National Compensation Survey - Wages

National Compensation Survey: Occupational Earnings in the United States, 2008

U.S. Department of Labor
Hilda L. Solis, Secretary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Keith Hall, Commissioner

August 2009

Bulletin 2720


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Occupational earnings tables: United States, December 2007 – January 2009 (average reference date July 2008)

Relative standard error (RSE) tables to accompany mean hourly, weekly, and annual earnings tables

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Appendix A: Technical note

Appendix B: Occupational descriptions (PDF)

Appendix C: Survey areas and geographic coverage


The National Compensation Survey (NCS) provides comprehensive measures of occupational earnings, compensation cost trends, the incidence of benefits, and detailed benefit provisions. This bulletin presents estimates of occupational pay for the Nation. These national estimates originate from the NCS locality survey data and are weighted to represent the Nation as a whole. The estimates include pay for workers in major sectors within the U.S. economy in 2008–the civilian, private, and State and local government sectors–and by various occupational and establishment characteristics. The civilian sector, by NCS definition, excludes Federal government, agricultural, and household workers.

Questions regarding these data and recent and historical NCS wage data can be addressed by calling the information line at (202) 691-6199 or by e-mailing to Information is available to sensory-impaired individuals on request, (Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: 1 (800) 877-8339). Data requests also may be sent by mail to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Division of Compensation Data Analysis and Planning, 2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE, Room 4175, Washington, DC 20212. Material in this publication is in the public domain and, with appropriate credit, may be reproduced without permission.

U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) field economists collected and reviewed the survey data. The Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, in cooperation with the Office of Field Operations and the Office of Technology and Survey Processing (all in the BLS National Office), designed the survey, processed the data, and prepared the survey for publication. The survey could not have been conducted without the cooperation of the many private businesses and government jurisdictions that provided pay data included in this report. BLS thanks these respondents for their cooperation.

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Occupational earnings tables:United States, December 2007 – January 2009 (average reference date July 2008)

The 2008 NCS national earnings bulletin includes occupational earnings tables 1-36; relative standard errors of the estimates for tables 2 - 7; 12; 24 - 26; and 30 - 34; and appendix tables 1 and 2. The relative standard error tables are titled and numbered to correspond to their respective earnings-estimates tables. Appendix tables 1 and 2 are part of Appendix A.

Summary table. Table 1 presents an overview of data reported in this bulletin. Mean hourly earnings, weekly hours, and relative standard errors are given for civilian, private industry, and State and local government workers, by selected worker and establishment characteristics. Worker characteristics include high-level and intermediate occupational aggregation, full-time and part-time status, union and nonunion status, and time and incentive pay status. Establishment characteristics include goods-producing industries, service-providing industries, and size of establishment.

Full-time and part-time workers. Employees are classified as full time or part time on the basis of definitions used by each establishment. Table 2 provides mean hourly earnings estimates for full-time and part-time workers by occupational group for the civilian, State and local government, and private sectors. Tables 3 through 7 provide mean and median hourly, weekly, and annual earnings estimates, as well as mean weekly and annual hours worked, for full-time workers, by ownership sector.

Work levels. Work levels are standardized measures of duties and responsibilities that apply to all occupations. The NCS designates 15 work levels; level 1 is the lowest and level 15 is the highest. Tables 8 through 10 present average wages by work level. Table 11 shows average wages by combined work levels. (For more information on how work levels are determined, see Appendix A.)

Union and nonunion workers. Union workers are workers whose wages are determined through collective bargaining. Table 12 provides mean hourly earnings of union and nonunion workers in the civilian, State and local government, and private sectors, by major occupational group. Table 13 provides mean hourly earnings of civilian workers, by union and nonunion status of worker, by occupation. (For more information on union workers, see Appendix A.)

Time and incentive workers. Time workers are workers whose wages are based solely on an hourly rate or a salary. Incentive workers are workers whose wages are based at least partially on productivity payments, such as piece rates, commissions, and production bonuses. Table 14 provides hourly earnings estimates for workers in the civilian and private sectors who are paid on a time or an incentive basis.

Percentiles. Percentiles designate position in the earnings distribution and are calculated from individual worker earnings and the hours those workers are scheduled to work. Tables 15 through 23 provide estimates on the mean hourly wage for the 10th percentile, the 25th percentile, the 50th percentile (the median), the 75th percentile, and the 90th percentile of occupational wages, by ownership sector and for full- and part-time workers within the sectors.

Supervisory occupations. Tables 24 through 26 include estimates of mean and median weekly and annual occupational earnings and mean weekly and annual hours for workers with supervisory responsibility, for the civilian, private, and State and local government sectors, respectively.

