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News Release Information

Thursday, May 27, 2021


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Occupational Employment and Wages in Memphis — May 2020

Workers in the Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area had an average (mean) hourly wage of $22.58 in May 2020, about 17 percent below the nationwide average of $27.07, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Regional Commissioner Janet S. Rankin noted that, after testing for statistical significance, wages in the local area were lower than their respective national averages in 19 of the 22 major occupational groups, including computer and mathematical, business and financial operations, and construction and extraction. Three groups had wages that were not significantly different from their respective national averages.

When compared to the nationwide distribution, Memphis area employment was more highly concentrated in 3 of the 22 occupational groups—transportation and material moving, protective service, and healthcare practitioners and technical. Thirteen groups had employment shares significantly below their national representation, including business and financial operations, computer and mathematical, and construction and extraction. (See table A.)

Table A. Occupational employment and wages by major occupational group, United States and the Memphis metropolitan area, and measures of statistical significance, May 2020 
Major occupational group Percent of total employment Mean hourly wage
United States Memphis United States Memphis Percent difference (1)

Total, all occupations

100.0 100.0 $27.07 $22.58* -17


5.7 5.8 60.81 51.25* -16

Business and financial operations

6.0 4.0* 38.79 31.77* -18

Computer and mathematical

3.3 1.7* 46.53 35.66* -23

Architecture and engineering

1.8 1.0* 43.41 36.04* -17

Life, physical, and social science

0.9 0.7* 38.15 38.66 1

Community and social service

1.6 1.2* 25.09 24.14 -4


0.8 0.6* 54.00 36.05* -33

Educational instruction and library

6.1 5.1* 28.75 25.00* -13

Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media

1.3 0.7* 30.96 23.67* -24

Healthcare practitioners and technical

6.2 6.8* 41.30 34.61* -16

Healthcare support

4.6 3.3* 15.50 14.11* -9

Protective service

2.4 3.4* 25.11 19.74* -21

Food preparation and serving related

8.1 7.7* 13.30 11.17* -16

Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance

2.9 3.0 15.75 13.57* -14

Personal care and service

1.9 1.9 15.68 13.06* -17

Sales and related

9.4 8.9* 22.00 19.94* -9

Office and administrative support

13.3 13.7 20.38 18.99* -7

Farming, fishing, and forestry

0.3 0.1* 16.02 15.37 -4

Construction and extraction

4.3 2.9* 25.93 21.25* -18

Installation, maintenance, and repair

3.9 3.8 25.17 23.58* -6


6.1 6.6 20.08 18.61* -7

Transportation and material moving

8.7 17.1* 19.08 17.99* -6

(1) A positive percent difference measures how much the mean wage in the Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area is above the national mean wage, while a negative difference reflects a lower wage.
* The mean hourly wage or percent share of employment is significantly different from the national average of all areas at the 90-percent confidence level.

One occupational group—transportation and material moving—was chosen to illustrate the diversity of data available for any of the 22 major occupational categories. Memphis had 103,860 jobs in transportation and material moving occupations, accounting for 17.1 percent of local area employment, significantly higher than the 8.7-percent national share. The local average hourly wage for this occupational group was $17.99, significantly lower than the national average of $19.08.

Some of the larger detailed occupations within the transportation and material moving group included hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers (36,540); heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers (15,270); and stockers and order fillers (14,400). Among the higher-paying jobs in this group were transportation inspectors and ship engineers, with mean hourly wages of $47.04 and $43.25, respectively. At the lower end of the wage scale were parking attendants ($12.11) and passenger vehicle drivers, except transit and intercity bus drivers ($12.28). (Detailed data for the transportation and material moving occupations are presented in table 1; for a complete listing of detailed occupations, go to

Location quotients allow us to explore the occupational make-up of a metropolitan area by comparing the composition of jobs in an area relative to the national average. (See table 1.) For example, a location quotient of 2.0 indicates that an occupation accounts for twice the share of employment in the area than it does nationally. In the Memphis area, above-average concentrations of employment were found in many of the occupations within the transportation and material moving group. For instance, hand laborers and freight, stock, and material movers were employed at 3.0 times the national rate in Memphis, and industrial truck and tractor operators, at 2.2 times the U.S. average. Driver/sales workers had a location quotient of 0.8 in Memphis, indicating that this particular occupation’s local and national employment shares were similar.

