Emails (excerpted), Joe Petronis, chief of staff, Austin District 6 City Council Member Don Zimmerman, Sept. 3 and 22-23, 2015

12:26 p.m.

Please see attached spreadsheet showing the Bureau of Labor Statistics median increase in the Austin MLS area for “All Occupations”.

 

The Data can be found at:

2014 - http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_12420.htm#00-0000                Median Hourly: $17.62

2013 - http://www.bls.gov/oes/2013/may/oes_12420.htm#00-0000              Median Hourly: $17.48

2012 - http://www.bls.gov/oes/2012/may/oes_12420.htm#00-0000              Median Hourly: $17.12

2011 - http://www.bls.gov/oes/2011/may/oes_12420.htm#00-0000              Median Hourly: $17.20

2010 - http://www.bls.gov/oes/2010/may/oes_12420.htm#00-0000              Median Hourly: $16.78

2009 - http://www.bls.gov/oes/2009/may/oes_12420.htm#00-0000              Median Hourly: $16.30

 

Also attached are a couple of emails I traded with BLS regarding the timing of when the latest reports come out.

 

The City of Austin increases can be found at: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/budget/cbq/index.cfm?action=pushFile&popup=true&FILE_ID=295CC8DF

 

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

Thanks.

 

Joe Petronis

 

Chief of Staff

Office of Councilman Don Zimmerman

District 6, Northwest Austin

12:41 p.m.

I agree with CM Zimmerman statement that according to the BLS data, “those who are not city (of Austin) employees paying the taxes and fees and utilities bills…their salaries have not been going up by 3% a year for the last several years.”

 

The next sentence about raises between 1.5%-3.5% is a little off. In FY2013-14 the City gave all employees a 1.5% raise and an additional flat $750 raise.  So if you were making $50,000; that came out to be a 3% raise.  If you were making $100,000; that was still like getting a 2.25% increase. If you were making $250,000; that would be a 1.8% increase.

 

...

4:34 p.m.

Sept. 22, 2015

 

I find it interesting that the BLS has different Data Sets: QCEW vs OES. One quick observation, the average annual wage numbers are very different between the 2 data sets:

Year

OES - A_MEAN

QCEW - Travis

QCEW - MSA

2014

$           48,150

 $           54,184

 $       57,239

2013

$           47,900

 $           52,286

 $       55,029

2012

$           47,080

 $           51,987

 $       54,431

2011

$           47,340

 $           50,505

 $       52,832

2010

$           46,130

 $           48,919

 $       52,143

2009

$           45,180

 $           47,450

 $       50,141

 

Reasons we were comfortable using the OES Data:

·         The City of Austin has a wide range of occupations from attorneys, to engineers, to librarians, etc. that if the City of Austin wants to do a peanut butter spread base wage increase, that the “All Occupations” in the OES Data would best represent what that wage increase should be.

·         It allowed us to use the Median instead of the Mean. We wanted to know what the raise at the 50 percentile was. Sometimes the Mean can be skewed if you have outliers at either end.

·         City of Austin consists mainly of Travis County, but it also has parts of Hays County and Williamson County.

 

See below inline responses in Red to your questions.

 

Let us know if you have any further questions.

Thanks.

 

Joe Petronis

 

Chief of Staff

Office of Councilman Don Zimmerman

District 6, Northwest Austin

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Monday, September 21, 2015 7:20 PM

To: Petronis, Joe

Cc: Zimmerman, Don

Subject: Following up, information attached, for fact check of the claim about other workers in Austin not getting 3 percent raises in recent years

 

Hello again.

 

I’m following up to make sure I am accurately describing the data you shared and to run what others have said to us by you. I am interested in any further comments or analysis.

