I refer to the Occupational Employment Statistics published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2015 edition.
Under occupation title "Athletes and Sports Competitors" (27-2021), we have the following figures:
Total employment: 11,710.
Mean annual wage: $\$80,490$.
Annual 75th percentile wage: $\$89,780$.
The first two of the above statistics imply that total wages paid out to these 11,710 workers was 11,710 × $\$80,490$ = $\$942,537,900$ or a bit under $1b.
But there is a discrepancy between the above figures and the salary figures across the four major US professional sports leagues. The following are the latest annual salary figures from various sources (these shouldn't be too inconsistent from salaries a year or two earlier).
MLB: 862 players, of which all 862 make at least $\$507,500$. Total salaries = $\$3,781,920,218$.
NHL: 1719 players, of which all 1719 make at least $\$117,300$. Total salaries = $\$3,524,086,505$.
NBA: 545 players, of which 505 make at least $\$100,000$. Total salaries = $\$2,942,055,947$.
NHL: 767 players, of which 766 make at least $\$216,666$. Total salaries = $\$2,142,999,943$.
So there are at least two discrepancies:
1. The BLS says that the total annual wages paid to 11,170 "Athletes and Sports Competitors" was less than $\$1$b.
But in the four major professional sports leagues alone, over $\$12$b is paid out to 3,893 players.
2. The BLS says that the athlete at the 25th percentile (out of 11,170 workers) makes only $\$89,780$. This means that workers #1 — #2927 make $\$89,780$ or more, while workers #2928 — #11,170 make $\$89,780$.
But in the four major professional sports leagues alone, 3,852 players make at least $\$100,000$.
So far I've thought about (and ruled out) two possible explanations for the above discrepancies:
- Top-coding of salaries.
This might explain the low estimate for mean annual wage. However, this would fail to explain why the 75%-ile wage is listed at only $\$89,780$.
- "Athletes and Sports Competitors" does not include professional athletes.
But this is not consistent with this BLS webpage description of this category of work. There is a photo of a professional-looking baseball player and also this sentence: "Competition for most professional athlete jobs will remain very strong."
Another possible occupation title under which professional sports athletes might fall is "Entertainers and Performers, Sports and Related Workers, All Other" (27-2090, 27-2099), but here again we run into the same trouble. There are only 14,570 workers in this category and the 90th percentile hourly wage is only $\$36.35$.
I'm unable to think of any other explanation. I'd appreciate help from anyone who is more familiar with how the BLS OES are collected and calculated.
All data and sources used above are collected here.