Topic Archives: Earnings and Wages

Why This Counts: 10 Million U.S. Establishments for the First Time

In the third quarter of 2018, the number of establishments in the U.S. economy reached 10 million. This milestone is based on data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), which uses administrative records to identify the number of establishments in our economy.

What is the QCEW?

The QCEW compiles quarterly reports of the Unemployment Insurance systems in each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Every business with an employee, other than the owner, must register with the state where it has a business location. We call these locations establishments.

 Behind the number

Behind the 10 million establishments are some interesting facts about our labor market.

First, the U.S. labor market is dynamic

Roughly 200,000 establishments are new each quarter. That adds up to almost 800,000 new establishments each year. If we consider that we first hit the 9 million mark in third quarter 2007, you may wonder why we didn’t reach 10 million sooner.

Some establishments continue for long periods, while others close. In 2018, more than half of all private sector establishments were 10 years or older. And while the number of establishments grows in most years, during a recession fewer establishments open and more close. Openings and closings that mostly offset one another result in a pretty stable rate of change in the total number of establishments over time.

Line chart showing the number of establishments each quarter from 2001 to 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Second, most establishments are small

If we define small establishments as having fewer than 500 employees, 99.8 percent of all establishments in the U.S. economy are small. These employ 82.6 percent of workers and pay 73.5 percent of all wages, including bonuses.

Less than one-tenth of 1 percent of establishments have 1,000 employees or more, yet these establishment have an outsized impact. In first quarter 2018 they accounted for 11.0 percent of employment and 17.8 percent of total wages, far higher than their representation in our economy.

Chart showing the share of establishments, employment, and total wages by establishment size in the first quarter of 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Slicing the data a different way, we find that 62.5 percent of all establishments in first quarter 2018 had fewer than 5 employees. In fact, the five industries with the most establishments are all dominated by small establishments.

Services for the elderly and disabled is the industry with both the highest number of establishments and the highest number of small establishments. In first quarter 2018, it had 742,364 private establishments, and 97.1 percent of them had fewer than 5 employees. The industry office of physicians, except mental health ranks fifth in the U.S. economy in terms of the number of establishments, and 52.5 percent of them had fewer than 5 employees.

An interesting story about physicians’ offices

The real value of the QCEW data is in its fine level of detail. Drilling down, we find that in first quarter 2018 Los Angeles County had 10,360 establishments in offices of physicians, except mental health, ranking first in the U.S. economy.

However, the highest concentration of physicians’ offices is not in Los Angeles, but in Johnson County, Georgia. We use location quotients to measure the concentration of establishments in a geographic area. A location quotient greater than 1 means the industry has a greater concentration of establishments within the county than in the nation. With a location quotient of 5.0, Johnson County has five times the concentration of physicians’ offices than the nation.

Offices of physicians, except mental health, number of establishments and establishment location quotients in selected counties, first quarter 2018
County Number of Establishments Establishment location quotient
Johnson County, Georgia 14 5.0
Greenup County, Kentucky 40 3.2
Boyd County, Kentucky 103 3.1
Angelina County, Texas 107 2.8
Jefferson County, Texas 359 3.0
Los Angeles County, California 10,360 1.0


So, who uses the data?

The detail available in QCEW data is important to a range of users. In the private sector, commercial real estate brokers may use the data when deciding the best location for a new business. Small business owners may compare average weekly wages. Large corporations may use local data to develop geographic profiles and market studies.

In the public sector, local and regional economic development agencies use the data for planning and program development. Understanding the type and size of establishments can help them recruit and retain businesses and support workforce development investment. Disaster relief agencies use information on the size of establishments or the concentration in an area to determine risk and track recovery efforts. State governments and academic institutions use the data to study the health of regional economies.

Want to know more?

For this blog, we use private ownership data from first quarter 2018 to explore QCEW establishment size data. You can explore establishment size data using the QCEW Data Viewer.

For even more information, visit our QCEW page.

