Tag Archives: BLS products and services

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.

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.

What Do We Know about Mega Metros?

Not only does BLS produce nationwide economic indicators, but we also have a treasure trove of data for metropolitan areas across the country.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 62.9 percent of our country’s 325.7 million people live in incorporated places. To celebrate our metro areas, we looked at the data for our six largest ones. We started with five but expanded to six, and you’ll soon see why.

Just a little history

You can track our march west as a nation, and, later, to the Sun Belt, in this list of the six most populous U.S. cities:

  1. New York City: Since the first census in 1790, New York has been our most populous city. Its population of 8.6 million makes it more than twice as large as the next largest city, Los Angeles.
  2. Los Angeles City: With a population of about 4 million, Los Angeles first showed up on the top-five list with the 1930 Census.
  3. Chicago City: Even with little population growth over the last several years, Chicago remains the third-largest city, with a population of 2.7 million. Chicago first showed up on the top-five city list in 1870.
  4. Houston City: And now we get to the Sun Belt, which seems to expand every year. Houston, with a population of 2.3 million, was a top-five city starting in 1980.
  5. Phoenix City: In 2016, Phoenix beat out Philadelphia for the number five spot on the most populous city list. In July 2017, its population was 1.6 million.
  6. Philadelphia City: Since Philadelphia was the second most populous city in 1790 and remained within the top five until Phoenix nudged it out in 2016, we kept it on our list. Philadelphia’s population is almost 1.6 million.

What makes a metro area great?

That’s easy—its people! So what’s happening with the people in each metro area? Are they working? Where do they work? What type of work? What are their earnings? How do they spend their money?

For the rest of this blog, we will use the Office of Management and Budget’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas to define our mega metros:

  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Chicago- Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metropolitan Statistical Area

We won’t use these long titles, but we will compare the areas listed above.

What’s the unemployment rate?

In November 2018, the national unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. Los Angeles had the highest rate (4.2 percent) among these six areas. Phoenix (3.9 percent), Houston (3.8 percent), Chicago (3.8 percent), Philadelphia (3.6 percent) and New York (3.3 percent) round out our list. New York had the largest over-the-year decrease in their unemployment rate among these six areas from November 2017 to November 2018 (-0.9 percentage point). Los Angeles was the only one of the six metro areas that had an over-the-year increase (+0.2 percentage point) in the unemployment rate.

How about the number of jobs? Has that been going up?

As we walk around our metro areas, we will see more folks going to work than a year ago. Nonfarm payroll employment increased for all of these areas from November 2017 to November 2018. Two showed growth rates above the national average—4.2 percent in Phoenix and 3.7 percent in Houston. The other four areas showed growth rates of 1.5 percent or lower. The national growth rate was 1.6 percent.

Where are people employed? What industries?

What industries employ the most workers? Trade, transportation, and utilities is the biggest industry, with 28.5 million workers nationwide. Education and health services (24.1 million workers) comes in second.

As we walk around each of these metro areas, what industries will we see employing our workers? Basically the same as the nation! In four of the six areas (all but New York and Philadelphia), trade, transportation, and utilities is the biggest industry. For both New York and Philadelphia, the biggest industry is education and health services.

What kind of occupations do people have?

What occupations do these folks have? This might sound like what we just covered, but occupation and industry are different. For example, I’m an economist (occupation) who works in government (public administration industry), but I could be an economist who works in a bank (financial activities industry).

I must admit I was surprised that, for all of our metro areas and the nation, these are the three largest occupational groups for our workers: office and administrative support occupations, sales and related occupations, and food preparation and serving related occupations. So as you walk around these metro areas, you will see people hurrying to work on a computer, sell an item, or cook a meal!

What about earnings? Do they vary much by metro area?

Nationwide, average hourly earnings in November 2018 for all employees were $27.28. Phoenix had the lowest average hourly earnings among these six areas, at $27.22. The highest average hourly earnings were in New York, $32.83. That’s a difference of $5.61 per hour between the highest and lowest averages among these six metro areas.

Where do folks spend their money?

Because of small sample sizes for metro areas, we’ll use an average of 2016–17 data on consumer spending for metro areas and the United States. Consumers in the three largest areas—New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago—all allocate a larger share of their total spending to housing than the national average. The U.S. housing average is 33 percent, while New Yorkers spend about 39 percent on housing. The percentage of households that own their homes also varies in our areas: Philadelphia has the highest homeownership percentage (70 percent), while New York has the lowest (49 percent). But New York residents spend less on transportation, 12 percent, compared to Houston residents, who spend 18 percent.

Want more metro area data?

You might not know about our Economic Summaries, which gather data from many programs. We have information for hundreds of metro areas in all 50 states, plus a couple of territories. We also have geographic definitions for each subject. We update the summaries each month to keep them fresh.

You can use these Economic Summaries to see how your area is doing. If you have questions about this information, feel free to contact one of our BLS Regional Information Offices. We provide these gold-standard data to help you make smart decisions, such as, do you want to stay in your metro area? Or does another catch your eye?!

*A note to our readers that the above data are not seasonally adjusted and some may be subject to revision. Area definitions may differ by subject. For more area summaries and geographic definitions, please see our Economic Summaries.