Size of establishment. Estimates of mean hourly earnings for workers in major occupational groups by size of establishment–1-49 workers, 50-99 workers, 100-499 workers, and 500 or more workers–are given separately for the civilian, private, and State and local government sectors in tables 27 through 29, respectively. Tables 30 and 31 show estimates of mean and median hourly, weekly, and annual earnings and mean weekly and annual hours for detailed occupations of full-time private industry workers in establishments with fewer than 100 workers and those in establishments with 100 workers or more, respectively.

Private industry sector. Table 32 shows estimates of mean hourly earnings of workers, by industry sector, for major occupational groups. Industry sectors include: manufacturing, mining, health care and social services, educational services, transportation and warehousing, and utilities.

Nonprofit establishments. Nonprofits include, but are not limited to, hospitals, churches, educational institutions, social welfare organizations, and charitable organizations. Table 33 shows the mean and median hourly, weekly, and annual earnings, and mean weekly and annual hours, for private industry full-time workers who work in nonprofit establishments, by detailed occupation and work level.

Hospitals. Hospitals include establishments matching NAICS code 622000: general medical and surgical hospitals, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, and specialty (except psychiatric and substance abuse) hospitals. Table 34 shows mean and median hourly, weekly, and annual earnings and mean weekly and annual hours, for full-time civilian workers in hospitals, by detailed occupation and level. Tables 35 and 36 provide mean hourly earnings estimates for all, full-time, and part-time workers in hospitals, by detailed occupation for private industry and State and local government sectors, respectively.

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Relative standard error (RSE) tables are numbered to accompany mean hourly, weekly, and annual earnings tables:

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Multiple table selection. Wages tables 1-12, 13-24, 25-36, and all wage tables are given here for ease of printing many tables at once.

Multiple RSE table selection. All of the RSE tables are given here for ease of printing many tables at once.

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Appendix A: Technical note

  • Appendix table 1. Number of workers represented by the survey. (TXT) (PDF 10K)
  • Appendix table 2. Survey establishment response. (TXT) (PDF 10K)
  • This section provides basic information on survey procedures and concepts. For a more complete description, see the BLS Handbook of Methods, Chapter 8, "National Compensation Measures," on the Internet at

    Survey scope

    The NCS defines civilian workers as those who are employed in private industry or in State and local government. Workers employed in the Federal Government, the military, agriculture, private households, and the self-employed are excluded from the scope of the survey. For purposes of the survey, an establishment is an economic unit that produces goods or services, a central administrative office, or an auxiliary unit providing support services to a company. For private industries in the survey, the establishment usually operates out of a single physical location. For State and local governments, an establishment is defined as an agency or entity such as a school district, hospital, or administrative body.

    Sampling frame

    The list of establishments from which the survey sample is selected (the sampling frame) is developed from State unemployment insurance reports. Due to the volatility of industries within the private sector, the most recent month of reference available at the time the sample is selected is used to develop sampling frames. Approximately one-fifth of the private industry sample is reselected each year. The sampling frame for State and local government establishments is revised every 10 years.

    Data collection

    Field economists collect the data by contacting each establishment in the survey through a variety of methods, such as personal visit, telephone, and secured email.

    Industry classification

    The NCS sample is classified by the 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). For more detail on NAICS, see

    Occupational selection and classification

    The NCS uses the 2000 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system, as do all Federal statistical agencies. See the entire list of SOC occupational categories at Note that the NCS excludes major group 23 (23-0000), military-specific occupations.

    Identification of the occupations for which wage data are to be collected is a multi-step process:

    1. Selection of establishment jobs by probability proportional to size
    2. Classification of jobs into occupations based on the SOC system
    3. Characterization of jobs as full-time or part-time, union or nonunion, and time or incentive
    4. Determination of the level of work of each job

    Union workers. The NCS defines a union worker as any employee in a union occupation when all of the following conditions are met: a labor organization is recognized as the bargaining agent for all workers in the occupation; wage and salary rates are determined through collective bargaining or negotiations; and settlement terms, which must include earnings provisions and may include benefit provisions, are embodied in a signed, mutually binding collective bargaining agreement. A nonunion worker is an employee in an occupation not meeting the conditions for union coverage.

    Supervisory occupations. Supervisors usually assign and review the work of subordinates. Typically, supervisors have the authority to hire, transfer, lay off, promote, reward, and discipline other employees. By NCS definitions, first-line supervisors direct their staff through face-to-face meetings and are responsible for conducting the employees' performance appraisals. Second-line supervisors typically direct the actions of their staffs through first-line supervisors.

    Work levels. Work levels are a ranking of the duties and responsibilities within an occupation, and these levels permit comparisons of wages across occupations. Work levels are determined by the total number of points given for specific aspects, or factors, of the work. For a complete description of point factor leveling, refer to the publication "National Compensation Survey: Guide for Evaluating Your Firm's Jobs and Pay," on the Internet at Work levels are a ranking of the duties and responsibilities within an occupation, and these levels permit comparisons of wages across occupations. Work levels are determined by the total number of points given for specific aspects, or factors, of the work.

