Lawrence & Schiller Wage Data Source Unreliable

Yesterday I looked through the national salary data that South Dakota top-tier ad firm Lawrence & Schiller used for an ad campaign for the Build Dakota Scholarship and found that the data show South Dakota paying lower wages than the national average for almost every job you can think of.

Mock Lawrence & Schiller Logo, parodied to reflect their poor choice of data for the Build Dakota Scholarship ad campaign.I return to that data today and find signaling that, for the 41 jobs I sampled yesterday, wages have gone up 1.7% in South Dakota while dropping 0.3% nationwide… since yesterday.

To create my table of average salaries for South Dakota and the U.S., I entered 41 job titles into Career Builder’s salary calculator yesterday, Friday, June 17, 2015, between 06:00 and 07:30 CDT. I returned to the same webpage and entered exactly the same job titles this morning, Saturday, April 18, 2015, between 09:45 and 11:15 CDT. You can see and play with my data on this Google spreadsheet.

Within the 28-hour span between my two sets of queries, all 41 national averages changed. 22 went down; 19 went up. Disregarding the plus or minus sign (looking at absolute values), those 41 national average salaries changed 1.66%.

Fewer of the South Dakota average salaries changed, but some of the changes were whoppers. 15 stayed the same, while 14 went up and 12 went down. The average absolute change was 3.84%. From Friday to Saturday, Career Builder’s reported pay for South Dakota bankers dropped $4,083. South Dakota programmers’ pay went up $9,536. Pharmacists went up $11,042. Nurses went up $24,651, meaning that while South Dakota nurses were paid 27% less than the national average Friday, they are getting paid 12% more than the national average today.

There could be some logical explanation for these changes… but all Career Builder tells us about their average salary calculation methodology is that “Data is sourced from Careerbuilder’s robust salary information housed in our Compensation Portal.”

That sounds like corporate code for, “Our numbers are baloney, and phooey on you for asking.”

“Robust salary information” for professions including thousands if not millions of workers would not fluctuate that much from day to day. Such data would be sturdy enough to withstand a handful erroneous reports or job listings showing anomalously high or low salary offers.

As I noted yesterday, Lawrence & Schiller could have built its ads for the state’s new vo-tech scholarship program around more rigorous economic data, like Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data, which does not change from day to day. Instead, Lawrence & Schiller chose a commercial website using unknown methodology that produces different data for the same queries on Friday and Saturday. These sizable daily fluctuations indicate Career Builder’s data is neither robust nor reliable.

We can thus more firmly conclude that Lawrence & Schiller, our state’s preferred advertising vendor, used our tax dollars to create a marketing campaign based on crap data.

18 Responses to Lawrence & Schiller Wage Data Source Unreliable

  1. Daniel Buresh

    Multiple things to consider here.

    Is real time data needed or historical? If real time, going the 3rd party route is going to be cheaper and require very little ongoing maintenance. Simple to implement. Requires very little skill. Bad aspect is you are also at the whim of this 3rd party and you do as they do. As in this case, we have no idea what they are doing. Computing this yourself is going to require a lot of ongoing maintenance to continue updating the datasets as well as the upfront costs of creating that data store. If historical data is ok, then you will get outdated eventually and it will also add more upfront costs to mine that data and determine the differences in each industry. What careerbuilder has essentially done is not an easy task for any company to take on. I’m not sure it would be viable to take that on being such a monumental task that it is. Sounds like a good job for some data mining enthusiasts at one of our fine schools to take up.

    IMO, it all depends on what it costs. With the jobs site fiasco, I think the city got hosed for something that could be done overnight. We proved the entire functionality of that site could have been built in hours. Depending on what they are paying for with this ad project, they better not be paying for any sort of analysis. I want to know what it all cost before I say this was good or bad. One could also argue that even at the lowest rate, unless you can prove the integrity of the data, it’s all a waste. In regards to that, careerbuilder does hold some clout in that area so they do have some credibility I would think. I do agree that the fluctuation should be kept to a minimum.

  2. John Albert

    Here is a credible Job data base, all paid for!

  3. Lots of good data there, John! L&S could have found reliable national median wages for all sorts of occupations.

  4. Indeed, Daniel, the fluctuation should be kept to a minimum. But here, L&S isn’t setting up a wage database, are they? My impression is they are just making ads. I don’t get the impression they were contracting for data; I get the impression that they simply went Googling for data, just like I did, punched job titles into the Career Builder interface, got numbers that were probably different from what we see when we go online today, and made their ads.

  5. rollin potter

    Hell no Cory, they were not just making ads, They were making some more easy money off the gullible south Dakota tax payers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Maybe they didn’t like what they saw at

    Sadly, credibility was lost. Sad because there is value in the tech school careers without the overselling and deception.

  7. Oh, Rollin, you’re such a cynic. :-)

  8. Jana, maybe L&S didn’t like what they saw at BLS, but the Board of Regents sure likes it. The Regents just launched a whole set of data dashboards, one which presents BLS data comparing occupational wages in South Dakota to every other state and the national average. My initial casual inspection shows the results are as ugly for South Dakota as the numbers Lawrence & Schiller pull out of their hat: Of the jobs for which South Dakota data are available, 24 out of 26 specific occupations beginning with “A” and 22 out of 22 starting with B have lower wages in South Dakota than the national average.

  9. How did Lawrence and Schiller come up with this wage database? You could ask an employee within the L & S media empire. He is an activist who tried to get on the ballot for public office, talked about how corrupt South Dakota, Rounds, Jackley is and helped with a few campaigns including Hubbel, Meyer and Bosworth last election cycle fighting against the “system”. Dang! If only I could remember his name……….

  10. Oh, Lynn, I did wonder if there might be a connection in the production of this crack L&S research….

  11. Roger Cornelius

    The larger question, at least for me, is how much of the state money paid to Lawrence and Schiller found its way into local and state SDGOP campaigns?

  12. Roger, that question would require a full list of Lawrence & Schiller employees and a full review of the campaign finance reports. I would guess we’re less likely to see a direct money trail and more likely to see some simple back-scratching: how many GOP candidates get advertising from L&S, and how many get a discount?

  13. Jon Holmdal

    South Dakota is so corrupt—this reminds me of Deadwood claiming they were named “Best Old West Town of the Year” by some obscure magazine—turns out that the town that gets named “The Best Old West Town of the Year” is the town that puts the biggest ad in the obscure publication. –I was told by a friend to google—South Dakota is so—-try it and see what people say!!

  14. larry kurtz

    Holmdal the poker cheat?

  15. Lar, Mr. Holmdal is an online day-trader and neighbor of a good friend of Mr. H’s blog.

  16. Nick Nemec

    Having a wife who is a nurse, with nearly 40 years experience and a daughter who is a nurse with 5 years experience I’m calling bullshit on any data bases that claim the average nurse’s salary in South Dakota is $70,000+.

  17. Nick, the Board of Regents occupational wages database, based on BLS data, shows South Dakota registered nurses average $53,050. That’s the lowest nurse salary in the nation, well below the national average of $68,910.

  18. Nick Nemec

    I’ll bet the BLS data also includes nurses with many years experience and possibly advanced practice nurses with extra training. Newly minted nurses in SD can not expect that kind of wage unless they take a job in Minnesota.