Occupational Employment Statistics - Frequently Asked Questions

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What data does the OES survey collect? What does it produce?
The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey collects data on occupational employment and wages of employees in nonfarm establishments. It produces estimates of occupational employment and occupational wages.

  • Occupational employment is defined as the number of employees in a given occupation. The OES program produces estimates of occupational employment by industry; that is, the number of employees in a given occupation in a given industry.
  • Occupational wages are the wages paid to employees in a given occupation. Establishments are asked to report how many workers they employ in a given occupation in each of several wage ranges. With this data, the OES program produces various estimates of wages by occupation.

How are 'employees' defined by the OES survey?
Employees are part-time and full-time workers who are paid a wage or salary. The survey does not cover the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers.

Are national occupational employment and wage estimates available?
Yes, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How long has the OES survey collected wage data?
The OES survey collected both occupational employment and occupational wage data for the first time in 1996. Prior to 1997, only occupational employment counts by industry were produced.

How is the OES survey conducted?
The OES survey is a semiannual mail survey of nonfarm establishments. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics produces the survey materials and selects the establishments to be surveyed. In California, the sampling frame (the list from which establishments to be surveyed are selected) is derived from the list of establishments maintained by the Employment Development Department (EDD) for unemployment insurance purposes. Establishments to be surveyed are selected in order to obtain data from every metropolitan area in the State, across all surveyed industries, and from establishments of varying sizes.

Survey materials are mailed to the selected establishments and EDD makes follow-up calls to request data from non-respondents or to clarify data. Occupational employment and wage estimates are calculated from the survey data provided by employers. There are different survey forms for different industries. The occupations listed on survey forms vary depending on the industry and size of establishment. No survey form contains all OES occupations, because no industry employs workers in every occupation. Survey forms contain between 50 and 225 occupations. Customizing the survey forms reduces paper work and respondent burden, making the survey form easier for employers to fill out.

How are occupations classified?
The current occupational employment and wages estimates were produced using the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The SOC system, which is used by all federal statistical agencies for reporting occupational data, consists of 840 detailed occupations, grouped into 461 broad occupations, 97 minor groups, and 23 major groups. The coding system uses a 6-digit format (XX-XXXX). The OES program provides occupational employment and wage estimates at the major group and detailed occupation level. More information on the SOC is available at the Bureau of Labor Statistics SOC Home Page.

Is the classification system used in the OES program compatible with other occupational classification systems?
The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system was designed to be used by all federal statistical agencies reporting occupation data. The National Crosswalk Service Center is the source of various 'crosswalks' that are used to link the occupational classifications of one system to those of another.

How does the OES program classify industries? What is NAICS?
Beginning with the 2002 OES survey, the industry structure for the survey is the new North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). This new system replaces the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system, which was first developed in the 1930s and was last revised in 1987. NAICS was developed to identify new and emerging industries, to create a classification system compatible among the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and to provide a system that groups establishments into industries based on their primary activities.

What industries are surveyed? What industries are not surveyed?
The OES survey collects occupational employment and wage data from establishments in nonfarm industries. NAICS classifies all economic activities into 20 sectors, identified by two-digit codes. The OES program surveys establishments in all 20 sectors, with the following partial exception. In the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing, and Hunting sector (11), only establishments in subsector 113 Forestry and Logging and subsector 115, Support Activities for Agriculture and Forestry support activities, are covered by the survey. The OES program does not survey Crop Production (111), Animal Production (112), Forestry and Logging, or Fishing, Hunting, and Trapping (114). The program also does not survey private households (814).