The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program conducts a semi-annual mail survey designed to produce estimates of employment and wages for specific occupations. The OES program collects data on wage and salary workers in nonfarm establishments in order to produce employment and wage estimates for about 800 occupations. Data from self-employed persons are not collected and are not included in the estimates. The OES program produces these occupational estimates by geographic area and by industry. Estimates based on geographic areas are available at the National, State, Metropolitan, and Nonmetropolitan Area levels. The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces occupational employment and wage estimates for over 450 industry classifications at the national level. The industry classifications correspond to the sector, 3, 4, and 5-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industrial groups.

The OES program surveys approximately 200,000 establishments per panel (every six months), taking three years to fully collect the sample of 1.2 million establishments. To reduce respondent burden, the collection is on a three-year survey cycle that ensures that establishments are surveyed at most once every three years. The estimates for occupations in nonfarm establishments are based on OES data collected for the reference months of May and November.

The OES survey is a Federal-State cooperative program between the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and State Workforce Agencies (SWAs). BLS provides the procedures and technical support, draws the sample, and produces the survey materials, while the SWAs collect the data. SWAs from all fifty States, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands participate in the survey. Occupational employment and wage rate estimates at the national level are produced by BLS using data from the fifty States and the District of Columbia. Employers who respond to States' requests to participate in the OES survey make these estimates possible.

The employment data are benchmarked to an average of the May and November employment levels. The most recent wage data are for May 2006. The OES survey began using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) in 2002. Data prior to 2002 are based on the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system.

In 1999, the OES survey began using the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. The SOC system is the first OMB-required occupational classification system for federal agencies. The SOC system consists of 821 detailed occupations, grouped into 449 broad occupations, 96 minor groups, and 23 major groups. The OES survey uses 22 of the 23 major occupational groups from the SOC to categorize workers in 1 of 801 detailed occupations. The major group excluded is military-specific occupations, which are not covered in the OES survey. Due to the OES survey's transition to the new SOC system, estimates are not directly comparable with previous years' OES estimates, which were based on a classification system having 7 major occupational groups and 770 detailed occupations. Approximately one-half of the detailed occupations were unchanged under the new SOC system, with the other half being new SOC occupations or occupations that are slightly different from similar occupations in the old OES classification system.

Prior to 1996, the OES program collected only occupational employment data for selected industries in each year of the three-year survey cycle, and produced only industry-specific estimates of occupational employment. The 1996 survey round was the first year that the OES program began collecting occupational employment and wage data in every State. In addition, the program's three-year survey cycle was modified to collect data from all covered industries each year. 1997 is the earliest year available for which the OES program produced estimates of cross-industry as well as industry-specific occupational employment and wages.

The May 2007 OES estimates are benchmarked to the average of the May 2007 and November 2006 reference periods. May 2007 employment and wage estimates are based on all data collected from establishments in the May 2007, November 2006, May 2006, November 2005, May 2005, November 2004 semi-annual samples. Wages for the current panel, May 2007, need no adjustment. However, wages in the five previous panels have been adjusted to the May 2007 reference period by using the over-the-year wage changes in the most applicable national Employment Cost Index series. For additional information, see the Technical Notes for May 2007 OES Estimates.

Survey Coverage and Scope

  • The OES survey covers all full-time and part-time wage and salary workers in nonfarm industries. Surveys collect data for the payroll period including the 12th day of May or November. The survey does not cover the self-employed, owners and partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, or unpaid family workers.

  • The OES survey produces estimates of occupational employment and wages at the NAICS sector, 3-digit, 4-digit, and selected 5-digit industry levels. The OES survey covers the following NAICS industries:

  • 11     Logging (1133), support activities for crop production (1151), and support activities for animal production (1152) only.
    21     Mining
    22     Utilities
    23     Construction
    31-33 Manufacturing
    42     Wholesale trade
    44-45 Retail trade
    48-49 Transportation and warehousing
    51     Information
    52     Finance and insuarance
    53     Real estate and rental and leasing
    54     Professional, scientific, and technical services
    55     Management of companies and enterprises
    56     Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services
    61     Educational services
    62     Healthcare and social assistance
    71     Arts, entertainment, and recreation
    72     Accomodation and food services
    81     Other Services (except Federal, State, and Local Government)
    99     Federal, State, and Local Government (OES designation)

Estimates available on the OES web site

Estimates available in OES publications

  • Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2004—Bureau of Labor Statistics; September 2005; Bulletin 2575

Estimates in electronic format available via download from this website

  • May 2007 National, State, Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area, and Industry-Specific Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
    • Occupational employment by area
    • Occupational wages by area

Uses of OES data

  • Analysis of occupational employment
  • Analysis of occupational wages
  • Development of occupational projections
  • Vocational counseling and planning
  • Industry skill and technology studies
  • Market analysis


Last Modified Date: August 6, 2008