 

Joe emailed us a spreadsheet citing U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, drawn from employers in all industry sectors, to indicate that within the five-county area centered on Travis County, the average annual change in wages from 2010 through 2014 across all occupations at the median salary--meaning half of all workers earned more, half less--was 1.6 percent. Am I right that workers earning the median wage in the region, according to the OES figures, saw a collective 0.5 percent drop in wages in 2012, a 2.1 increase in 2013 and a 0.8 percent rise in 2014? Yes, that is what the OES data shows.

 

Beverly Kerr, a researcher with the Austin Chamber of Commerce, pointed out to us that the BLS advises against using its OES figures to compare figures from different years. The bureau’s explanation appears in question F. 1. here. Did Council Member Zimmerman draw on any other data source? Other thoughts?  Looking at F1; I don’t think the challenges that they outline effect what we did. We looked at the All Occupations data for the Austin area from 2009-2014. Reading F1, I view it as impacting specific occupations, but not the All Occupations. Also, if we were looking at 20 years’ worth of data it may have some wrinkles. Most of the changes in the data they mention were from 2002. Since some employees view the peanut butter raise as a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), we briefly looked at the Social Security COLA. However we decided against it since it covers all the US. OES was the data set that we used.

 

 Kerr also offered up another data source, the bureau’s Current Employment Statistics, which she said show that annual private industry wages increased in the five-county Austin region went up by an average 2.2 percent from 2008 through 2014 with average annual raises ranging from 1.3 percent to 4.8 percent. – I am not as familiar with this data. Since Travis County and Austin has a large number of non-private industry I am not sure this would be the best set. I assume the “Total All” covers both Private and Government jobs.

Travis County is home to 74 percent of the five-county region’s jobs, Kerr advised. Like Kelsey and Abbot, Kerr used the bureau’s QCEW data to estimate average pay raises for individuals employed in the county. In 2014, according to this data, the $1,113 average weekly wage for private-sector workers in the county was up 3.8 percent from $1,072 in 2013, compared to an average annual decrease of 0.1 percent in 2013 and an average increase of 3.3 percent in 2012.

 

Meantime, Brian Kelsey told us that according to the another BLS data set, the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, average annual pay across all industries in Travis County increased by 3.7 percent in 2014, from $52,276 to $54,190. The census, which originated in the 1930s, tracks employment and wages of establishments which report to the federal government’s unemployment insurance programs, representing about 97 percent of the nation’s civilian wage and salary civilian employment. – We did not look at this data set. Also, we looked at the median wage increase, not the average. The average annual wages are very different in QCEW vs. OES.

From: Selby, Gardner (CMG-Austin)

Sent: Tuesday, September 22, 2015 6:24 PM

To: Petronis, Joe

Subject: RE: Following up, information attached, for fact check of the claim about other workers in Austin not getting 3 percent raises in recent years

 

You write: “We wanted to know what the raise at the 50 percentile was.” Can you elaborate? Why those particular workers as opposed to all workers?

9:42 a.m.

Sept. 23, 2015

I did not assume that the OES data set for wages was “normally distributed”.  So if you have people at the extremes (either making a lot of money or very little), that can skew average. Going with the median shows the point where 50% of the people are making above and 50% of the people are making below that number.

 

So when looking at the increase in wages, if the people at the lower end of the spectrum are growing at a slower pace than the rest of the data set or conversely if the people at the higher end of the spectrum are growing at a faster pace than the rest of the data set; then the “average” increase would be skewed.  If you look at what the wages for the person at the 50% mark are doing, that should remove some of the “noise” associated with the extremes.

 

 

I did a quick search and found some articles on it:

http://www.payscale.com/compensation-today/2011/11/mean-vs-median

http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/central.html

http://wkuappliedeconomics.org/indblogs/mean-vs-median-income-which-one-to-use-and-what-it-means-for-south-central-kentucky/

http://mcdc.missouri.edu/allabout/measures_of_income/

 

Let me know if you have any questions.

 

Thanks.

 

Joe Petronis

512-978-2175 (office)

512-815-4366 (cell)

 

Chief of Staff

Office of Councilman Don Zimmerman

District 6, Northwest Austin