Topic Archives: Earnings and Wages

Why This Counts: How the Consumer Price Index Affects You

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Steve Reed, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Every month, Debi Bertram, an economic assistant in our Philadelphia region, checks the price of milk at a local grocery store. She also goes to several stores to check the prices of items such as toothpaste, sports equipment, and appliances. You may not know Debi—or any of the men and women who collect data for the Bureau of Labor Statistics—but their findings have a real impact on your life.

Among other things, the data are used for making changes in the federal income tax structure and providing cost-of-living wage adjustments for millions of American workers. Additionally, the president, Congress, and the Federal Reserve Board use trends in the data to inform fiscal and monetary policies.

How does it work? BLS data collectors visit or call thousands of locations across the country, from grocery stores to doctors’ offices, to get the prices of about 80,000 different items every month. The data help BLS compile the Consumer Price Index, which measures the average change over time in prices consumers pay for a market basket of goods and services. It is the key measure of consumer inflation in the U.S. economy.

Just got paid

Person's Hand Giving CheckIt’s very possible the CPI helps determine how big your paycheck is. Many employers use the CPI, formally or informally, to decide how much of a cost-of-living raise to give employees. Additionally, many states index their minimum wage by the overall CPI increase. The CPI helps determine how much comes out of your paycheck too, as the IRS uses it to adjust tax bracket thresholds. And many states use CPI data to calculate and adjust workers’ compensation payments.

 

The check’s in the mail

Woman inserting letter into a mailboxMailing a birthday card? The CPI helps determine how much it costs. The Postal Regulatory Commission uses CPI data in the decision about price increases for stamps and postal fees.

 

 

 

 

Back to school

Smiling student eating her lunch.The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services uses CPI data to determine the annual payments and rate adjustments for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The CPI is also consulted to adjust thresholds for eligibility to these programs.

 

 

 

 

Got to pay the rent

Hand holding money with a house in the background.The CPI may even affect where you live. Many landlords tie rent changes to CPI increases; in some cities rent increases for some properties cannot exceed the increase in the CPI. The CPI may also come into play if you want to rent government facilities; the CPI for rent is used to adjust fees for using federal facilities.

You can find out more about how the CPI affects your economic life from the CPI webpage.

Put Your Writing Skills to Work

Editor’s note: This post was written by Alan Zilberman, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

There are countless ways for people to express themselves through the written word. Social media, blogs, comment boards, and even private diaries are a way to flex the writing muscle. Most writers are happy to offer their thoughts for free, but the sheer quantity of media outlets and demand for content creates opportunities in occupations that put writing skills to work.

Writing occupations communicate ideas and concepts through written language. Let’s take a closer look at some of them.

  • Writers and authors compose everything from novels to blog posts. They also write short stories, advertising copy, movie or TV scripts, and plays.
  • Reporters and correspondents, also known as journalists, include workers that write articles for newspapers, magazines, or Internet publications such as online only news services. They may report the news or offer their own opinions.
  • Editors plan, assign, and review everything from newspaper articles to novels. They review writing for syntax, spelling, and “bigger picture” concerns like style and storytelling.

All of these occupations are projected to have job openings in 2024, and all typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry, usually in English, journalism, or communications.

Writing occupation employment, wages, and projected job openings
Occupation 2014 Employment Percent self employed in 2014 Job openings due to growth and replacements,
2014–24
Median annual wage, 2016 Typical education needed for entry

Reporters and correspondents

49,300 14.8% 15,900 $37,820 Bachelor’s degree

Editors

117,200 13.6% 42,500 $57,210 Bachelor’s degree

Writers and authors

136,500 65.7% 26,100 $61,240 Bachelor’s degree

About two-thirds of writers and authors were self-employed in 2014, as were about 1 in 6 editors and reporters and correspondents. Most wage and salary workers in these occupations work in publishing industries, such as magazines, newspapers, or book publishers. People who write and edit for a living can often do so from their homes.

Median annual wages for these occupations ranged from $61,240 for writers and authors, to $57,210 for editors, to $37,820 for reporters and correspondents. (Wages are for May 2016. These wages do not include self-employed workers.) Wages for reporters and correspondents are much higher in metropolitan areas where many publishers are based, such as the New York and Washington, DC, metropolitan areas.

In order to get their work published, a writer or journalist typically proposes an assignment, also known as a “pitch,” to the appropriate editor. Editors are the gatekeepers for the outlets where they work; they read pitches, decide which ones are best for their readers, and approve them accordingly. Editors also take a writer’s initial draft and improve it so it is clearer and more evocative. By researching what editors want, writers can develop a portfolio of their “clips,” which will then increase their chances to build their writing careers. A newer alternative for writers and journalists to get their work published is to self-publish on the Internet, such as in a blog or in an e-book marketplace. If a blog or e-book gains enough attention or popularity, self-published writers could transition into more lucrative writing deals.

Explore all of these occupations and many more in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Now on Video: Finding Better Ways to Talk about Data

Our mission at BLS is to help people understand what’s going on in the labor market and the economy. Since our founding in 1884, we’ve aided that understanding by improving our products. We didn’t start with stone tablets, but we have produced mountains of paper and its electronic equivalent in 133 years. Whether it’s news releases or articles or bulletins, most of our output includes text, tables, and, more recently, graphics. Recently we have added another medium to our library, using video to tell stories about our data. We are pleased to introduce you to “Beth’s Bird Houses,” “What if there were only 100 jobs in the United States,” and more, now available on video.

