Bureau of Labor Statistics Reports on Pay Comparisons Among 77 Metropolitan Areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. — November 4, 2010 — The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, has released Occupational Pay Comparisons Among Metropolitan Areas, 2009.

The report shows that pay for civilian workers in the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA metropolitan area was 20 percent above the national average while the Brownsville-Harlingen, TX metropolitan areas was 21 percent below the national average.

The report uses data from the National Compensation Survey to calculate pay relatives for nine occupational groups in 77 metropolitan areas. A pay relative is a calculation of pay—wages, salaries, commissions, and production bonuses—for a given metropolitan area relative to the nation as a whole. The calculation controls for differences among areas in occupational composition, establishmentand occupational characteristics, and the fact that data are collected for areas at different times during the year. Simple pay comparisons calculating the ratio of the average pay for an area to the entire United States in percentage terms would not control for inter-area differences in occupational composition and other factors, which may affect pay relatives.

The report includes a table showing the area-to-nation comparisons for all occupational groups within all areas, with the pay relative for the national average set to 100. In addition, separate area-to-area comparisons are available on the Web with a separate table for each of the 77 areas.

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) is an ongoing, comprehensive, employer-based survey of approximately 37,000 organizations conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. NCS is an umbrella program that produces data on several topics, including benefits, wages, and compensation cost trends, including the Employment Cost Index (ECI) and Employer Costs for Employee Compensation (ECEC).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor is the principal federal agency responsible for measuring labor market activity, working conditions, and price changes in the economy. Its mission is to collect, analyze, and disseminate essential economic information to support public and private decision-making. As an independent statistical agency, BLS serves its diverse user communities by providing products and services that are objective, timely, accurate, and relevant.

For additional technical information on this report and the National Compensation Survey, see BLS Handbook of Methods, Chapter 8, “National Compensation Measures,” especially the major section “Area-to-Nation and Area-to-Area Pay Comparisons.”

Wayne M. Shelly,
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