These statistics are from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, a federal-state cooperative program between BLS and State Workforce Agencies, in this case, the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development, Mississippi Department of Employment Security, and Arkansas Division of Workforce Services.

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) Name Change

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program has changed its name to Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) to better reflect the range of data available from the program. Data released on or after March 31, 2021, will reflect the new program name. Webpages, publications, and other materials associated with previous data releases will retain the Occupational Employment Statistics name.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on May 2020 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics

Due to features of the OEWS methodology, the May 2020 OEWS estimates do not fully reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The May 2020 OEWS estimates are based on survey panels collected for May 2020, November 2019, May 2019, November 2018, May 2018, and November 2017. Because 5 of the 6 survey panels used to produce the estimates date from before the COVID-19 pandemic, only the most recent (May 2020) survey panel reflects changes in occupational proportions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The May 2020 OEWS employment estimates are benchmarked to the average of May 2020 and November 2019 employment from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). Although the May 2020 QCEW data reflect the early employment effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the November 2019 QCEW employment data precede the pandemic, and therefore do not reflect its impact.

In addition, as a result of the pandemic, response rates for the November 2019 and May 2020 panels were lower in some areas. Lower response rates may negatively affect data availability and data quality.

More information is available at

Implementing the 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) System

With the May 2019 estimates, the OEWS program began implementing the 2018 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. Because the May 2019 and May 2020 estimates are based on a combination of survey data collected using the 2010 SOC and survey data collected using the 2018 SOC, these estimates use a hybrid of the two classification systems that contains some combinations of occupations that are not found in either the 2010 or 2018 SOC. This is the second and final year that the hybrid occupational structure will be used. The May 2021 estimates, to be published in Spring 2022, will be the first OEWS estimates based entirely on survey data collected using the 2018 SOC.

For more information on the occupational classification system used in the May 2019 and May 2020 estimates, please see and

Upcoming Changes to the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Methodology

With the May 2021 estimates, to be released in Spring 2022, the OEWS program plans to begin using a new estimation methodology. The new model-based methodology, called MB3, has advantages over the existing methodology, as described in the Monthly Labor Review article at OEWS estimates for the years 2015-2018 were recalculated using the new estimation methodology and are available as research estimates at

Technical Note

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey is a semiannual survey measuring occupational employment and wage rates for wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments in the United States. The OEWS data available from BLS include cross-industry occupational employment and wage estimates for the nation; over 580 areas, including states and the District of Columbia, metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), nonmetropolitan areas, and territories; national industry-specific estimates at the NAICS sector, 3-digit, most 4-digit, and selected 5- and 6-digit industry levels, and national estimates by ownership across all industries and for schools and hospitals. OEWS data are available at

The OEWS survey is a cooperative effort between BLS and the State Workforce Agencies (SWAs). BLS funds the survey and provides the procedures and technical support, while the State Workforce Agencies collect most of the data. OEWS estimates are constructed from a sample of about 1.1 million establishments. Each year, two semiannual panels of approximately 180,000 to 185,000 sampled establishments are contacted, one panel in May and the other in November. Responses are obtained by mail, Internet or other electronic means, email, telephone, or personal visit. The May 2020 estimates are based on responses from six semiannual panels collected over a 3-year period: May 2020, November 2019, May 2019, November 2018, May 2018, and November 2017. The unweighted sample employment of 83 million across all six semiannual panels represents approximately 56 percent of total national employment. The overall national response rate for the six panels, based on the 50 states and the District of Columbia, is 69 percent based on establishments and 66 percent based on weighted sampled employment. The sample in the Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area included 4,471 establishments with a response rate of 69 percent. For more information about OEWS concepts and methodology, go to

A value that is statistically different from another does not necessarily mean that the difference has economic or practical significance. Statistical significance is concerned with the ability to make confident statements about a universe based on a sample. It is entirely possible that a large difference between two values is not significantly different statistically, while a small difference is, since both the size and heterogeneity of the sample affect the relative error of the data being tested.

