Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
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What is the NCS?
The NCS is a BLS establishment survey of employee salaries, wages, and benefits. The survey is designed to produce data at local levels, within broad regions, and nationwide.
What are the differences between NCS occupational wage data and the Bureau's Occupation Employment Statistics Survey (OES) wage data?
Differences between the National Compensation Survey (NCS) and the Occupation Employment Statistics Survey (OES):
The NCS occupational work level is based on the duties and responsibilities of the job. An architect, for example, who directs a major project would typically be more highly compensated than an architect preparing a small part of a project under direct supervision. To determine these "levels of work," each occupation is evaluated using four factors. This system also allows for pay comparisons to be made across occupations (for example, comparing architects to accountants with similar levels of responsibility).
How are occupations chosen and why?
Occupations are chosen through probability selection. Probability selection of occupations (PSO) is designed to obtain a statistically representative sample of occupations for both a survey area and nationwide. The resulting data are weighted to represent all workers without bias. This PSO method allows for the possibility of publishing data for any job group, not just for those jobs on a preset list. NOTE: One of PSO limitations is that not all jobs published in one area will necessarily publish in another area.
How can you compare areas with differing mixtures of jobs?
The NCS produces relative occupational pay comparisons between metropolitan areas and the United States as whole and similar areas-to-area comparisons for 78 metropolitan areas. The pay relatives are calculated controlling for differences among areas in occupational composition, establishment and occupational characteristics, and the fact that compensation data for metropolitan areas are collected at different times during the year. The pay relative approach controls for these differences to isolate the geographic effect on wage determination. For the latest information on NCS pay relative, see www.bls.gov/ncs/ocs/payrel.htm.
Are data available for the entire U.S.? What about regional data?
Yes, we have national NCS data on the Web see List of published NCS areas for links to these publications. Data for the 9 Census regions (New England, Middle Atlantic, East South Central, South Atlantic, East North Central, West North Central, West South Central, Mountain, and Pacific) are also available.
How can an employer use NCS data to set pay?
Publication of mean and median wages for occupations and for occupational groups in an area can be used by employers to determine how their pay for an occupation compares with that of the area. If certain employer occupations are not published, data on "benchmark occupations" those occupations that may be common in a number of establishments may be used to compare an employer's pay to pay in the area.
What areas do you survey?
List of published areas can be found at: www.bls.gov/ncs/ocs/compub.htm.
Last Modified Date: July 16, 2008