New Measures of Prices for Global Trade

Shipping containers sitting on a dock at a port.How do prices for U.S. manufacturing exports compare to prices for goods manufactured abroad? How has the balance of export and import prices between the United States and Mexico changed over time? BLS has new measures to answer these and other questions on the competitiveness of U.S. production. We have published data on import and export price indexes since 1973. Since then we have made many improvements to the data we provide. Our latest improvements are the locality of destination export price indexes and the U.S. terms of trade indexes.

What are the locality of destination indexes?

Each locality of destination index measures price changes in dollars for U.S. goods exported to another country, region, or group of countries. These include major U.S. trade partners like China and the European Union. The indexes are available for all goods and for manufacturing and nonmanufacturing goods industries for some localities. The locality of destination indexes are a counterpart to the locality of origin import price indexes, which we have published since 1990. The locality of origin indexes let us examine price trends for goods imported from other countries, regions, and groups of countries.

What do the locality of destination indexes tell us?

The locality of destination indexes show how export price movements can vary depending on where U.S. goods are sold. For instance, from August to September 2018, prices for manufacturing exports to Latin America increased 0.3 percent. During the same period, manufacturing export prices to the European Union did not change. Comparing the two price movements, we can conclude market prices for U.S. exports arriving in Latin America increased relative to exports bound for Europe. Identifying these trends allows data users to dig deeper to see how currency exchange rates or shifts in global supply and demand affect price movements across trade partners.

What are the terms of trade indexes?

Each terms of trade index measures the purchasing power of U.S. exports, in terms of imports, for a specific country, region, or group of countries. In other words, the terms of trade index for China provides information on the price for exports to China, and how those export prices compare to prices for imports coming from China. Prices for exports and imports are measured in U.S. dollars, so exchange rates are already taken into account. We calculate the terms of trade index for China by dividing the China export index by the China import index, then multiplying by 100. An increase in the China terms of trade index means prices for exports to China are rising faster than prices for imports from China.

What does a terms of trade index price change mean?

A change in a terms of trade index provides information on the competitiveness of U.S. goods in the global market. Take the previous example, an increase in the China terms of trade index. U.S. producers are receiving higher prices for exported goods, meaning U.S. companies can now afford to purchase more imports. The U.S. terms of trade—or competitiveness—with China have improved. When looking at the trends, remember that the types of goods U.S. businesses export to and import from China are different, and underlying price changes may have different causes.

How broad is the coverage of the terms of trade indexes?

We have terms of trade indexes for each country, region, or group of countries where we publish both a locality of destination export index and a locality of origin import index. These countries include major trading partners:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Germany
  • China
  • Japan

They also include regions or groups of countries:

  • Industrialized Countries (Western Europe, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa)
  • European Union
  • Latin America (Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean)
  • Pacific Rim (China, Japan, Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Macao, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and the Asian Newly Industrialized Countries)

We publish the terms of trade indexes and the locality of destination indexes monthly. Data are available beginning with December 2017.

Why did we develop these new indexes?

The locality of destination and terms of trade indexes come from an ongoing effort to better measure the competitiveness of U.S. goods. We began expanding our measures of competitiveness in 2010 by extending the locality of origin import indexes to more detailed industries. Next we began work on the locality of destination and terms of trade indexes, eventually introducing them in September 2018.

Want to learn more?

Making It Easier to Find Data on Pay and Benefits

We love data at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We have lots of data about the labor market and economy, but we sometimes wish we had more. For example, we believe workers, businesses, and public policymakers would benefit if we had up-to-date information on employer-provided training. I recently wrote about the challenges of collecting good data on electronically mediated work, or what many people call “gig” work. I know many of you could make your own list of data you wish BLS had. One topic for which we have no shortage of data is pay and benefits. In fact, we have a dozen surveys or programs that provide information on compensation. We have so much data on compensation that it can be hard to decide which source is best for a particular purpose.

Where can you get pay data on the age, sex, or race of workers? Where should you go if you want pay data for teachers, nurses, accountants, or other occupations? What about if you want occupational pay data for a specific metro area? Or if you want occupational pay data for women and men separately? What if you want information on workers who receive medical insurance from their employers? Where can you find information on employers’ costs for employee benefits? Here’s a short video to get you started.

But wait, there’s more! To make it easier to figure out which source is right for your needs, we now have an interactive guide to all BLS data on pay, benefits, wages, earnings, and all the other terms we use to describe compensation. Let me explain what I mean by “interactive.” The guide lists 12 sources of compensation data and 32 key details about those data sources. 12 x 32 = a LOT of information! Having so much information in one place can feel overwhelming, so we created some features to let you choose what you want to see.

For example, the guide limits the display to three data sources at a time, rather than all 12. You can choose which sources you want to learn about from the menus at the top of the guide.Snippet of interactive guide on BLS compensation data.

If you want to learn about one of the 32 key details across all 12 data sources, just press or click that characteristic in the left column. For example, if you choose “Measures available by occupation?” a new window will open on your screen to describe the pay data available from each source on workers’ occupations.

There are links near the bottom of the guide to help you find where to go if you want even more information about each data source.

Check out our overview of statistics on pay and benefits. The first paragraph on that page has a link to the interactive guide. We often like to say, “We’ve got a stat for that!” When it comes to pay and benefits, we have lots of stats for that. Let us know how you like this new interactive guide.