Number of establishments, 2001–18
Quarter Number of establishments
Q1 2001 7,925,541
Q2 2001 7,958,077
Q3 2001 8,008,006
Q4 2001 8,046,492
Q1 2002 8,042,613
Q2 2002 8,060,770
Q3 2002 8,124,227
Q4 2002 8,179,879
Q1 2003 8,188,261
Q2 2003 8,206,992
Q3 2003 8,239,152
Q4 2003 8,280,956
Q1 2004 8,298,175
Q2 2004 8,305,907
Q3 2004 8,389,106
Q4 2004 8,465,990
Q1 2005 8,478,533
Q2 2005 8,525,655
Q3 2005 8,613,899
Q4 2005 8,666,489
Q1 2006 8,690,719
Q2 2006 8,726,001
Q3 2006 8,816,751
Q4 2006 8,902,635
Q1 2007 8,862,947
Q2 2007 8,936,111
Q3 2007 9,014,197
Q4 2007 9,074,333
Q1 2008 9,028,884
Q2 2008 9,059,689
Q3 2008 9,108,151
Q4 2008 9,131,473
Q1 2009 8,967,310
Q2 2009 8,984,662
Q3 2009 9,020,598
Q4 2009 9,040,216
Q1 2010 8,925,889
Q2 2010 8,962,280
Q3 2010 9,014,193
Q4 2010 9,070,072
Q1 2011 8,989,800
Q2 2011 9,042,922
Q3 2011 9,104,661
Q4 2011 9,153,801
Q1 2012 9,006,016
Q2 2012 9,179,368
Q3 2012 9,128,346
Q4 2012 9,173,740
Q1 2013 9,107,736
Q2 2013 9,178,547
Q3 2013 9,241,547
Q4 2013 9,295,722
Q1 2014 9,288,442
Q2 2014 9,313,909
Q3 2014 9,380,061
Q4 2014 9,463,005
Q1 2015 9,414,823
Q2 2015 9,470,124
Q3 2015 9,561,224
Q4 2015 9,644,927
Q1 2016 9,601,391
Q2 2016 9,677,672
Q3 2016 9,758,568
Q4 2016 9,828,841
Q1 2017 9,718,391
Q2 2017 9,807,791
Q3 2017 9,871,253
Q4 2017 9,942,980
Q1 2018 9,910,520
Q2 2018 9,988,054
Q3 2018 10,065,152
Q4 2018 10,169,140
Percent of establishments, employment, and total wages by establishment size, first quarter 2018
Number of employees in establishment Percent of total establishments Percent of total employment Percent of total wages
1,000 or more 0.1% 11.0% 17.8%
500 to 999 0.1 6.4 8.7
Fewer than 500 99.8 82.6 73.5

How Are Our Older Workers Doing?

May is Older Americans Month. Who are we calling old?

  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics, for one. Next month we will celebrate our 135th birthday. Now that’s old! And we’ve been providing gold-standard information the entire time.
  • Today we are focusing on people age 65 and older.

In honor of Older Americans Month, let’s examine some fast facts about older workers. Many of these facts look over the last 30 years.


  • For workers age 65 and older, employment tripled from 1988 to 2018, while employment among younger workers grew by about a third.
  • Between 1988 and 2018, employment growth for women age 65 and older outpaced that for men.
  • Among people age 75 and older, the number of employed people nearly quadrupled, increasing from 461,000 in 1988 to 1.8 million in 2018.

Participation in the Labor Force

  • The labor force participation rate for older workers has been rising steadily since the late 1990s. Participation rates for younger age groups either declined or flattened over this period.

Chart showing labor force participation rates for people age 55 and older from 1988 to 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Employment Projections

  • The total labor force is projected to increase by 6.6 percent from 2016 to 2026, while the number of workers age 65 and older is predicted to rise by 57.6 percent.
  • By 2026, workers age 65 and older are expected to account for 8.6 percent of the total labor force, up from 5.8 percent in 2016.
  • The labor force participation rate of people age 65 and older is projected to increase from 19.3 percent in 2016 to 21.8 percent in 2026. This contrasts with the overall labor force participation rate, which is expected to decrease from 62.8 percent to 61.0 percent.

Work Schedules

  • Over the past 20 years, the number of older workers on full‐time work schedules grew two and a half times faster than the number working part time.
  • Full‐timers now account for a majority among older workers—61 percent in 2018, up from 46 percent in 1998.


  • In 1998, median weekly earnings of older full‐time employees were 77 percent of the median for workers age 16 and up. In 2018, older workers earned 7 percent more than the median for all workers.


  • In 1998, 1 in 5 older workers had less than a high school education. By 2018, fewer than 1 in 10 older workers had less than a high school diploma.
  • The percentage of older workers with a college degree grew from 26 percent in 1998 to 42 percent in 2018.

Safety and Health

  • While fatal occupational injuries to all workers declined 17 percent from 1992 to 2017, workers age 65 and older incurred 66 percent more fatal work injuries in 2017 (775) than they did in 1992 (467).
  • Workers age 65 and older had a fatality rate that was nearly three times the rate for all workers in 2017.

Chart showing fatal injury rates by age from 2013 to 2017

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Want to know more? These statistical programs contributed data to this blog:

From an American worker’s first job to retirement and everything in between, BLS has a stat for that!

Labor force participation rates by age, 1988–2018 annual averages
Year 55–64 65–69 70–74 75 and older
1988 54.6 20.1 10.9 4.2
1989 55.5 20.8 11.2 4.3
1990 55.9 21.0 11.3 4.3
1991 55.5 20.6 10.9 4.4
1992 56.2 20.6 11.1 4.5
1993 56.4 20.3 10.9 4.3
1994 56.8 21.9 11.8 5.4
1995 57.2 21.8 12.5 4.7
1996 57.9 21.9 12.5 4.7
1997 58.9 22.5 12.6 4.8
1998 59.3 22.5 12.5 4.7
1999 59.3 23.0 13.1 5.1
2000 59.2 24.5 13.5 5.3
2001 60.4 24.7 14.1 5.2
2002 61.9 26.1 14.0 5.1
2003 62.4 27.4 14.6 5.8
2004 62.3 27.7 15.3 6.1
2005 62.9 28.3 16.3 6.4
2006 63.7 29.0 17.0 6.4
2007 63.8 29.7 17.2 6.8
2008 64.5 30.7 17.8 7.3
2009 64.9 31.1 18.4 7.3
2010 64.9 31.5 18.0 7.4
2011 64.3 32.1 18.8 7.5
2012 64.5 32.1 19.5 7.6
2013 64.4 32.2 19.2 7.9
2014 64.1 31.6 18.9 8.0
2015 63.9 32.1 18.6 8.2
2016 64.1 32.2 19.2 8.4
2017 64.5 32.3 19.7 8.3
2018 65.0 33.0 19.5 8.7
Rate of fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers by age
Year All workers 18 to 19 years 20 to 24 years 25 to 34 years 35 to 44 years 45 to 54 years 55 to 64 years 65 years and over
2013 3.3 2.6 2.2 2.5 2.8 3.4 4.1 9.2
2014 3.4 2.0 2.3 2.4 2.8 3.6 4.3 10.7
2015 3.4 2.1 2.7 2.3 2.7 3.5 4.3 9.4
2016 3.6 1.9 2.4 2.5 3.1 3.5 4.7 9.6
2017 3.5 2.6 2.2 2.5 2.9 3.3 4.6 10.3

Wage Information Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

On April 16, BLS reported that median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary workers rose 2.7 percent over the year.

On April 30, BLS reported that the Employment Cost Index for wages of private industry workers rose 3.0 percent over the year.

On May 2, BLS reported that hourly compensation in the nonfarm business sector rose 2.5 percent over the year.

On May 3, BLS reported that average hourly earnings for private industry workers rose 3.2 percent over the year.

What’s going on here? Why so much wage information? And which one is RIGHT?

At BLS, we get questions like this all the time, and the answer is usually “it depends.” There is no one answer that fits every question on wages; there are just different answers depending on what you want to measure. People come to BLS looking for all kinds of answers, and we want to provide as much information as we can. Thus, we have many measures of wages (and other forms of compensation) — a dozen, to be exact.

Do you want to know about wages for an industry? An occupation? By location? For men and women? Based on education? Adjusted for inflation? Including benefits? How wages relate to spending patterns? How wages relate to worker productivity? BLS has it all, and more.

