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Nov 9 -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, invites comment by January 9, 2022 regarding the continued collection of the Occupational Employment and Wages Survey (OEWS).

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey is a Federal/State establishment survey of wage and salary workers designed to produce data on current detailed occupational employment and wages for each Metropolitan Statistical Area and Metropolitan Division as well as by detailed industry classification. OEWS survey data assist in the development of employment and training programs established by the Perkins Vocational Education Act and the Wagner-Peyser Act.

The OEWS program operates a periodic mail survey of a sample of non-farm establishments conducted by all fifty States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Over three-year periods, data on occupational employment and wages are collected by industry at the four- and five-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) levels. The Department of Labor uses OES data in the administration of the Foreign Labor Certification process under the Immigration Act of 1990.

Office of Management and Budget clearance is being sought for the OEWS program. Occupational employment data obtained by the OEWS survey are used to develop information regarding current and projected employment needs and job opportunities. These data assist in the development of State vocational education plans. OEWS wage data provide a significant source of information to support a number of different Federal, State, and local efforts.

With the release of the May 2021 OEWS estimates in March 2022, the OEWS program implemented a new model-based estimation methodology (MB3). The MB3 methodology uses modeling to predict the staffing pattern and wages for every non-observed establishment on the OEWS population frame using observed OEWS survey response data along with current data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program. This differs from the older design-based methodology that used weighting and imputation to make the OEWS response data represent the OEWS population frame. Research and testing indicated the accuracy and reliability of the MB3 estimates improved over the former approach.

As part of an ongoing effort to reduce respondent burden, OEWS has several electronic submission options which are available to respondents. Respondents have the ability to submit data by email, or fillable online forms. In many cases, a respondent can submit existing payroll records and would not need to submit a survey form.
 
National OEWS wage data collection can provide a significant source of information to support a number of different federal, state, and local efforts.  For instance, occupational wage data can be extremely useful in the administration of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) system.  Generally, UI clients must meet work-search requirements and take jobs that pay equivalent to their previous employment.  Wage data by occupation can help employment services identify occupations that meet the requirements of these individuals.  Similarly, the Dislocated Worker program uses previous wages as a guide in preparing dislocated workers for employment.  The OEWS survey can provide a standard source of occupational wage data to assist these workers.

Wage data at the occupational level can assist States and local authorities in carrying out career and technical rehabilitation programs.  The data can support U.S. military interests by providing State and local career information for Department of Defense workers.  Minimum wage deliberations can use OEWS employment and wage data as a source of information.

OEWS wage data provides career and technical trainers and enrollees with information on the wage rates for the occupations present in the economy.  These data assist the national, State, and local coordinating committees to develop occupational information systems designed to aid job searchers and career counselors.  As an example, CareerOneStop provides OEWS employment and wage data to individuals and career counselors online at https://www.careeronestop.org.

Reliable wage data has many practical uses.  OEWS wage data can be used to understand the direction and quality of the jobs being created in our economy and can play a part in important legal and administrative decisions.  More importantly, wage information is a valuable commodity to the general public, whether the data are assembled in the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook, or released across the country in occupational information systems.  The detail, reliability, and applicability of the OEWS wage survey argues strongly for its expanded support.  
 
The universe for this survey consists of the Quarterly Contribution Reports (QCR) filed by employers subject to State Unemployment Insurance (UI) laws.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) receives these QCR for the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) Program from the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The QCEW data, which are compiled for each calendar quarter, provide a comprehensive business name and address file with employment, wage, detailed geography (i.e., county), and industry information at the six-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) level.  This information is provided for nearly ten million business establishments of which about 7.9 million are in the scope of this survey.  The final data is stored in a Longitudinal Data Base (LDB), which is then used as a sampling frame for sample selection.  Data for Federal Government employees covered by the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees program (UCFE), the US Postal Service, and the Tennessee Valley Authority are also included. Other data used for sampling include the universe of railroad establishments obtained from Federal Railroad Administration and a universe of establishments in the U.S. territory of Guam obtained from the Government of Guam, Department of Labor.  
 
The sample size is approximately 1.1 million establishments over a 3-year period. The sample is divided into six panels over three years with two semi-annual samples of about 187,000 establishments selected each year. Units on the sampling frame are stratified by State/Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and Balance of State, and by three-, four-, five-, or six-digit NAICS industry code. The frame is further stratified into certainty and non-certainty portions for sample selection.  Certainty units include Federal and State governments, hospitals, railroads, and large establishments. These are sampled with probability equal to one every 3-year cycle because of their occupational employment coverage and economic significance. All remaining establishments are non-certainty establishments and are selected with probability less than one but greater than zero.   

The Model-Based Estimation using 3 years of data (MB3), a product of a long-term research project, was first used in official production for the 2021 OEWS estimates, which were published in March 2022.  Testing indicates that the accuracy and reliability of the MB3 estimates improved over the former approach.  In September 2019, BLS published 2016 data using the new estimation method as a research series, and a Monthly Labor Review article describing the method with comparisons to the old methods.  Additional research series for 2017 through 2020 have since been published.

The MB3 method takes advantage of the fact that BLS observes key determinants of occupational staffing patterns and wages for all units in a target population.  In particular, the QCEW provides data on the detailed industry, ownership status, geographic location, and size for every establishment whose workers are covered by state unemployment insurance laws.  OEWS sample information is used to model wage distributions and industry/area/size/ownership/time wage adjustments.  The estimation system includes redesigned components for model fitting, unit matching, and variance estimation.  Further details of the method are presented in the Monthly Labor Review article, Model-based estimates for the Occupational Employment Statistics Programvi and the Survey Methods and Reliability Statement for MB3 Research Estimates of the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics Survey (MB3 Survey Methods Statement).
 
Occupational employment and wage estimates are computed using observed data and predicted data for the population of about 9 million units.  Predicted data are created for each unobserved unit of the population, so estimates are computed using full-population expressions.

Estimates of occupational employment totals are computed by summing all employment counts of a given occupation over the modeled population data.  Estimates are made over area, industry, and ownership.  
 
OEWS website: https://www.bls.gov/oes/
Draft data collection instruments and technical documentation: https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/bht1qb2jhbbddqnnrbome/h?dl=0&rlkey=s2mzi0d6a3i5lqk1yisef198n
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2022-24385

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