Procedures for determining Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rates, which must be paid to workers on certain federally funded construction projects, and their vulnerability to the use of inaccurate data have long been an issue for Congress, employers, and workers. In this report, GAO examined (1) the extent to which the Department of Labor (Labor) has addressed concerns regarding the quality of the Davis-Bacon wage determination process, and (2) additional issues identified by stakeholders regarding the wage determination process. GAO interviewed Labor officials, representatives from contractor associations and unions, contractors, and researchers; conducted site visits to three Labor regional offices; and analyzed data from Labor's wage survey database.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|To improve the quality of Labor's Davis-Bacon wage survey data, Congress may wish to consider amending the language of the Davis-Bacon Act to allow Labor to use wage data from geographic groupings other than civil subdivisions of states, such as metropolitan statistical areas or Bureau of Economic Analysis' economic areas.||H.R. 924 (Responsibility in Federal Contracting Act) was introduced on February 12, 2015 and would require prevailing wage determinations to be set based on surveys carried out by the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Also, on July 13, 2017, the House Report accompanying House Resolution 440 (Sec. 345) stated that the determination of prevailing wages under Davis-Bacon shall be conducted by the Secretary of Labor through BLS using surveys carried out by BLS that use random statistical sampling techniques. BLS wage surveys generally use Metropolitan Statistical Areas rather than civil subdivisions of states.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Labor||
Priority Rec.1. To improve the quality and timeliness of Labor's Davis-Bacon wage surveys, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Wage and Hour Division to enlist the National Academies, or another independent statistical organization, to evaluate and provide objective advice on the survey, including its methods and design; the potential for conducting a sample survey instead of a census survey; the collection, processing, tracking, and analysis of data; and promotion of survey awareness.
|Department of Labor||2. To improve the transparency of wage determinations while maintaining the confidentiality of specific survey respondents, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Wage and Hour Division to publicly provide additional information on the data used to calculate its Davis-Bacon wage rates, such as the number and wages of workers included in each wage rate calculation, and to clearly communicate the meaning of various dates and codes used in wage determinations in the same place the prevailing wage rates are posted.|