Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Setting Competitive Wages in Oregon
by Kim Thompson
Published Aug-16-2013

Each year the Oregon Employment Department publishes several wage data points (percentiles and means) for several hundred occupations. Wage data is collected semiannually through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, which measures occupational employment and wage rates for payroll workers. In Oregon, the survey samples about 6,000 establishments each year, taking three years to fully collect the sample of more than 17,000 establishments. Recently, 2013 wage estimates were published on the Oregon Employment Department's website at www.QualityInfo.org/pubs/owi/owi2013.pdf.

The Oregon Employment Department's annual wage publication is a useful tool for a wide audience that includes job seekers, employees, employers, career counselors, and other professionals who deal with labor market information. Wages for the various occupations are calculated statewide and for each of Oregon's 15 workforce regions. Oregon's statewide wage data is published for more than 650 occupations that vary from those paying minimum wage to occupations paying six-figure annual salaries. The number of occupations published varies by region. More populous regions tend to have more occupations published than regions with smaller populations, because larger samples are obtained from regions with larger populations.

What is a Percentile Wage?
Wages are presented as percentiles in the Oregon wage publication. The 10th percentile wage is the level at which 10 percent of the workers in that occupation earn less and 90 percent earn more. For example, if the 10th percentile wage for an occupation is $15 per hour, 10 percent of the people working in this occupation earn $15 per hour or less, and 90 percent earn more than $15 per hour. Moreover, the median, shown at the 50th percentile, is a measure of average value. If all values were listed in ascending or descending order, the median would be the value in the middle. Table 1 shows an example of wage percentiles for customer service representatives.

Table 1
Customer Service Representatives, Oregon 2013
Percentiles (Hourly Wage)   Average Wage
10th 25th 50th (median) 75th 90th   Hourly Annual
$10.73 $12.75 $15.38 $18.82 $23.23   $16.39 $34,089
Using Oregon Wage Information
Oregon wage reports do not take levels of education or work experience into account. The survey used to collect wage data from employers does not ask for wages paid based on education or work experience. The survey asks employers only what wage level is paid to each employee in each occupation. Wages vary by education and experience. Generally, the more education and work experience people have, the higher their pay.

Employers looking to hire new employees or analyze wages paid to current employees should look at the entire range of wages published. If an employer wants to hire a worker but is unsure what wage to offer, the employer should consider the duties of the position and the education and work experience required for the job. If the job is an entry-level position, the employer may want to consider offering a wage in the 10th or 25th percentile range. If, on the other hand, an employer is looking to hire someone with many years of experience, the more appropriate wage may be near the 90th percentile.

The Oregon Employment Department's annual wage publication is a beneficial resource to employers and job seekers alike. Whether it is used to compare current employee wages or to attract new talent, the ability to access statewide and regional occupational wage information adds value to any company's hiring decisions.