OES data provide estimates of mean and median wages paid in a wide range of detailed occupations. Because these data are available for different ownerships, such as private and federal, state, or local government, they may be used to compare mean or median wages of occupations across these groups. However, users should be aware that pay for a given occupation can vary across ownerships, industries, and geographic areas due to differences within occupations that are not accounted for in published data. For more information see the question below.
Can the OES data be used to compare private and government pay for similar work?
Occupational wages in the different ownership groups (the private sector, and state, local, and federal governments) are influenced by many factors that the OES measures cannot take into account. Thus, while one can obtain OES data that compare estimates of mean and median wages paid in a wide range of detailed occupations across ownership groups, those comparisons do not explain why they might be different. Among the many reasons are:
OES data are not designed for use in comparing federal and private sector pay because the OES data do not contain information about pay according to the level of work performed. BLS conducts a separate survey, the National Compensation Survey, which provides data by level of work for use by the President's Pay Agent. The President's Pay Agent, (the Directors of the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget, and the Secretary of Labor), is charged by law with recommending federal pay adjustments to the President. Questions about federal pay comparability should be directed to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.