Economic News Release

Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers News Release

For release 10:00 a.m. (EST) Thursday, January 21, 2010           USDL-10-0067

Technical information:  (202) 691-6378  *  *
Media contact:          (202) 691-5902  *

                             FOURTH QUARTER 2009

Median weekly earnings of the nation's 98.7 million full-time wage and salary
workers were $748 in the fourth quarter of 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Sta-
tistics reported today. This was 2.7 percent higher than a year earlier, com-
pared with a gain of 1.4 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban
Consumers (CPI-U) over the same period.

Data on usual weekly earnings are collected as part of the Current Population
Survey, a nationwide sample survey of households in which respondents are
asked, among other things, how much each wage and salary worker usually earns.
(See the Technical Note.) Highlights from the fourth-quarter data are:

   --Women who usually worked full time had median earnings of $670 per week,
     or 81.2 percent of the $825 median for men. The female-to-male earnings
     ratios were higher among blacks (93.4 percent) and Hispanics (86.6 per-
     cent) than among whites (79.9 percent) or Asians (83.5 percent). (See
     table 1.)

   --Among the major race and ethnicity groups, median earnings for black
     men working at full-time jobs were $653 per week, 76.8 percent of the
     median for white men ($850). The difference was less among women, as
     median earnings for black women ($610) were 89.8 percent of those for
     white women ($679). Overall, median earnings of Hispanics who worked
     full time ($547) were lower than those of blacks ($629), whites ($763),
     and Asians ($877). (See table 1.)

   --Usual weekly earnings of full-time workers varied by age. Among men,
     those age 45 to 54 and age 55 to 64 had the highest median weekly
     earnings, $967 and $953, respectively. Among women, weekly earnings
     were highest for those age 55 to 64 ($750). (See table 2.)

   --Among the major occupational groups, persons employed full time in
     management, professional, and related occupations had the highest
     median weekly earnings--$1,227 for men and $909 for women. Persons
     employed in service jobs earned the least. (See table 3.)

   --By educational attainment, full-time workers age 25 and over without
     a high school diploma had median weekly earnings of $449, compared
     with $638 for high school graduates (no college) and $1,121 for those
     holding at least a bachelor's degree. Among college graduates with
     advanced degrees (professional or master's degree and above), the
     highest earning 10 percent of male workers made $3,342 or more per
     week, compared with $2,156 or more for their female counterparts.
     (See table 4.)

Annual Averages for 2008 and 2009

In addition to the data for the fourth quarter, this release includes 2008
and 2009 annual average weekly earnings for major demographic and occupa-
tional groups, and 2009 annual average data for educational attainment groups
(tables 6, 7, and 8). Annual average data on median usual earnings for men
and women by detailed occupational categories will appear in the January 2010
edition of Employment and Earnings Online at

Technical Note

   The estimates in this release were obtained from the Current Pop-
ulation Survey (CPS), which provides the basic information on the
labor force, employment, and unemployment.  The survey is conducted
monthly for the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the U.S. Census Bureau
from a scientifically selected national sample of about 60,000 house-
holds, with coverage in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The earnings data are collected from one-quarter of the CPS monthly
sample and are limited to wages and salaries.  The data, therefore,
exclude self-employment income.

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


   Statistics based on the CPS are subject to both sampling and non-
sampling error.  When a sample rather than the entire population is
surveyed, there is a chance that the sample estimates may differ from
the "true" population values they represent.  The exact difference, or
sampling error, varies depending on the particular sample selected,
and this variability is measured by the standard error of the estimate.
There is about a 90-percent chance, or level of confidence, that an
estimate based on a sample will differ by no more than 1.6 standard
errors from the "true" population value because of sampling error.
BLS analyses are generally conducted at the 90-percent level of

   The CPS data also are affected by nonsampling error.  Nonsampling
errors can occur for many reasons, including the failure to sample a
segment of the population, inability to obtain information for all
respondents in the sample, inability or unwillingness of respondents
to provide correct information on a timely basis, mistakes made by
respondents, and errors made in the collection or processing of the

   For a full discussion of the reliability of data from the CPS and
information on estimating standard errors, see the Household Data
section of the "Explanatory Notes and Estimates of Error" available on
the BLS Web site at


   The principal definitions used in connection with the earnings
series are described briefly below.

