Tips for Using Occupational Wage Information

Utah Occupational Wages

Who uses wage information?

Wage information is essential to employers, employees, and everyone who participates in the labor market.

Employers use the data to determine whether they are paying their workers a competitive wage, to develop job descriptions and classification plans, to recruit workers, and to identify locations where new business operations may be successful.

Job seekers, students, and others use wage data to make decisions about jobs or careers, to negotiate job offers or promotions, to make relocation decisions, and to decide which education or training programs to pursue.

Researchers use wage data to analyze trends, educators use the data to develop and modify curricula and course content, and managers use it to design and implement policies.

Employment and wage data derived from the OES survey process and related data collection efforts are key components of many products, publications, and automated systems designed to meet the varying needs of users of labor market information. Some of these products and services are discussed at the end of this section.

There is no single "right" wage for an occupation

The economy and the supply and demand of the job market determine the wage an employer is willing and able to pay an employee. The individual employee decides whether or not to accept the wage offered for the job he or she is hired to perform.

Companies differ considerably in the products or services produced, working conditions, size, location, and complexity. There are also significant differences in the work required for different jobs classified in the same occupation and between the skills, education, experience, and abilities of employees in the occupation. Because of these differences, there is typically a wide range of wages actually paid for a single occupation.

When analyzing wage information for an occupation, it is important to look at the middle range of wages. This provides a more accurate picture, accounting for inexperience (at or below the low end of the middle range) or greater experience, education, skills and high productivity (at or above the high end of the range).

There are four wage measures for each occupation

The wage information is presented in the form of the estimated inexperienced, the average, the median, and the low and high ends of the middle range.

  • The inexperienced wage reflects the average of the wage estimates of the bottom third of the wages of the workers in the scope of the survey for a particular occupation.
  • The weighted average (or mean) for an occupation is derived from dividing the total of all wages by the total number of all employees.
  • The median is the middle wage, i.e., half of the employees had wages higher and half had wages lower than this wage.
  • The middle range reflects the wages of the middle half of all employees in the occupation, i.e., one-fourth had wages below the low end and one-fourth had wages above the high end of the middle range.

The best measure to use depends upon the needs of the user. For example:

  • The estimated inexperienced wage can be used as an indicator of what the new or inexperienced worker might expect from the employer.
  • The prefered measure is the median wage because it is not influenced by a few very high wages or very low responses.
  • The middle range may be a better indicator of the level of wages for an occupation because it is a range, not a single figure.

Matching your job with the survey occupation

Whether you are an employer, an employee, or job seeker, the best way to match a job with the pay is to match the skills and responsibilities of that job with the skills and responsibilities defined for the survey occupation. Do not make the mistake of just matching job title with occupational title. The occupational titles and definitions used in the survey can be used to make this comparison.

You may not find the occupation you want listed on the wage tables. This may be because the occupation you are looking for is part of a broader occupation. A review of the broad occupational groups presented prior to the wage tables may help you find a related occupation for which data is available. If you find a related occupation that shares similar skills, knowledge, and responsibilities to the one you need, use the wage data for the related occupation.

Another reason the occupation may not appear on a particular wage table is that the level of employment was too low to estimate a reliable wage, or the publication of wage rates may have disclosed individual firm information. In this instance, you can also look for the occupation in other area wage tables. For example, if you can’t find wages for drafter in the Central and Southwest Rural counties area, look for drafter in the Iron/Washington counties area, and if you still can’t locate the occupation, expand to the statewide or larger metropolitan areas’ tables.

When will this year's OES estimates be available?

If the users of wage information understand when the data was collected, they can make assumptions about its reliability.

Good wage surveys take time to conduct. The sample must be designed and selected, data collected, coding and editing completed, analysis conducted, and results published.

Each survey takes roughly 9 months to complete. Wage information is collected for the last quarter of the previous year. Follow-up contacts with non-respondents to collect data continued through the beginning of the current year.

National estimates for the previous year are generally released in late March or early April.

Statewide data is released shortly afterward and can be found using tools in the Utah Economic Data Viewer (UEDV).

Using wage data

Several things should be kept in mind when using wage data. First, differences in the way employers perceive the occupational title or definition on the survey can sometimes lead to differences in the way information is reported.

Pay may vary by area within Utah. Even in the same geographic area, wide ranges of pay rates for the same occupation are not uncommon. These differences stem, in part, from the degree of competition for workers and the availability of accurate wage information.

Typically, the higher the level of skill, education, and/or training an occupation requires, the broader the labor market area of recruitment. For example, the labor market for engineers may not be confined to the boundaries of Utah, but may be regional, national, or even international, depending on the special skills required. On the other hand, the labor market for low skill occupations is typically localized because workers may not commute long distances or relocate for low wage jobs. Workers may be willing to relocate or expand their commute for higher wages.

Frequently asked questions about wages

Q: My manager wants to meet with me to discuss an increase in my salary. Can you give me some wage information that I can use in the meeting?
A: See discussion of middle-range wages  and the corresponding wage data for your occupation in UEDV's Wages and Occupational Openings Data (WOOD) tool.
Q: I'm researching which career field to go into after high school. I've narrowed it down to computer programming or technical writing. Which occupation pays more?
A: Compare the wages for these two occupations in the WOOD tool of the UEDV.
Q: Our company is considering expanding in the St. George area and we will be hiring civil engineering technicians. We are concerned about labor costs. What is the wage rate for technicians in this area?
A: See the median wage for civil engineering technicians in the WOOD tool of the UEDV.
Q: I'm looking for wage data for an occupation that is not listed on any of the wage tables. How do I find information for the occupation I'm looking for?
A: Look for an Occupational Employment Statistic (OES) occupation with similar skills, knowledge, and responsibilities in the section Occupations by Classification , and use the wage data for that occupation.
Q: I'd like to hire a cook, but I'm not sure what wage to offer.
A: See the average wage for cook or food preparation worker in the WOOD tool of the the UEDV by searching for "cook" and you'll see wages for the areas that are published.
Q: I'm worried that I am earning less than others in my field. Can tell me the average wage for auto mechanics in Utah?
A: See the average wage for auto mechanics in the WOOD tool of the UEDV.
Q: I'm researching which career field to go into after high school. I've narrowed it down to computer programming or technical writing. Which occupation pays more?
A: See the discussion of the middle 50 percent . You might also look at the average wages paid for the occupation in your area and average wages paid for other occupations your employees might be qualified to perform (i.e., you could lose a receptionist who finds a higher paying job working as a cashier).
Q: How much can I expect to earn if I work as a registered nurse in Utah?
A: See the average wage for registered nurses in the WOOD tool of the UEDV.