Key definitions are as follows:

An establishment is an economic unit, such as a factory, restaurant or store, which produces goods or provides services. It is generally at a single location and engaged predominantly in one economic activity.

Employment in the OES survey includes both full-time or part-time employees; Included are workers on paid vacations or other types of leave, workers on unpaid or short-term absences, salaried officers, executives, staff members of incorporated firms, employees temporarily assigned to other units, and employees for whom the reporting unit is their permanent duty station regardless of whether that unit prepares their paycheck. The survey excludes workers who are self-employed, owners/partners of unincorporated firms and unpaid family workers. Employees are reported in the occupation in which they are working.

Wages, as defined in the OES survey, are straight time (i.e., no overtime) base pay. In addition to base pay, also included are tips, cost-of-living allowances, guaranteed pay, hazardous-duty pay, on-call pay, and incentive pay (including commissions and production bonuses). Excluded from the wage are back pay, shift differentials, jury duty pay, overtime pay, severance pay, non-production (i.e., year-end) bonuses and tuition reimbursements.

The mean wage is the estimated total wages in an occupation divided by its estimated employment. The 25th percentile equals the wage that 25% of those employees reported in the occupation made less than while 75% made more than that figure. Similarly, the 50th percentile or median wage equals the estimated single midpoint of all reported wages for the occupation -- half made less and half made more. The 75th percentile equals the wage that 75% of the reported employees made less than while 25% made more.

The OES survey collects wage data in 11 pay ranges (i.e., under $9.25 per hour, $9.25 to $11.74 per hour, etc.). Employers report the number of employees in an occupation for each pay range. The pay ranges are defined in terms of both an hourly wage and a yearly salary. The wage scales are based on a work year of 2,080 hours per year (40 hours per week times 52 weeks per year). The exceptions to this are certain occupations that do not generally work 2,080 hours per year. The wages for these occupations, such as teachers, musicians, producers-directors-actors, etc., are collected and reported on a yearly salary or hourly rate only.

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