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Copyright 1998 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Occupational Wage Survey: Another Tool in Understanding Demand

by: Tom Gallagher
Table Prepared by: Krista Shinkle

For the first time in history, we have available current, valid, occupational wage rate information that allows for direct interstate (and inter-locality) comparability of estimated wage rates. The most effective use of these estimates, however, results from the analysis of these rates in the context of related labor supply and demand data.

In December 1997, we saw the results of the first national occupational wage survey published on the internet (http://stats.bls.gov/oes/national/oes_nat.htm). With these survey results, one more piece in the analysis of the labor market falls into place. But it is only one piece, and using it effectively requires an understanding of other measures of demand and supply in the market. In the Table, we present average wage estimates for twelve occupations selected because of their particular interest to Wyoming’s Construction and Mining industries. At the upper end of the wage scale, the competition for labor becomes trans-local: the greater the compensation level, the greater the probability that the competition for labor takes place in regional and national labor markets. Under scarce labor conditions (unemployment rates in the region are below the national average) concern has been expressed over the competitiveness of salaries in the Construction trades in Wyoming.

With the rate of compensation for "Grader, Bulldozer & Scraper Operators" averaging $19.36 per hour in Wyoming (29.3% above the $14.97 rate in Montana) and the average hourly rate for "Plumbers, Pipefitters & Steamfitters" at $17.56 per hour in Wyoming, it appears that these occupations are competitively priced in Wyoming compared to the region as a whole1. However, these same occupations are also found in the Mining industry. It appears that competitive wage rates for some occupations in the Construction industry may be set by Wyoming Mining firms rather than by Construction firms elsewhere in the region.

Whether used to assist in personal career choice, to estimate labor cost in bidding construction contracts or to evaluate the need for technical training curriculum to assure an industry’s future supply of labor at a given price, analysts also need to be aware that the rate of compensation is distinct in some regards from the level of compensation. While "Plumbers, Pipefitters & Steamfitters" are paid an estimated rate of compensation of $17.56 per hour in Wyoming (14.2% above the $15.38 rate in Colorado and 9.7% above the estimated $16.01 rate in Utah), the total level of compensation2 among Plumbing, Heating and Air-Conditioning firms (Standard Industrial Code 1711) was 27.5 percent greater in Colorado and 14.8 percent greater in Utah in 1996.

The average weekly wages in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah were, respectively, $472, $602 and $542 in 1996 among mechanical contractors. Higher levels of compensation are a combined function of a greater number of hours worked and bonuses. Stable work and bonus payments represent another consideration in our interpretation of occupational wage rates in the regional competition for labor.


Krista Shinkle is an Administrative Specialist with Research and Planning.

Tom Gallagher is the Manager.

1 Future publication of error estimates for the 1996 survey round, subsequent survey results for 1997 and interstate occupational wage rate estimates for each industry can be used to definitively establish the precise nature of competitive relationships.

2 Please refer to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Bulletin 2494 and "Regional Covered Employment and Wage Data: An Economic Indicator for Wyoming" for a discussion of ES-202 covered wages.


 
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