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Modeled Wage Estimates
MWE MWE Program Links

Modeled Wage Estimates (MWE): Questions and Answers

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  1. What is MWE?
    • The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) and National Compensation Survey (NCS) programs have produced estimates by borrowing from the strength and breadth of each survey to provide more details on occupational wages than either program provides individually. The MWE provides annual estimates of average hourly wages for occupations by job characteristics and within a given geographical location. The geographic areas include national, state and metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The job characteristics include all workers, bargaining status (union and nonunion), work status (part-time and full-time), basis of pay (incentive-based and time-based), and work levels (1-15 and unable to be leveled).

  2. How does MWE differ from "direct" estimates?
    • Direct estimates are based on survey responses only from the particular geographic area to which the estimate refers. In contrast, MWE uses survey responses from larger areas to fill in information for smaller areas where the sample size is not sufficient to produce direct estimates. MWE requires the assumption that the patterns to responses in the larger area hold in the smaller area.

  3. Is this a new survey?
    • No, the existing OEWS and NCS surveys' data are used to calculate MWE for civilian workers by occupations within areas (national, state, metropolitan, and nonmetropolitan) by job characteristics (all workers, full-time, part-time, union, nonunion, time-based pay and incentive-based pay).

      The NCS sample is not large enough to produce direct estimates by area, occupation, and job characteristic for all areas that the OEWS publishes estimates by area and occupation. The NCS sample consists of 6 private industry sample groups (including one aircraft manufacturing sample group) with approximately 3,300 establishments sampled per panel and 1 state and local government sample group with approximately 1,600 state and local government units sampled. The OEWS full six-panel sample consists of nearly 1.1 million establishments and about 57 percent of the employment in the United States.

  4. Where can I find the data?
    • Complete datasets in Excel format are available for years 2014-present in the MWE Tables section of the MWE homepage. Additionally, data is available for occupational groups and areas per job characteristics, time- and incentive-based pay, full- and part-time workers from the latest year's publication in html, pdf and Excel format.

  5. What areas are used to model the relationship between wages and the job characteristics?
    • The twenty-four areas part of the NCS sample design are used for MWE to calculate the NCS proportions characteristics. They consist of the 15 largest metropolitan areas based on employment size, plus the residuals of the nine census divisions excluding the 15 metropolitan areas. See the Classification systems used by the National Compensation Survey for more information.

      Areas used to calculate National Compensation Survey proportions for characteristics
      Areas (for 2014-2017 estimates) Areas (for 2018-present estimates )

      Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Gainesville, GA-AL, CSA

      Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs, GA-AL CSA

      Boston-Worcester-Manchester, MA-NH, CSA

      Boston-Worcester-Providence, MA-RI-NH-CT CSA

      Chicago-Naperville-Michigan City, IL-IN-WI, CSA

      Chicago-Naperville, IL-IN-WI CSA

      Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, CSA

      Dallas-Fort Worth, TX-OK CSA

      Detroit-Warren-Flint, MI, CSA

      Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, MI CSA

      Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, TX, CSA

      Houston-The Woodlands, TX CSA

      Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, CA, CSA

      Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA CSA

      Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL, MSA

      Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, FL CSA

      Minneapolis-St. Paul-St. Cloud, MN-WI, CSA

      Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI CSA

      New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA, CSA

      New York-Newark, NY-NJ-CT-PA CSA

      Philadelphia-Camden-Vineland, PA-NJ-DE-MD, CSA

      Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD CSA

      Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ, MSA

      Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ MSA

      San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA, CSA

      San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA

      Seattle-Tacoma-Olympia, WA, CSA

      Seattle-Tacoma, WA CSA

      Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV, CSA

      Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WV-PA CSA

      Balance of New England census division

      Balance of New England census division

      Balance of Middle Atlantic census division

      Balance of Middle Atlantic census division

      Balance of South Atlantic census division

      Balance of South Atlantic census division

      Balance of East South Central census division

      Balance of East South Central census division

      Balance of West South Central census division

      Balance of West South Central census division

      Balance of East North Central census division

      Balance of East North Central census division

      Balance of West North Central census division

      Balance of West North Central census division

      Balance of Mountain census division

      Balance of Mountain census division

      Balance of Pacific census division

      Balance of Pacific census division

      Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

      The 9 census divisions are: New England, Middle Atlantic, South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central, East North Central, West North Central, Mountain, and Pacific.

  6. What geographic areas are published?
    • The OEWS areas are the scope of the geographic detail for MWE. For a listing of areas covered by the latest OEWS estimates, see the OEWS metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

    • The estimates are not produced for Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Note: due to the phased introduction of measures of reliability, MWE for 2017 were available for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas only.

  7. How is MWE calculated?
    • The method for calculating MWE by job characteristics follows essentially the procedures and formula that the OEWS program uses to calculate its estimates, with an additional step to incorporate job characteristics from the NCS program, see Estimating variances for modeled wage estimates.

    • For example, the wage rates of workers are typically reported as grouped data across 12 consecutive, non-overlapping wage intervals by the OEWS program. Data from the NCS program are then used to calculate average wage rates for these intervals and thereby produce MWE that is published as average hourly wages. The extra step needed to produce MWE for job characteristics is to allocate the OEWS employment data by wage interval on the basis of proportions for the job characteristics from the NCS data. These proportions are calculated for the 24 NCS sample areas, where the modeling assumptions are incorporated. The relationships between wage rates and the job characteristics from the larger sample area are assumed to hold in all of the smaller areas that the larger area contains.

