Idaho Labor’s Annual Wage Report is Valuable Resource

What does the average machinist in Idaho make? How many people are working in Idaho as diesel mechanics? What is the entry-level wage for fast food cooks? What’s a reasonable wage range for carpenters? Would I get higher pay as a registered nurse working in Boise or in Idaho Falls? Would I earn more as a plumber or as an electrician?

Once a year, the Idaho Department of Labor publishes answers to those questions and thousands of others in the form of the Occupational Employment and Wage Survey (OEWS).

The department follows the standards and guidelines for the survey established by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as do workforce agencies in 49 other states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands, so wages and occupation sizes in Idaho areas can be compared to other areas across the U.S.

In addition to providing information about occupational employment and wages, the OEWS results provide the basis for the occupational projections that the Department of Labor makes every two years. Those projections are essential for vocational counseling and career planning. They also are used by colleges and high schools to determine the type of career and technical training to provide. The projections and OEWS wage data make up the backbone of Idaho’s Career Information System (CIS), an internet-based software that provides information used by high school students and others making career decisions.

The wage surveys typically show the occupations in Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) order. Each occupation is given a six-digit number. The first two digits come from these 23 major groups:

  • 11 Management Occupations
  • 13 Business and Financial Operations Occupations
  • 15 Computer and Mathematical Occupations
  • 17 Architecture and Engineering Occupations
  • 19 Life, Physical and Social Science Occupations
  • 21 Community and Social Service Occupations
  • 23 Legal Occupations
  • 25 Education, Training and Library Occupations
  • 27 Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports and Media Occupations
  • 29 Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations
  • 31 Healthcare Support Occupations
  • 33 Protective Service Occupations
  • 35 Food Preparation and Serving Related Occupations
  • 37 Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance Occupations
  • 39 Personal Care and Service Occupations
  • 41 Sales and Related Occupations
  • 43 Office and Administrative Support Occupations
  • 45 Farming, Fishing and Forestry Occupations
  • 47 Construction and Extraction Occupations
  • 49 Installation, Maintenance and Repair Occupations
  • 51 Production Occupations
  • 53 Transportation and Material Moving Occupations
  • 55 Military Specific Occupations (not surveyed in OES)

In addition to statewide data, OEWS publishes data for five metropolitan statistical areas — Boise (made up of Ada, Boise, Canyon, Gem and Owyhee counties); Coeur d’Alene (Kootenai County); Idaho Falls (Bonneville, Butte and Jefferson counties); Lewiston (Nez Perce County and Washington’s Asotin counties); and Pocatello (Bannock County). Starting next year, the newly recognized Twin Falls metro area, made up of Twin Falls and Jerome counties, will make its OEWS debut. The nonmetropolitan counties of Idaho are lumped into four OEWS areas: Panhandle (Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Shoshone counties); Southwest (Adams, Elmore, Payette, Valley and Washington counties); .Southeast (Bear Lake, Bingham, Caribou, Clark Custer, Fremont, Lemhi, Madison, Oneida, Power and Teton counties); and South Central (Blaine, Camas, Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka and Twin Falls counties).

The Idaho OEWS data show for individual occupations their employment, entry wage, the median (the midpoint — half of the workers in that occupation earn more and half earn less), the mean (average wage) and the mid-range points.

Where Can You Find the Survey Results?

The Idaho OEWS is available on the Idaho Department of Labor’s labor market information website at You can look up wages by occupation using the OES dashboard. Scroll down further and you’ll find Excel and PDF files showing wage survey results by region and Metropolitan Statistical Areas, showing both hourly and annual wages. An annual wage is the hourly wage times 2,080 hours, the hours in a typical 52-week, 40-hour schedule.

A Few Takeaways from the 2017 OEWS

Idaho wages typically run 12 percent below U.S. wages for the same occupation.

The location quotient is the percentage of all jobs that are in a particular occupation in Idaho divided by the percentage of all jobs that are in a particular occupation in the nation. If an occupation group makes up the same percentage of all jobs in both Idaho and the U.S., then the location quotient is 1.0. If the occupation group is more predominant in Idaho (makes up a larger percentage of all jobs in Idaho than in the nation), then the location quotient is greater than 1. If it’s less predominant in Idaho relative to the U.S., the location quotient is less than 1. Computer and mathematical occupations make up a much smaller percentage of all jobs in the state than in the nation and has a location quotient of 0.69. Other occupation groups with low location quotients are business and financial; legal; and protective service. Farming, fishing and forestry has an exceptionally high location quotient of 2.76, because it makes up a much larger percentage of jobs in Idaho than in the U.S. Other occupational groups with high location quotients are life, physical and social science, reflecting the importance of forest and agricultural scientists in Idaho, and construction and extraction.

Wages vary from area to area within the state. The median wages for all occupations also vary based on the make-up of occupations. To get a feel for the difference in wages, median wages for 20 of the most common occupations in Idaho are compared in Table 1. The Lewiston metro area is made up of Nez Perce County, whose county seat is Lewiston, and Asotin County, Washington, whose largest city is Clarkston. The higher minimum wage in Washington state, which was $11 in 2017 and now is $11.50 compared with Idaho’s minimum wage of $7.25 since 2009, explains why the Lewiston metro area has higher median wages for many of these more common occupations. In addition to the direct effect from Asotin County, Nez Perce County employers pay higher wages to attract and retain workers.

(Click on table for a larger view.)

Hourly wages grew relatively slowly between 2016 and 2017. The average entry wage for all occupations grew 1.8 percent, while the median for all occupations grew 1.4 percent. Consumer prices grew 1.8 percent during the same period, so the median wage did not keep up with inflation, and entry wages just kept up with inflation.

(Click on table for a larger view.)

Over the past 10 years, wages have not keep up with inflation. The median wage for all occupations grew 16 percent – from $13.79 in 2007 to $15.99 in 2017 – while consumer prices grew 17.7 percent between May 2007 and May 2017. Entry wages grew a little faster — 17.5 percent from $8.24 to $9.68 — partly because the minimum wage increased from $5.15 in 2007 to $7.25 in 2009 and because of increased pressure on entry wages in Idaho communities bordering Oregon and Washington, where the minimum wages have risen sharply.

(Click on table for a larger view.)

Wage data by occupation can be also be found on JobScape, the department’s career search tool., regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
(208) 799-5000 ext. 3984