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The following is a summary of the OES Survey methodology as provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Click here for the more detailed set of "technical notes" available on the BLS web site.


Survey Definitions and Concepts

The OES Wage Survey is a semiannual mail survey measuring occupational employment and occupational wage rates for wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments, by industry. The results provided here are from the past six survey panels that were conducted over the prior three years.

The OES wage survey is conducted in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Currently the survey samples nearly 9,000 establishments per year in New Jersey. BLS provides the procedures and technical support, while the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and other State Employment Security Agencies (SESAs) collect and disseminate the data. Key definitions are as follows:

An establishment is an economic unit, such as a factory, mine or store, which produces goods or provides services. It is generally at a single location and engaged predominantly in one economic activity.

Employment in the OES survey includes both full-time or part-time employees; workers on paid vacations or other types of leave; workers on unpaid or short-term absences; salaried officers; executives; 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 excludes the self-employed, owners/partners of unincorporated firms and unpaid family workers. Employees are reported in the occupation in which they are working, not necessarily for which they were trained.

Wages, as defined in the OES survey, are straight time (i.e., no overtime), base pay. In addition to base pay, also included are tips, cost-of-living allowances, guaranteed pay, hazardous-duty pay, on-call pay, and incentive pay (including commissions and production bonuses). Excluded from the wage are back pay, shift differentials, jury duty pay, overtime pay, severance pay, non-production (i.e., year-end) bonuses and tuition reimbursements.

The mean wage is the estimated total wages in an occupation divided by its estimated employment. The 25th percentile equals the wage that 25% of those employees reported in the occupation made less than while 75% made more than that figure.  Similarly the 50th percentile or median wage equals the estimated single midpoint of all reported wages for the occupation -- half made less and half made more.  The 75th percentile equals the wage that 75% of the reported employees made less than while 25% made more. 

The OES survey collects wage data in 12 pay ranges (i.e., Under $9.25 per hour, $9.25 to $11.74 per hour, etc.). Employers report the number of employees in an occupation per each pay range. The pay ranges are defined in terms of both an hourly wage and yearly salary. The two wage scales are "equivalent" based on a work year of 2,080 hours per year (40 hours per week times 52 weeks per year).  The exceptions to this are certain occupations that do not generally work 2,080 hours per year. The wages for these occupations (such as teachers, musicians, producers-directors-actors, etc.) are in terms of a yearly salary only.


Development of Wage and Employment Estimates

The OES survey sample was drawn from the file of employers covered by the state's unemployment insurance (UI) system by BLS. Establishments in this universe were stratified by metropolitan area, industry code, and the establishment's employment size. The sample is designed to collect data over a three-year period with the objective of publishing wage data aggregated from the prior three years of survey data. 

The OES Survey uses the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, which was designed to be used by all Federal statistical agencies reporting occupational data. Current estimates utilize the 2010 SOC. (see the SOC page of the BLS website for more information).

Current OES estimates use the 2017 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), previous estimates were based on the 2012 NAICS. For more information about NAICS, see the NAICS page of the BLS Web site.

This is the first year in which the OES survey estimates published area estimates using the redefined Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) configurations as designated by the Office of Management and Budget. The most significant change is that Salem County is now included with Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester counties.


Many of New Jersey's substate MSA configurations are "cross-state" areas comprised of counties from two or more states. In those instances, the data presented here is representative of only the New Jersey portion of the MSA. For example, the entire "Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ MSA" is comprised of Warren County, NJ and three Pennsylvania counties. The data for the "Warren County Area" that is available on this site covers only the New Jersey portion of that MSA. For more information on Metropolitan Statistical Areas visit the BLS website for MSA definitions.

The estimated employment will be blank ("non-publishable") when the relative standard error is greater than 50%.   Similarly, there will be no wage data in instances where the mean's relative standard error is greater than 30%. Confidentiality requirements dictate that a minimum number of employers have reported employees in an occupation in order to be published in a given area and/or industry. The BLS "Technical Notes" includes a more detailed explanation of the relative standard error.

The OES program uses the BLS Employment Cost Index (ECI) to adjust survey data from prior panels before combining them with the current panel's data. The wage updating procedure adjusts each detailed occupation's wage rate, as measured in the earlier panel, according to the average movement of its broader occupational division. The ECI measures the national percentage change in wages by occupational group over the previous year. As such, aging based on the ECI is biased to the degree that state and area wage growth differs from national wage growth and to the extent that wage growth for a specific occupation differs from the growth for the occupational group in which that occupation is found.

The OES wage data for the nation and other states are also available on the BLS website. BLS data will utilize the year in which the survey was initiated; the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development website utilizes the publication date. As a result, BLS will publish the same estimates under the prior year.


Comments or questions? Call 609-292-2661 or e-mail jdougher@dol.state.nj.us .