FAQ Friday – Where can I learn about wages paid in my area?

The best source of wage information is the Occupational Employment and Wage Survey, a large survey of employers conducted in every state by the state workforce agencies such as Idaho Department of Labor, Oregon Employment Department and Utah Department of Workforce Services using the same procedures as developed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That allows us to compare data from one state to another and know the results are reliable.



What does “wages” mean? 

The OEWS collects data for all workers who are paid a wage or salary, whether they are full-time or part-time workers. The OEWS data doesn’t include the self-employed. Wages are straight-time, gross pay – exclusive of premium pay such as overtime and availability, callback, and standby pay. They include base wages, salaries, commissions, cost-of-living allowances, deadheading pay, hazard pay, incentive pay, longevity pay, over-the-road pay (mileage), piece rates, production bonuses, and tips. They don’t include back pay, attendance bonuses, clothing or uniform allowances, holiday and year-end bonuses, profit-sharing payments, shift differentials, and premium pay.

Where can I find wages by region? 

The Idaho Department of Labor publishes wage survey results on its labor market information website. In the middle of the page click on “View and download 2013 Survey Tables.” You can choose to look at data for the state; metropolitan statistical areas (Boise, made up of Ada, Boise, Canyon, Gem, and Owyhee counties; Coeur d’Alene, made up of Kootenai County; Lewiston, made up of Nez Perce County and Washington’s Asotin County; Pocatello, made up of Bannock and Power counties); or regional areas excluding counties in metro areas.

Where can I find wages for another state?

You can go to that state workforce agency’s website or the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What is the starting pay for an occupation?  

An “entry wage” is an estimate of the average wage paid to workers new to the occupation. Often, entry-level jobs are taken by recent graduates of related education programs. Sometimes job seekers make the mistake of thinking they should start around midpoint or average wage because they don’t realize that typically workers with little or no experience in that field will start at lower wages. As workers gain experience and become more productive, wages rise. A few employers forget entry wages are starting pay for workers new to an occupation, not just a particular job. They won’t be able to attract and keep workers with experience if they offer only entry-level wages.

What does “midpoint” mean? 

If you lined everyone in an occupation up from the one with the very lowest wage to the one with the very highest wage, the one in the middle receives the midpoint — also called the median — wage. Half of the workers (50%) get paid more than that worker, and half (50%) get paid less.

What is the middle range? 

While workers are lined up from the lowest wage to the highest wage, you also can find the worker who makes more than one-quarter (25%) of the workers and less than three-quarters (75%) of the workers. This is called the first quartile, and it is the low end of the middle range. The high end is the third quartile — where a worker makes more than three-quarters of the worker (75%) and less than one-quarter (25%).

How do I find how much someone would earn per year?

The OEWS data is usually published as hourly rates.  To determine how much someone would make in a year, multiply the hourly wage by the number of hours they work per year.  The number of hours can be calculated by multiplying the hours per week they work by the number of weeks they work per year. For many workers, the number of hours is 2,080 (40 hours per week x 52 weeks per year).

Why are there no estimates for a particular occupation in my area? 

Individual occupational wage estimates may be withheld from publication for failing to meet BLS quality standards or because release of the information would violate the confidentiality of survey respondents. When wage information isn’t available for the area of interest, you may want to look for that occupation at the state level or for neighboring areas.

What information is collected? 

The survey asks employers to provide for every job title they have, how many workers they have and what wages they pay each of them. It classifies each job using the Standard Occupational Classification system, and it assigns an industrial code (NAICS) to each employer establishment.

Where do I find definitions of the occupations? 

Toward the bottom of the current survey web page, there is a link to a “List of Occupationsin the survey, which provides brief descriptions of the occupations.

 Kathryn Tacke, regional economist
Kathryn.Tacke@labor.idaho.gov,  208-799-5000 ext. 3984