   Usual weekly earnings. Data represent earnings before taxes and
other deductions and include any overtime pay, commissions, or tips
usually received (at the main job in the case of multiple jobholders).
Prior to 1994, respondents were asked how much they usually earned per
week.  Since January 1994, respondents have been asked to identify the
easiest way for them to report earnings (hourly, weekly, biweekly,
twice monthly, monthly, annually, other) and how much they usually
earn in the reported time period.

   Earnings reported on a basis other than weekly are converted to a
weekly equivalent.  The term "usual" is as perceived by the respondent.
If the respondent asks for a definition of usual, interviewers are in-
structed to define the term as more than half the weeks worked during
the past 4 or 5 months.

   Medians (and other quantiles) of weekly earnings.  The median (or
upper limit of the second quartile) is the amount which divides a
given earnings distribution into two equal groups, one having earnings
above the median and the other having earnings below the median.  Ten
percent of a given distribution have earnings below the upper limit of
the first decile (90 percent have higher earnings); 25 percent have
earnings below the upper limit of the first quartile (75 percent have
higher earnings); 75 percent have earnings below the upper limit of
the third quartile (25 percent have higher earnings); and 90 percent
have earnings below the upper limit of the ninth decile (10 percent
have higher earnings).
   The estimating procedure places each reported or calculated weekly
earnings value into $50-wide intervals which are centered around
multiples of $50.  The actual value is estimated through the linear
interpolation of the interval in which the quantile boundary lies.

   Over-the-year changes in the medians (and other quantile boundaries)
for specific groups may not necessarily be consistent with the movements
estimated for the overall quantile boundary.  The most common reasons
for this possible anomaly are:  (1) There could be a change in the re-
lative weights of the subgroups.  For example, the medians of both 16-
to-24 year olds and those 25 years and over may rise; but if the lower-
earning 16-to-24 group accounts for a greatly increased share of the
total, the overall median could actually fall.  (2) There could be a
large change in the shape of the distribution of reported earnings,
particularly near a quantile boundary.  This could be caused by survey
observations that are clustered at rounded values, such as $250, $300,
$400.  An estimate lying in a $50-wide centered interval containing
such a cluster or "spike" tends to change more slowly than one in other

   Wage and salary workers.  Workers who receive wages, salaries, com-
missions, tips, payment in kind, or piece rates.  The group includes em-
ployees in both the private and public sectors but, for the purposes of
the earnings series, excludes all self-employed persons, regardless of
whether or not their businesses are incorporated.

   Full-time workers.  Workers who usually work 35 hours or more per
week at their sole or principal job.

   Part-time workers.  Workers who usually work fewer than 35 hours
per week at their sole or principal job.

   Constant dollars.  The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers
(CPI-U) is used to convert current dollars to constant (1982) dollars.

   Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.  Refers to persons who identified
themselves in the enumeration process as being Spanish, Hispanic, or
Latino.  Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino
may be of any race.

Table 1. Median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by selected characteristics, quarterly averages, not seasonally adjusted
Characteristic Number of workers
(in thousands)
Median weekly earnings
In current dollars In constant (1982) dollars


Total, 16 years and over

105,774 98,720 $728 $748 $330 $334

Men, 16 years and over

58,505 54,422 807 825 366 368

16 to 24 years

5,487 4,658 462 476 209 212

25 years and over

53,018 49,764 859 871 389 389

Women, 16 years and over

47,269 44,298 650 670 295 299

16 to 24 years

4,392 3,648 449 436 203 195

25 years and over

42,877 40,650 679 700 308 313



85,378 79,964 748 763 339 341


48,379 45,152 833 850 377 379


36,999 34,813 667 679 302 303

Black or African American

12,593 11,530 593 629 269 281


5,833 5,324 618 653 280 292


6,760 6,207 569 610 258 272


5,235 4,968 889 877 403 392


2,886 2,744 989 941 448 420


2,348 2,224 782 786 354 351

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

15,595 14,513 535 547 242 244


9,770 9,007 563 581 255 259


5,825 5,506 512 503 232 224

NOTE: Estimates for the above race groups (white, black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Updated population controls are introduced annually with the release of January data.