Wyoming Wage Survey Logo


by: Mike Evans

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) and Alien Labor Certification (ALC) programs of Research & Planning (R&P), funded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Employment Training Administration (ETA), conduct an annual wage survey for Wyoming. The results and methodology (see "The Importance of Wage Surveys") are reviewed yearly by all three agencies for accuracy and defensability in court for ALC purposes (see Tables 5 and 6). The results are published yearly in the Wyoming Labor Force Trends and in this more detailed OES publication.

The OES wage survey presents us with a tremendous amount of information available to the public and should increase the scope of labor market data. Every state is conducting the same wage survey using the same procedures, so wages for each occupation can be compared from state to state and nationally. Also, R&P will be publishing occupational wage results by mean, median, entry level, experienced level, ownership (state, local, and private), and occupational employment levels for the state, Casper, Cheyenne, and four regions.

The small population in Wyoming causes some unique results. The results for the total statewide (Tables 5 & 6) include all ownerships. For example, looking at the occupation "welfare eligibility workers and interviewers" includes all workers (i.e., private, federal, state, and local). Mean wages seem extremely high to state workers. But when we break out the ownership, state workers for that particular occupation are much lower (see Tables 3 and 4). This is because federal employees in the "welfare eligibility workers and interviewers" occupation, specifically "social security workers," make a higher mean wage than state workers classified in the same position.

What makes the ownership break out so useful is the ability to allow for comparability and evaluation between state, federal, and local workers and the rest of the market for a particular occupation. Another example of unique results is that, "computer programmers" and "systems analysts" are combined into one occupation in Tables3 and 6 and separated out in Table 5 1.

The new OES survey allows wage comparisons in Wyoming with wages in other states, one to one. Certain occupations have a local market wage (i.e., cashiers, secretaries, etc.) while others are found in a regional or national market. Employers with occupations in a regional labor market, especially professional and technical, are experiencing difficulties in recruitment and retention of employees due to the exodus of employees to neighboring states2 and nationally because of better economic conditions elsewhere 3.

For illustrative purposes, one big benefit of the OES survey compared with other wage surveys is the ability to distinguish between entry level and experienced positions within the state and other ownership break outs. For example, statisticians and economists in R&P fall into the entry level wage category. On the other hand, senior statisticians and senior economists fall into the experienced level wage. Each senior position requires two more years of professional work experience or a Master's degree in statistics, economics, business, or closely related field. In contrast to this feature most other salary surveys (i.e., local salary surveys) only list the average wages for all statisticians and economists. There is no distinguishing between an economist and a senior economist. Low biased wage estimates are reported for senior positions with other salary surveys. With the OES survey, one can break out entry level (probationary entry level positions), mean level (economist positions), and experienced level positions (senior economist).

We are presently collecting data for next year's survey round, and encourage employers to provide wage data. The forms seem overwhelming, but really only take 5 to 10 minutes to fill out. Thanks to the many cooperative employers, we had a 79 percent response rate in last year's survey, well above the required 75 percent response rate that we are required to meet each year. The next two years of the OES survey will be added to the current year, creating greater detail at the statewide, regional, and MSA level. The three-year cycle will include approximately 4,500 employers. This three-year cycle will allow more occupations to be published in the future, reduce response burden on the employers, and improve the accuracy of the data. This year's results are not as detailed as some would like due to confidentiality and small sample. The second and third years will include even more detail.

The unique aspect of this survey is its national character. This year, several other states published occupational wage rates. Next year, all states will be required to publish these data. The BLS publishes all states and national data on its Internet homepage at http://stats.bls.gov/

Wyoming's OES section will publish all occupational wage rates by substate region and Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) ( Table 2), and statewide (Table 3). The OES survey allows comparison of occupational wages for the total labor market, including all ownerships (i.e., private, federal, state, and local government) in Wyoming and state employee wages, along with regional break outs and state to state comparison.

The OES code presently classifies occupations and in 1999, occupations will be organized by the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and Occupational Information Network (O*NET) which is universally replacing the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT). Each state will classify occupations using the same classification system to improve comparability.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently released the 1997 SOC Revision on July 7, 1997 through the federal register. The new SOC system will replace the OES occupational classification system currently used by BLS for gathering occupational information. It will also replace the Bureau of the Census' 1990 occupational classification system and will be used in the 2000 Census. In addition, the new SOC will serve as the framework for information being gathered through the Department of Labor's O*NET, which is in the process of replacing DOT. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) also released the 1997 O*NET Revision on August 19, 1997 through the federal register. It specifically states "O*NET will develop resumes, job orders, and descriptions of personnel positions; fine-tune assessment measures to benchmark worker skills and requirements; restructure organizational and staff development; benchmark performance appraisals; make better informed job placement decisions; reduce recruitment costs of workers at all levels; and create skills-match profiles."

Along with the OES survey, BLS publishes the Employee Benefits and Occupational Compensation Surveys, which will soon be combined into Comp 2000. Also, BLS and ETA are looking at the feasibility of including the Davis-Bacon surveys in OES within the next two years.


Mike Evans is a Senior Economist, supervising Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) programs with Research & Planning.

1 due to confidentiality and response rates

2 UW study

3 "Labor and Population" by Tom Gallagher and Mike Evans, Wyoming Labor Force Trends.

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