusted for differences between donor and recipient 
characteristics such as geographic area and industry.

For more information

  Answers to frequently asked questions about the OEWS data are available at If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability,
please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services.

Last Modified Date: April 03, 2024