    Areas surveyed

    The NCS program collects data in geographic areas defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB). (For a list of all areas included in the 2008 national earnings estimates, see Appendix C.) The NCS national estimates comprised 227 areas in 2008.

    Collection period

    Survey data were collected over a 13-month period for the 87 larger areas; for the 140 smaller areas, data were collected over a 4-month period. For each establishment in the survey, the data reflect the establishments most recent information at the time of collection. The data for the National bulletin were compiled from locality data collected between December 2007 and January 2009. The average reference period is July 2008.


    Earnings are defined as regular payments from the employer to the employee as compensation for straight-time hourly work or for any salaried work performed. The following components are included as part of earnings:

    The following forms of payments are not considered straight-time earnings:

    The following forms of payments are considered benefits and not part of straight-time earnings:

    Work schedules

    To calculate earnings for various periods (hourly, weekly, and annual), the NCS collects data on work schedules, including the hours worked per day and per week, and the number of weeks worked annually. For hourly workers, scheduled hours worked per day and per week, exclusive of overtime, are recorded. For salaried workers, field economists record the typical number of hours actually worked because those exempt from overtime provisions often work beyond the assigned work schedule.

    The earnings estimates for aircraft pilots, flight engineers, and flight attendants include flight pay and flight hours only; these estimates may not reflect the total earnings and hours worked. For more information on work schedules, see:

    Estimation, weighting, and nonresponse

    The wage series in the tables are computed by combining the wages for each occupation sampled. Before being combined, individual wage rates are weighted by the number of workers; the sample weight, adjusted for nonresponding establishments and other factors; and the occupation's scheduled hours of work. The sample weight reflects the inverse of each unit's probability of selection at each sample selection stage and four weight adjustment factors:

    1. The first factor adjusts for initial establishment nonresponse.

    2. The second factor adjusts for initial occupational nonresponse.

    3. The third factor adjusts for any special situations that may have occurred during data collection.

    4. The fourth factor, poststratification, or benchmarking, is the adjustment of employment weights to ensure that the survey data reflect industry-ownership employment counts in proportions consistent with the private industry, State government, and local government sectors at the time of collection.

    Imputation. The National Compensation Survey is voluntary, so a company official may refuse to participate in the initial survey or may be unwilling or unable to update previously collected data during a subsequent contact for one or more occupations. For those situations in which previous wage data cannot be updated, an estimate for the missing data is imputed, using information obtained from similar establishments and occupations.

    Employment counts. Occupational structures differ among establishments; therefore the number of workers surveyed by the NCS, and the total number of workers represented by the survey that is given in appendix table 1, are not intended to convey an accurate employment count; rather, they indicate only the relative importance of the occupational groups studied in the survey.

    Publication criteria. Not all calculated series meet the criteria for publication. Before any series is published, it is reviewed to make sure it meets specified statistical reliability and confidentiality criteria. This review prevents the publication of a series that could reveal information about a specific establishment or has a large sampling error.

    Data reliability

    The data in this report are estimates from a scientifically selected probability sample. Two types of errors are possible in an estimate based on a sample survey: sampling errors and nonsampling errors.

    Sampling errors occur because observations come only from a sample and not from an entire population. The sample used for the NCS is one of a number of possible samples of the same size that could have been selected under the sample design. Estimates derived from the different samples would differ from one another. The standard error, or sampling error, is a measure of the variation among these differing estimates that indicates the precision with which an estimate from a particular sample approximates the average result of all possible samples. The relative standard error (RSE) is the standard error divided by the estimate. RSE data are provided alongside the earnings data in many of the presented tables in this report. The relative standard error can be used to calculate a confidence interval around a sample estimate. For example, if the mean hourly earnings for all civilian, full-time workers is $20.62 per hour and the relative standard error is 0.7 percent, at the 90-percent level, the confidence interval for this estimate is from $20.38 to $20.86 ($20.62 × 1.645 × 0.007 = $0.2374393, rounded to $0.24; $20.62 - 0.24 = $20.38; $20.62 + 0.24 = $20.86). In other words, if all possible samples were selected to estimate the population value, the interval from each sample would include the true population value approximately 90 percent of the time.

    Nonsampling errors also affect survey results and they can stem from many sources, such as inability to obtain information for some establishments, difficulties with survey definitions, inability of the respondents to provide correct information, and mistakes in recording or coding the data obtained. Although not specifically measured for this report, the nonsampling errors were expected to be minimal due to the extensive training of the field economists who gathered the survey data, to computer edits of the data, and to a detailed data review.

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    Appendix B: Occupational descriptions (PDF)

    Appendix C: Survey areas and geographic coverage

    The NCS uses Office of Management and Budget (OMB) area definitions in selecting areas for the survey. See for a list of current and historical OMB definitions. This appendix lists the 227 geographic areas surveyed under the NCS.

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    Last Modified Date: August 21, 2009

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