Why video? Video lets us provide a large amount of information in a shorter time. We know you are busy, and we want to use your time wisely. We will always need written words and tables and charts to provide the details of our economic analyses and survey methods, but video helps us provide the main points more quickly. Video is also easy to share through social media, helping us reach more people.

The first video we produced is about our statistics on productivity. Productivity statistics are among the most technically complex data we produce. Despite their complexity, we believe it’s important to understand productivity statistics because productivity directly affects workers’ pay and the nation’s standard of living. We produced a video that explains in about 2 minutes the essential elements of productivity statistics. How’s that for being productive? Check it out and let us know how you enjoy it.

We recently posted two videos about the Employment Cost Index, which measures changes in the costs to employers of worker pay and benefits. One video explains what the Employment Cost Index is. The other video explains how the Employment Cost Index is used.

Want to know more about the different types of jobs workers have in the United States? What about workplace hazards and the safety of America’s workers? We have new videos on those subjects too, and we expect to keep adding to the list to keep you informed. You can see all of our videos on our video page.

Our customers use BLS information to support their private and public decision making. Our mission is to remain relevant to a diverse set of data users regardless of their technical expertise. We believe it’s important not just to tell people what the numbers are but to explain what they mean and where they come from. Video gives us new opportunities to reach a wider audience with our information. As they say in the movies, roll ‘em.

Bringing You Better Data on Occupational Wages

At BLS, we believe better decisions begin with better data. That belief inspired the collaboration between our Occupational Employment Statistics and National Compensation Survey programs to produce more detailed data on occupational wages than either program can provide separately. We developed these wage estimates by listening to our customers’ needs, while working within our existing resources.

We produce these wage estimates using a statistical model that combines wage and geographic data from one survey with data on job characteristics and work levels from the other survey. Job characteristics include full-time or part-time status, bargaining status (that is, union or nonunion), and time-based pay or incentive pay. For example, estimates from our 2015 data show that, nationwide, full-time cashiers earned an average of $11.48 per hour, compared with $9.56 for their part-time counterparts.

Work levels are based on such characteristics as the knowledge needed to perform the job, the complexity of the job, how much the employee can control how the work is performed, the nature and purpose of contacts on the job, and the physical environment.

For one example, the chart below shows the average wages in 2015 of full-time workers in education, training, and library occupations by their work level. The lower levels are typically administrative and clerical positions. Entry-level professionals may range from levels 5 to 9. Those at the upper end are typically experienced professionals.

Chart showing mean hourly wages of full-time workers in education, training, and library occupations by work level in 2015

Editor’s note: Data for the chart are provide below.

The modeled wage estimates are available by occupation, geographic location, job characteristics, and work levels. We will update the modeled wage estimates each year. Want to know more? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions or ask us your own questions by email.

 

Mean hourly wages of full-time workers in education, training, and library occupations by work level, 2015
Work level Wage
All levels $28.06
Level 2 10.36
Level 3 11.18
Level 4 14.03
Level 5 16.23
Level 6 15.52
Level 7 22.10
Level 8 29.59
Level 9 29.62
Level 10 37.47
Level 11 42.21
Level 12 66.16

 

Some Interesting Numbers about the Oscars

The annual Academy Awards ceremony was held Sunday, February 26, to recognize excellence in cinematic achievements in the U.S. film industry. Impress your friends with these facts we’ve gathered about the Oscars and the motion picture business.

This year’s Oscar for Best Picture went to La La Land Moonlight.

  • Not all actors reach the top, but lots are trying: Actors in the U.S. can be found coast to coast with a total employment of 50,570. Almost one-third, or about 14,560, work in the greater Los Angeles metro area alone. Employment of actors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Walt Disney is the most Oscar-nominated person ever with 59 nominations.

  • Walt may be gone, but his legacy lives on: Today there are 30,240 multimedia artists and animators employed in the U.S. California employs about a third (10,110) with half of those in the greater Los Angeles area (5,830). Employment of multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Since 1945, the accounting firm Price Waterhouse (now called PricewaterhouseCoopers) has tabulated the Oscar ballots to ensure the secrecy of the results.

  • There are a total of 1,226,910 accountants in the United States, and California again has the largest employment with 144,540. Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Oscar weekend is a boon to the beauty industry: Before walking down the red carpet, many use the services of a hairstylist – and house calls reportedly start at $500.

  • Nationwide, 348,010 hairstylists are employed. The five states with the most are California (26,340), New York (25,420), Pennsylvania (24,210), Florida (23,840) and Texas (22,050). The metropolitan area with the most hairstylists is New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ, with 20,790. Employment of barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences identified 336 feature films eligible for the 2016 Academy Awards.

The first Academy Awards ceremony was on May 16, 1929, at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room with 270 attendees. The price of admission was $5, which included a broiled chicken dinner.

The Oscar statuette is 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds. A New York foundry casts them in bronze before they receive a 24-karat gold finish.

  • Workers who make these kinds of items are part of a small industry, known as “other nonferrous foundries, excluding die-casting,” with only 12,372 employees nationwide. About half are employed in three states: Michigan, Oregon and Ohio. Employment in the foundries industry is projected to decrease by about 17 percent from 2014 to 2024.

After the Oscars ceremony, you may be inspired to go to a movie. But did you know how much these prices have changed over the last 10 years?

  • Admission to movies, theaters and concerts is up 21 percent, carbonated drinks are up 19 percent, and candy and chewing gum are up 28 percent. We don’t track popcorn — sorry!

Editor’s note: Oscar-specific facts are from the official Oscars website, unless another source is provided.