Tapping the Power of Idaho’s Wage and Occupation Data

Occupational wages are one of the most useful and sought after data elements provided by the Idaho Department of Labor. Whether someone is exploring careers, preparing for wage negotiations or researching the competitiveness of a company’s wage against the market, wage information is readily available on more than 750 Idaho occupations and 800 nationally.

Several websites offer varying types of wage data, but the source that is the most encompassing – including data for the U.S., the 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. – is the Occupational Employment Statistics program on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at www.bls.gov.oes. Each state and territory publishes this data on their own labor market information websites. For example, lmi.idaho.gov is the primary online source for Idaho-specific data.

Comparing median wage data for each area of the state is a good place to start. A median wage is the point where 50 percent of workers make more and 50 percent make less. Using welders as an example, the median wage in the Boise metropolitan area is $14.72 per hour, about 11 percent lower than the state’s median of $16.44, as shown in Table 1. By city, Idaho Falls offers the highest median wage at $19.61 per hour – 19 percent above the state’s median wage and 33 percent above Boise’s.

table 1_OES

As the Fig. 1 shows, Idaho Falls’ 75th percentile wage  – meaning 75 percent make less and 25 percent make more –  is the highest in the state at $21.96 per hour. Fig. 2 gives a visual of the considerably higher wage range in Idaho Falls compared with the other cities. This is because one employer in the state provides higher compensation for greater occupational skill than other places in Idaho. The employer – considered an outlier in statistical terms – is the Idaho National Laboratory. At the 90th percentile – the wage at which 90 percent of welders make less – the difference in pay from the lowest to the highest in the state is only $1.70 per hour meaning that regardless of the region, welders with the greatest skills and experience are generally paid near the same wage.

Fig. 1_OESHow do Idaho wages for welders compare with other states and the nation? As fig 1 and fig 2 indicate, welders in the Boise metropolitan area are generally paid less than their colleagues in eastern Oregon. The median wage for welders in Oregon is $19.21, $21.58 for Washington and $24.07 in Wyoming. The highest paid welders in the United States work in Alaska, with a median wage of $35.02 per hour.

Fig. 2_OESThe analysis and resulting decisions from this is subject to the perspective of the viewer. Someone who is mobile and looking for a job in any industry could use this data as one of a variety variables when and where to consider gainful employment.

An employer may use the information to make wage changes. For example, if a Boise area employer is concerned about employee turnover costs, or has trouble finding someone to fill a specific job, he or she may find they are competing for workers with parts of Idaho and the Northwest that pay higher. Raising pay rates may be warranted. In any case, providing good information is key to good decision making.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is considered to be of good quality. The BLS 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.

Craig.Shaul@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist supervisor
(208) 332-3570 ext. 3201