We have so much wage information that even we get confused. So we developed a tool to make the dozen wage series a little easier to understand. It’s an interactive guide that lists all 12 data sources and 32 key details about each of those sources, like how often it is available.

I can hear you now — that’s 384 pieces of information (12 x 32). I’m just looking for one piece of information, not almost 400. And how do you fit all that information on one page, anyway?

The interactive guide limits the display to 3 sources at a time — you pick the sources you want to see.

A table showing 3 BLS sources of compensation information and data characteristics available from those sources.

Or you can pick one characteristic, like “measures available by occupation” and get an answer for all 12 data sources.

A table showing the occupational information available from several BLS data sources on compensation.

This tool is on the BLS beta site. We want you to give it a try and provide feedback. Check it out and leave us a comment. Want to know even more? Watch this video that helps make sense of BLS wage information.

Earth Day 2019: Careers that Care for Our Earth

Next year will be the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day! The first Earth Day occurred on April 22, 1970, and I will show my age and admit that I clearly recall marching around my little campus on a blustery spring day in Topeka. Now, 49 years later, we want to celebrate Earth Day by highlighting some jobs that take care of our planet.

One way we keep track of jobs in the United States is through the Occupational Outlook Handbook which provides career information for hundreds of occupations. The Occupational Outlook Handbook was first published in 1949 to serve returning veterans of World War II. This year, the Handbook is 70 years old!

In honor of Earth Day, here are six earth-friendly career paths to consider:

Agricultural Engineers

What they do: Solve agricultural problems concerning power supplies, the efficiency of machinery, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.Female scientist in a field examining crops.

  • 2018 median pay: $77,110 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 2,700
  • Projected growth. 2016–26: 8% (As fast as average)




Environmental Engineering Technicians

What they do: Test, operate, and, if necessary, modify equipment used to prevent or clean up environmental pollution. They may collect samples for testing, or they may work to mitigate sources of environmental pollution.Scientist standing near waterfalls and wearing protective clothing.

  • 2018 median pay: $50,560 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Associate’s degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 17,000
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 13% (Faster than average)







Biochemists & Biophysicists

What they do: Study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.Two biochemists talking in a lab

  • 2018 median pay: $93,280 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Doctoral or professional degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 31,500
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 11% (Faster than average)



Atmospheric Scientists, including Meteorologists

What they do: Study the weather and climate, and examine how those conditions affect human activity and the earth in general.Two meteorologists tracking a storm with satellite images.

  • 2018 median pay: $94,110 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 10,400
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 12% (Faster than average)


Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installers

What they do: Assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.Person wearing protective clothing installing solar panels.

  • 2018 median pay: $42,680 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Number of jobs 2016: 11,300
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 105% (Fastest of the more than 800 occupations BLS projects)



Environmental Scientists & Specialists

What they do: Use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.Scientists taking notes while conducting research in a nature area

  • 2018 median pay: $71,130 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 89,500
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 11% (Faster than average)




Want more information? You can explore hundreds of occupations using our Occupational Outlook Handbook. For a larger list of new and emerging earth-friendly or “green” jobs, visit the Department of Labor’s O*Net Resource Center.

BLS Local Data App Now Available for Android Devices

The wait is over! The BLS Local Data app — a mobile application that connects users with the data they need to know about local labor markets — is now available for Android devices. Search “BLS Local Data” in Google Play.

The BLS Local Data app, first released for iPhones last fall, uses the BLS API to present local data and national comparisons for unemployment rates, employment, and wages. You can search using your current location, a zip code, or a location name to find relevant data quickly without having to navigate through the huge BLS database. With one click, you can find data for states, metro areas, or counties.

BLS continues to partner with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of the Chief Information Officer to expand the features and data in the app. A second version is in development and will be available soon for both iPhone and Android devices. Version 2.0 will include employment and wage data for detailed industries and occupations. It also will have new charting functionality that will allow users to plot the historical unemployment rate time series for their local area of interest.

Check out the app and bring the wealth of local labor market data produced by BLS directly to your mobile devices!

The BLS Local Data App showing employment and wage data for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.