Occupational Employment and Wages in North Carolina (OES) 

Occupational Employment Statistics' Methodology (BLS)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program in North Carolina conducts a semi-annual mail survey of employers to produce estimates of occupational employment and wages. This program collects data on wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments, gathering employment and wage information on approximately 800 occupations within statewide industries, and reports the resultant occupational estimates by geographic area and by industry. In this study, estimates based on geographic areas are available at the State, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), County, Workforce Development Board area and Prosperity Zone levels. The industry classification corresponds to the four-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). The BLS produces occupational employment and wage estimates at the national level.

The OES survey has been designed to produce estimates using three years of sample data. With approximately 12,000 establishments surveyed each year in North Carolina, a total of 36,000 establishments would be surveyed over a three-year period. Adjustments are applied to previous years' wage data before combining with current data. For 2004 through 2006 semi-annual release dates, the most recent data set included in the release is approximately one year earlier than the release. For the annual releases beginning in 2007, the most recent data set is from May of the preceding year. The 2001 through 2003 releases were based on an annual survey spread over several months in the fourth quarter of the year. The year date for the survey period is two years earlier than the release date.

Employment is defined as the number of full-time and part-time employees, workers on paid vacation or other type of paid leave, workers assigned temporarily to other units and paid owners, officers and staff of incorporated firms. The survey excludes proprietors, owners and partners of unincorporated firms, unpaid family workers, workers on unpaid leave and contractors and temporary agency employees not on the company payroll.

Wages for the survey are straight time gross pay, exclusive of premium pay. Base rate, cost-of-living allowances, tips, guaranteed pay, hazardous-duty pay, incentive pay, commissions, production bonuses and on-call pay are included. Excluded is back pay, jury duty pay, overtime pay, severance pay, shift differentials, non-production bonuses and tuition reimbursements.

There is a small group of occupations, primarily in teaching, where a standard work-year assumption is not considered valid. For this group, the annual wage is from the reported data. An hourly wage for these workers cannot be calculated because the number of hours worked is not known. In addition to teachers, the occupations include actors, athletes, coaches, sports officials, flight attendants and pilots.

Data on hourly earnings are collected in 12 wage intervals. Employers report the number of employees in an occupation by these intervals. With the exception of the upper open-ended wage interval, a mean wage value is calculated for each wage interval based on the occupational wage data collected by the Office of Compensation and Working Conditions. The mean wage value for the upper open-ended wage interval is its lower bound. These interval mean wage values are then attributed to all workers reported in the interval. For each occupation, total weighted wages in each interval are summed across all intervals and divided by the total occupational employment. This calculates an estimated average (mean) wage.

The BLS calculates employment and wage estimates for each State and the MSAs and Balance-of-State areas within each state. As of the June 2006 release, MSA definitions are based on the 2000 Census definitions, and may not be comparable with the old definitions. In order to better meet local user needs, the North Carolina OES staff has produced wage estimates for other geographies within the state. These estimates incorporate data from the OES survey and are generated utilizing BLS approved methodology. Additional statistics are provided for these local areas, including an entry and experienced wage. The mean of the first-third of the wage distribution is used as a proxy for the entry wage. An experienced wage is represented by the mean of the upper two-thirds of the wage distribution.

If the confidentiality guidelines are not met, the occupational wage is suppressed. Wage information, in the counties which did not have enough establishment response to produce 10 or more valid occupational wages, default to the occupational wage information for the Workforce Development Board in which the county is located. If the county is located within an MSA, a choice of MSA or Workforce Development Board wages is offered. In statewide by industry, limited occupational employment and wage information may be available for some NAICS because of the small number of establishments in the state and the confidentiality guideline criteria.