Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
The OEWS program conducts a semiannual survey designed to produce estimates of employment and wages for specific occupations. The program collects data on wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments, producing employment and wage estimates for more than 800 occupations. The OEWS program produces these occupational estimates for all industries combined at different geographic levels for the nation—more than 580 areas, including states and the District of Columbia (D.C.), metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), and territories. National occupational employment and wage estimates are also available by industry for more than 430 industry aggregations and by public or private ownership across all industries and for schools and hospitals.
The OEWS survey covers all full- and part-time wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments. The survey does not cover the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers.
The OEWS program surveys about 180,000 to 185,000 sampled establishments per panel (every 6 months), taking 3 years to fully collect the sample of 1.2 million establishments. The estimates for occupations in nonfarm establishments are based on OEWS data collected for the reference months of May and November. May 2020 employment and wage estimates are based on all data collected from establishments sampled in the preceding 3 years (in the May 2020, May 2019, November 2019, May 2018, November 2018, and November 2017 semiannual panels). The overall national response rate for the six panels, based on the 50 states and D.C., is 69% based on establishments and 66% based on weighted sampled employment.
The OEWS survey is a federal–state cooperative program between BLS and state workforce agencies (SWAs). BLS provides the procedures and technical support, draws the sample, and produces the survey materials, while SWAs collect most of the data. SWAs from all 50 states and D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands participate in the survey.
Issues Affecting Interpretation
Over time, data collection methods, survey reference periods, and mean wage estimation methodology systems have changed. Because of these changes, as well as permanent features of the OEWS methodology, caution should be used in trend analysis.
OEWS occupational estimates are based on the Office of Management and Budget’s Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The OEWS survey classifies workers into one of 867 detailed occupations (459 broad occupations and 98 minor groups); these detailed occupations are aggregated into 23 SOC major groups. Data on selected health care occupations are presented in Health, United States.
OEWS estimates for 1999 to 2009 classified occupations according to the 2000 SOC system. OEWS estimates for 2010 and 2011 were based on a hybrid structure using both the 2000 and 2010 SOC systems. The November 2012 to May 2018 panels were collected using the 2010 SOC system. November 2018 and later panels were collected using the 2018 SOC system. More information about the 2010 and 2018 SOC systems can be found at: https://www.bls.gov/soc/.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Survey methods and reliability statement for MB3 research estimates of the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey. Washington, D.C. 2018. Available from: https://www.bls.gov/oes/mb3-methods.pdf.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Technical notes for May 2020 OEWS estimates. Washington, D.C. 2021. Available from: https://www.bls.gov/oes/2020/may/oes_tec.htm.
For more information, see the OEWS website at: https://www.bls.gov/OES/.