  8. Is MWE published at the same level of detail as OEWS?
    • MWE reflects detail only where there is sufficient sample to meet publication criteria. There are three components to the publication criteria: (1) there must be sufficient OEWS data to support a published estimate for the occupation in the area, (2) there must be sufficient NCS data for the area, occupation, and job characteristic to support the published estimate, and (3) the OEWS-NCS wage estimate for the area, occupation, job characteristic, and work levels must fit broadly within expectations based on the historical patterns of compensation data.

  9. What types of workers are included and how are they defined?
    • MWE is calculated for civilian workers, using the NCS definition: the combination of private industry and state and local government workers. Civilian workers exclude the federal government, the self-employed, agricultural workers, and private household workers.

  10. How are workers classified into occupations?
  11. What industries are published?
    • While establishments are classified in industry categories based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) for sampling purposes, estimates are not published by industry. The OEWS publishes some occupational estimates by industry, see OEWS Tables for more information.

  12. What are job characteristics?
    • Job characteristics refer to the attributes of workers within an occupation and include worker bargaining status (union and nonunion), work status (part-time and full-time), basis of pay (incentive-based or time-based), and work level.

      Union and nonunion status is based on the conditions for union coverage as defined by the NCS. Workers are classified as union workers when these conditions are met: 1) a labor organization is recognized as the bargaining agent for all workers in the occupation, and 2) wage and salary rates are determined through collective bargaining or negotiations. Workers that do not meet these conditions are classified as nonunion workers.

      Part-time and full-time work status is not determined by a set number of hours, but is based instead on the establishment's definition of those terms.

      Incentive-based and time-based pay is determined depending on whether any part of the pay was based directly on the actual production of the worker, rather than solely on the number of hours worked.

      Work levels provide insight into the range of duties and responsibilities for an occupation and are determined by assessing four factors: knowledge, job controls and complexity, contacts (nature and purpose), and the physical environment.

      For more information on these concepts, see the Overview section of the NCS Handbook of Methods.

  13. What are work levels and how are they determined?
    • Work levels provide insight into the range of duties and responsibilities for an occupation and are determined by assessing four factors: knowledge, job controls and complexity, contacts (nature and purpose), and the physical environment. During data collection, points are assigned for each of the four factors and then totaled to determine the work levels of the occupation. There are up to 15 work levels, and they vary by occupational groups. Some jobs cannot be leveled. This is either due to the number of points used to evaluate an occupation reaching its maximum or there is not enough information to determine a corresponding level. For more information on work levels, see National Compensation Survey: Guide for Evaluating Your Firm's Jobs and Pay.

  14. For estimates by work level, how can the average hourly wage for a higher work level (e.g., work level 5) be less than the average hourly wage for a lower work level (e.g., work level 4)?
    • While the average hourly wage typically increases as the work level increases, there are cases where this does not occur. BLS reviews these cases to ensure that the model, which pairs the OEWS and NCS data, is properly allocating the OEWS wage intervals to the paired NCS worker characteristics. The underlying data are also reviewed and estimates that pass publication criteria are published even with this slight inconsistency in expectations. Measures of reliability are also available to help users compare estimates.

  15. Are average annual wages available?
    • No, only average hourly wages are available from MWE.

  16. Is MWE available for occupations where the OEWS only publishes average annual wages?
    • Wages for some occupations that do not generally work year-round, full-time, are reported by OEWS either as hourly wages or annual salaries depending on how they are typically paid. For instances where OEWS only publishes average annual wages (e.g., legislators, teachers, pilots, flight attendants) the average hourly wages are not available from MWE.

  17. When are new estimates available?
  18. Are these estimates a time series?
    • No, similar to the OEWS estimates, MWE provides point in time estimates.

  19. Are measures of reliability available for these estimates?
    • Measures of reliability are available to assist users in ascertaining the reliability of the estimates. The relative standard errors (RSEs) are expressed as a percentage of the estimate. RSEs were introduced for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas beginning with 2017 estimates, and for all areas (national, state, metropolitan and nonmetropolitan) with the 2018 estimates. The BLS is currently developing an approach to calculate the relative standard errors due to implementation of modeled-based estimates (MB3) used by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS). For more information, please see the article Estimating variances for modeled wage estimates.

  20. Where do I find articles that further explain MWE?
    • The publications section of the MWE home page provides valuable information including:

      • enhancements to MWE,
      • the approach to pairing OEWS and NCS data to produce MWE,
      • efforts to validate the estimates, and
      • how to compare wage estimates by job chararacteristics and different geographic areas.
  21. What data are available through the OEWS and NCS programs?
  22. What type of pay is included in MWE?
    • MWE is produced according to the NCS wages and salaries, as illustrated in the Concepts section of the NCS Handbook of Methods and OEWS wages, as illustrated in the Concepts section of the OEWS Handbook of Methods.

  23. What are modeled-based method (MB3) estimates?
    • The new model-based method (MB3) is a new estimation method that was introduced in the May 2021 OEWS and 2021 MWE. Under MB3, data provided by survey respondents are used to model occupational staffing patterns and wages for all unobserved establishments in the population, including establishments that were not sampled, sampled establishments that did not respond, and respondents that did not meet stability criteria. For more information see the Monthly Labor Review article, Model-based estimates for the Occupational Employment Statistics program and the Technical Notes for May 2021 OEWS Estimates .

  24. What other resources may be useful to use with MWE?
    • The Employment Projections (EP) and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) provide occupation information related to employment and opening projections, median annual wage, typical entry-level education, work experience that is commonly accepted as a substitute for more formal types of training or education, and typical on-the-job training.

Last Modified Date: August 11, 2022