Metropolitan area definitions

The substate area data published in this release reflect the standards and definitions established by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

The Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area includes Fayette, Shelby, and Tipton Counties of Tennessee; Benton, DeSoto, Marshall, Tate, and Tunica Counties of Mississippi; and Crittenden County, Arkansas.

For more information

Answers to frequently asked questions about the OEWS data are available at Detailed information about the OEWS program is available at

Information in this release will be made available to individuals with sensory impairments upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.

Table 1. Employment and wage data for transportation and material moving occupations, Memphis metropolitan area, May 2020
Occupation (1) Employment Mean wages
Level (2) Location quotient (3) Hourly Annual (4)

Transportation and material moving occupations

103,860 2.0 $17.99 $37,420

Aircraft cargo handling supervisors

(5) (5) 25.36 52,750

First-line supervisors of transportation and material moving workers, except aircraft cargo handling supervisors

5,480 2.6 29.19 60,720

Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers

80 0.2 (6) 89,810

Commercial pilots

(5) (5) (6) 101,420

Ambulance drivers and attendants, except emergency medical technicians

400 6.5 12.67 26,340

Driver/sales workers

1,550 0.8 14.50 30,170

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers

15,270 1.9 22.93 47,700

Light truck drivers

8,840 2.2 19.09 39,710

Bus drivers, transit and intercity

450 0.6 19.68 40,930

Passenger vehicle drivers, except bus drivers, transit and intercity

2,050 0.8 12.28 25,550

Motor vehicle operators, all other

240 1.1 15.49 32,220

Sailors and marine oilers

40 0.4 19.75 41,070

Captains, mates, and pilots of water vessels

1,130 9.4 33.24 69,140

Ship engineers

190 5.7 43.25 89,960

Parking attendants

300 0.6 12.11 25,190

Automotive and watercraft service attendants

620 1.3 12.51 26,020

Traffic technicians

80 2.4 22.51 46,810

Transportation inspectors

120 1.0 47.04 97,850

Aircraft service attendants and transportation workers, all other

310 2.1 21.60 44,930

Conveyor operators and tenders

160 1.6 19.09 39,700

Industrial truck and tractor operators

6,170 2.2 16.83 35,010

Cleaners of vehicles and equipment

1,240 0.8 13.68 28,460

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand

36,540 3.0 15.11 31,420

Machine feeders and offbearers

90 0.3 15.22 31,650

Packers and packagers, hand

4,360 1.7 12.61 26,230

Stockers and order fillers

14,400 1.5 14.83 30,850

Refuse and recyclable material collectors

630 1.2 18.01 37,460

Tank car, truck, and ship loaders

300 5.4 27.48 57,170

Material moving workers, all other

(5) (5) 14.98 31,160

(1) For a complete listing of all detailed occupations in the Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area, see
(2) Estimates for detailed occupations may not sum to the totals due to rounding, and because the totals may include occupations that are not shown separately. Estimates do not include self-employed workers.
(3) The location quotient is the ratio of the area concentration of occupational employment to the national average concentration. A location quotient greater than one indicates the occupation has a higher share of employment than average, and a location quotient less than one indicates the occupation is less prevalent in the area than average.
(4) Annual wages have been calculated by multiplying the hourly mean wage by a "year-round, full-time" hours figure of 2,080 hours; for those occupations where there is not an hourly mean wage published, the annual wage has been directly calculated from the reported survey data.
(5) Estimate not released.
(6) Wages for some occupations that do not generally work year-round, full time, are reported either as hourly wages or annual salaries depending on how they are typically paid.


Last Modified Date: Thursday, May 27, 2021