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 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 at the 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 179,000 to 187,000 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 2022 estimates are based on responses from six semiannual panels collected over a 3-year period: May 2022, November 2021, May 2021, November 2020, May 2020, and November 2019. The unweighted sampled employment of 80 million across all six semiannual panels represents approximately 57 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 65.4 percent based on establishments and 62.5 percent based on weighted sampled employment.
The May 2022 OEWS estimates contain approximately 830 occupational categories based on the Office of Management and Budget’s 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. Together, these occupations 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 www.bls.gov/soc/.
The May 2022 OEWS estimates use the 2022 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). For more information about NAICS, see the BLS website at www.bls.gov/bls/naics.htm.
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) also are 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.
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 and for all establishments in the November 2019 panel, 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.
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 179,000 to 187,000 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 2022 estimates were produced by a model-based estimation method using three 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 2022 and November 2021 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.
The May 2022 estimates are the second official estimates to use the model-based MB3 estimation method introduced in the May 2021 release. MB3 has advantages over the previous estimation method, as described in the Monthly Labor Review article “Model-based estimates for the Occupational Employment Statistics program.” Additional updates were made to the MB3 wage processing for May 2022. For more information, see the May 2022 Survey Methods and Reliability Statement.
The May 2022 estimates are the first to be produced using the 2022 NAICS, which replaces the 2017 NAICS used for the May 2017–May 2021 estimates. All six survey panels used for the May 2022 estimates were collected using the 2017 NAICS codes; these data were then mapped to the corresponding 2022 NAICS codes.
The May 2022 OEWS estimates use the metropolitan area definitions delineated in Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Bulletin 17-01. For more information, please see the OEWS metropolitan and nonmetropolitan area definitions page.
Response rates for the May 2022 estimates were negatively affected by the difficulty of collecting data from employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lower response rates may negatively affect data availability and data quality.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the OEWS data are available at www.bls.gov/oes/oes_ques.htm.
Last Modified Date: April 25, 2023