Quarterly employment and wage data are compiled from reports submitted by employers subject to state and federal unemployment insurance (UI) laws, covering 129.3 million full- and part-time jobs. Average weekly wages are computed by dividing total quarterly payrolls of employees covered by UI programs by the average monthly number of these employees and dividing by 13, for the 13 weeks in the quarter. These wage levels reflect both the level of wages and salaries paid per employee during the quarter and nonwage cash payments, such as tips, bonuses, and some stock options and other contributions that these employees earned.
Wage differences among industries reflect the varying composition of employment by occupation, industry, and hours of work, as well as other factors. For example, average weekly wage levels in retail trade industries are reduced by the relatively large share of part-time workers. Correspondingly, wage levels in construction industries reflect the prevalence of part-year employment due to such factors as weather conditions. Over-the-year wage changes may reflect shifts in the composition of employment, as well as changes in the level of average wages.
Among private sector industries, mining had the largest growth in weekly wages from the fourth quarter of 2001 to the fourth quarter of 2002, with a 5.3 percent gain. This was followed by utilities (4.1 percent), arts, entertainment, and recreation (3.6 percent), real estate and rental leasing (3.5 percent), and educational services (3.4 percent).
Federal government average weekly wages increased by 5.9 percent over the year. Part of this increase was due to a downsized postal service receiving retroactive payments in addition to cost of living adjustments. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics)