Why This Counts: What Do We Know about Strikes and Lockouts?

Strikes and lockouts? Aren’t those 1940s-50s-60s economic activities? Sounds like we are taking a trip to the distant past with Sherman and Mr. Peabody in the WABAC machine. (For you younger readers, these characters can be found in the Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends, a TV show from the early 1960s.) BLS first collected data on labor and management disputes (work stoppages) in the 1880s. BLS has continuously published work stoppage information since 1947, for events covering at least 1,000 workers. Recently, high profile work stoppages by public school teachers and others have kept these types of activities in the news.

What are work stoppages?

The work stoppages program provides monthly and annual data on major work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting one full shift or longer. For this report, BLS does not differentiate between strikes and lockouts.

  • Strikes are a temporary stoppage of work by a group of employees to express a grievance, enforce a demand, or protest the terms, conditions, or provisions of a contract.
  • Lockouts are a temporary denial of employment by management.

Detailed monthly reports from 1993 to the present provide the organizations and unions involved, along with the locations, industries, number of workers directly involved, and days of idleness.

Who uses these data?

Work stoppages provide media, researchers, labor relations specialists, unions, and government agencies with information about labor-management disputes. While the work stoppages program does not report on the nature of the dispute, identifying the details of parties involved helps users assess the impact of compensation trends, union membership and activity, and legislation.

Has work stoppage activity changed over time?

Since BLS began reporting on work stoppages, declines in union membership, the growth of the service industry, technological changes, and other factors have led to a significant reduction in the number of work stoppages. Between 1947 and 1956, there were 3,438 work stoppages. In the decade from 2007 to 2016, there were 143 stoppages. In 2017, there were 7 work stoppages, and in 2018 there were 20.

Number of work stoppages by decade

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Annual work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers, 1947–2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Decreases in the number of work stoppages and the number of workers involved are especially noticeable during recessions. These levels reached an all-time low at the end of the 2007–09 recession. In 1952, there were 2,746,000 workers involved in work stoppages, whereas in 2018 there were 485,000 workers involved.

Number of workers involved in major work stoppages, 1947–2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Another way to evaluate the impact of work stoppages on the national economy is by looking at the number of days workers are away from work because of strikes or lockouts. The number of days of idleness reached a peak in 1959, at about 60,850,000 days. The second largest number was in 1970, with 52,761,000 of days of idleness. In 2018, there were 2,815,400 days of idleness. Number of days idle from work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers, 1947–2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Where are work stoppages most prevalent?

Of the 559 major work stoppages between 1993 and 2018, 423 occurred in private industry, 95 in local government, 40 in state government, and 1 in both state and local government. Most stoppages during that period, 458, occurred within individual states, while 101 occurred in two or more states. California, the state with the largest share of national employment (13.6 percent), had the largest share of work stoppages, 24.2 percent. Texas, which accounts for 9.6 percent of national employment, accounted for 2.9 percent of all work stoppages (excluding interstate and nationally reported stoppages).

Share of national employment and share of major work stoppages by state, 1993–2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

These data also allow users to evaluate differences in the number of work stoppages by industry. From 1993 to 2018, there were almost as many stoppages in manufacturing (158) as the next two industries combined. Health care and social assistance had 83 work stoppages, while educational services had 79 work stoppages. Of the 79 educational services stoppages, 75 were in state and local government, with 50 occurring in local government and 25 in state government.Number of major work stoppages by industry, 1993–2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Want to know more?

We hope this discussion of work stoppages and a look to the past was almost as good as using the WABAC machine!

Number of work stoppages by decade
Decade Number
1947–1956 3,438
1957– 1966 2,500
1967–1976 3,321
1977–1986 1,446
1987–1996 404
1997–2006 240
2007–2016 140
Annual work stoppages involving 1,000 or more workers, 1947–2018
Year Number of work stoppages Number of workers involved Number of days idle
1947 270 1,629,000 25,720,000
1948 245 1,435,000 26,127,000
1949 262 2,537,000 43,420,000
1950 424 1,698,000 30,390,000
1951 415 1,462,000 15,070,000
1952 470 2,746,000 48,820,000
1953 437 1,623,000 18,130,000
1954 265 1,075,000 16,630,000
1955 363 2,055,000 21,180,000
1956 287 1,370,000 26,840,000
1957 279 887,000 10,340,000
1958 332 1,587,000 17,900,000
1959 245 1,381,000 60,850,000
1960 222 896,000 13,260,000
1961 195 1,031,000 10,140,000
1962 211 793,000 11,760,000
1963 181 512,000 10,020,000
1964 246 1,183,000 16,220,000
1965 268 999,000 15,140,000
1966 321 1,300,000 16,000,000
1967 381 2,192,000 31,320,000
1968 392 1,855,000 35,367,000
1969 412 1,576,000 29,397,000
1970 381 2,468,000 52,761,000
1971 298 2,516,000 35,538,000
1972 250 975,000 16,764,000
1973 317 1,400,000 16,260,000
1974 424 1,796,000 31,809,000
1975 235 965,000 17,563,000
1976 231 1,519,000 23,962,000
1977 298 1,212,000 21,258,000
1978 219 1,006,000 23,774,000
1979 235 1,021,000 20,409,000
1980 187 795,000 20,844,000
1981 145 729,000 16,908,000
1982 96 656,000 9,061,000
1983 81 909,000 17,461,000
1984 62 376,000 8,499,000
1985 54 324,000 7,079,000
1986 69 533,000 11,861,000
1987 46 174,000 4,481,000
1988 40 118,000 4,381,000
1989 51 452,000 16,996,000
1990 44 185,000 5,926,000
1991 40 392,000 4,584,000
1992 35 364,000 3,989,000
1993 35 182,000 3,981,000
1994 45 322,000 5,021,000
1995 31 192,000 5,771,000
1996 37 273,000 4,889,000
1997 29 339,000 4,497,000
1998 34 387,000 5,116,000
1999 17 73,000 1,996,000
2000 39 394,000 20,419,000
2001 29 99,000 1,151,000
2002 19 46,000 659,600
2003 14 129,200 4,091,200
2004 17 170,700 3,344,100
2005 22 99,600 1,736,100
2006 20 70,100 2,687,500
2007 21 189,200 1,264,800
2008 15 72,200 1,954,100
2009 5 12,500 124,100
2010 11 44,500 302,300
2011 19 112,500 1,020,200
2012 19 148,100 1,130,800
2013 15 54,500 289,900
2014 11 34,300 200,200
2015 12 47,300 740,000
2016 15 99,400 1,543,400
2017 7 25,300 439,800
2018 20 485,200 2,815,400
Share of national employment and share of major work stoppages by state, 1993–2018
State Share of national employment Share of major work stoppages
California 13.6% 24.2%
Texas 9.6 2.9
New York 6.7 8.8
Florida 7.1 0.7
Pennsylvania 4.4 8.1
Illinois 4.4 9.1
Ohio 4.0 7.5
Georgia 3.5 1.3
Michigan 3.4 6.3
North Carolina 3.4 1.1
New Jersey 3.1 3.8
Number of major work stoppages by industry, 1993–2018
Industry Number of stoppages
Manufacturing 158
Health care and social assistance 83
Educational services 79
Construction 61
Transportation and warehousing 54
Public administration 23
Retail Trade 22
Information 20
Utilities 14
Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services 12
Accomodation and food services 10
Mining 8
Wholesale trade 4
Finance and insurance 4
Real estate and rental and leasin 3
Professional, scientific, and technical services 2
Arts, entertainment, and recreation 2

Celebrating Women in STEM Occupations

International Women’s Day was first celebrated on March 19, 1911. During International Women’s Year in 1975, the United Nations began celebrating International Women’s Day on March 8.

In the United States, the first National Woman’s Day was observed on February 28, 1909. The Socialist Party of America designated this day to honor the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against poor working conditions. Since President Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Proclamation in 1980, March has included a celebration of National Women’s History.

This blog celebrates women in the labor force, especially those working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professions.

Check this out: Earlier this year, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements, we published our own Periodic Table of STEM Occupations!

But first some context

When President Carter issued his proclamation in 1980, 47.7 percent of women were employed, compared with 54.9 percent of women in 2018. For women ages 25 to 54, there has been an even greater increase in employment — from 60.1 percent in 1980 to 72.8 percent in 2018.

Women work in a variety of occupations. The largest number of women work as:

  • Registered nurses (2.8 million)
  • Elementary and middle school teachers (2.7 million)
  • Secretaries and administrative assistants (2.4 million)
  • Cashiers (2.4 million)

The occupations that overwhelmingly comprise women include:

  • Preschool and kindergarten teachers (97.6 percent are women)
  • Dental hygienists (97.1 percent)
  • Speech-language pathologists (96.0 percent)
  • Dental assistants (96.0 percent)

How are women doing in STEM occupations?

Three broad occupational groups have many STEM jobs: life, physical, and social science occupations; computer and mathematical occupations; and architecture and engineering occupations.

  • Nearly half of the people in life, physical, and social science occupations are women.
  • About 1 in 4 people working in computer and mathematical occupations are women.
  • About 1 in 6 people working in architecture and engineering occupations are women.

Here’s a look at women’s shares in more specific STEM occupations.

Women as a percent of total employed in selected STEM occupations, 2018 annual averages

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

What else can you tell us about STEM jobs?

The Occupational Employment Statistics program provides a wealth of information about employment and wages annually for more than 800 occupations. The occupational employment and wage data below are for 2017. We will release the 2018 data on March 29, 2019.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook can help you find career information on duties, education and training, pay, and job outlook for hundreds of occupations.

Let’s highlight our data for several STEM occupations for all workers:

Computer Systems Analysts

  • National employment is 581,960, and the mean annual wage is $92,740.
  • California has the most computer systems analysts, with 72,980; New Jersey is one of the best paying states, at $105,750.
  • Computer Systems Analysts have a projected 9-percent increase in employment from 2016 to 2026 (as fast as average).

Industrial Engineers

  • National employment is 265,520, and the mean annual wage is $90,340.
  • Michigan has the most industrial engineers, with 28,460; Texas is one of the best paying states, at $108,330.
  • Industrial Engineers have a projected 10-percent increase in employment from 2016 to 2026 (faster than average).

Chemical Technicians

  • National employment is 64,550, and the mean annual wage is $51,010.
  • California and Texas have the most chemical technicians, with 6,450 and 6,350, respectively; Delaware is one of the best paying states, at $63,350.
  •  Chemical Technicians have a projected 4-percent increase in employment from 2016 to 2026 (slower than average).

Some final thoughts

These STEM occupations pay more, and sometimes significantly more, than the mean annual wage for all workers of $50,620. In 2017, the mean wage for STEM jobs was $91,310.

There were nearly 8.9 million STEM jobs in May 2017, representing 6.2 percent of U.S. employment. Employment in STEM occupations is projected to increase by 10.9 percent (faster than average) from 2016 to 2026. This growth is expected to result in 1.0 million new jobs.

Want more information?

Current Population Survey for employment of women: email or phone (202) 691-6378.

Occupational Employment Statistics for occupational employment and wages data at the national, state, and local level: email or phone (202) 691-6569.

Occupational Outlook Handbook for occupational descriptions and projections: email or phone (202) 691-5700.

Women as a percent of total employed in selected STEM occupations, 2018 annual averages
Occupation Percent who are women
Life, physical, and social science 46.7%

Medical scientists

52.1

Biological scientists

47.5

Chemists and materials scientists

37.7

Environmental scientists and geoscientists

33.1

Chemical technicians

25.3
Computer and mathematical 25.6

Statisticians

53.8

Operations research analysts

49.1

Computer systems analysts

37.5

Web developers

32.5

Computer support specialists

28.1

Computer programmers

21.2

Software developers, applications and systems software

19.3
Architecture and engineering 15.9

Architects, except naval

29.7

Industrial engineers, including health and safety

23.0

Engineering technicians, except drafters

18.1

Civil engineers

14.8

Mechanical engineers

10.9

What Happened to Natural Gas Prices at the End of 2018?

Natural gas prices mirrored a rollercoaster during the last few months — lots of ups and downs. Let’s explore why. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes many indexes that measure changes in prices for natural gas. Producer Price Indexes and Import Price Indexes tell us about these and other price movements faced by U.S. businesses. Natural gas is critical to the U.S. economy, and changes in natural gas prices can have a large impact on our daily lives. You may use natural gas for cooking or heating your home, but did you know these facts about natural gas?

  • Natural gas has surpassed coal as the largest source of electricity generation in the United States.
  • The United States has become the world’s largest natural gas producer and consumer.
  • Natural gas consumption in the United States reached historic highs in 2018.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas production reached record levels in 2018, driven by improved drilling techniques (such as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”), more wells, and increased crude oil production. Natural gas can be produced either through direct extraction or as a byproduct of crude oil drilling. With more production, we might expect prices to fall because more natural gas is available on the market. Natural gas prices increased sharply in the fourth quarter of 2018, however.

Let’s look at that rollercoaster of natural gas prices. In the early part of 2018, normal seasonal fluctuations and increased production pushed natural gas prices down. However, higher U.S. demand limited the decline in prices. Prices leveled off somewhat during the spring and summer months. Over the final 3 months of 2018, U.S. import prices for natural gas increased by 138.8 percent, the largest quarterly increase since the index began in 1982. Likewise, producer prices for natural gas increased by 90.2 percent over the same period.

U.S. import and domestic producer price indexes for natural gas, December 2017 to January 2019

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

There were many reasons prices rose sharply in the last 3 months of 2018. The industrial and electric power sectors are the biggest users of natural gas. The record-high natural gas consumption in the United States in 2018 was driven by record-high demand from the electric power sector. Despite record production in 2018, natural gas storage stocks hit a 16-year low by the end of the year. More domestic consumption and increased exports cut into the natural gas inventory. That pushed prices up starting in October, but there were other reasons prices rose.

An explosion of a major Canadian natural gas pipeline disrupted supply in mid-October. This explosion sharply limited U.S. imports of natural gas from Western Canada and reduced natural gas supply in the Northwest United States. Natural gas distributors asked customers to restrain usage, but import prices still rose. In November, imports from the pipeline grew to about half the amount before the explosion. Even though the natural gas supply from the pipeline moved toward full capacity in December, the demand for natural gas kept upward pressure on prices.

California also experienced natural gas pipeline capacity and storage issues later in the year. Those issues pushed prices up for the entire West Coast region during the fourth quarter of 2018.

Domestically, the increased demand for natural gas over the year resulted in the fourth lowest volume added into working stocks during the refill season since 2005. The refill season, typically April through October, is when natural gas supply typically outpaces demand, allowing working stocks to grow for the upcoming winter season. By November’s end, working gas stocks in the lower 48 states were below 3 trillion cubic feet for the first time since 2002 because of the depletion over the year. This lower supply, coupled with reduced imports, pushed domestic prices up as demand grew from electricity generation and heating needs from severe cold weather in most regions of the country.

Prices then fell in January 2019. Import prices for natural gas decreased by 44.2 percent in January, and producer prices fell 32.2 percent. Imported natural gas from Western Canada returned to more normal levels in the first half of January. As a result, natural gas supply caught up to demand, pushing prices lower. In addition, warmer-than-average temperatures during the beginning of January limited demand for natural gas, also placing downward pressure on prices.

Want to learn more?

U.S. import and domestic producer price indexes for natural gas
Month Domestic producer prices U.S. import prices
Dec 2017 100.0 100.0
Jan 2018 96.5 113.4
Feb 2018 107.5 95.8
Mar 2018 80.6 85.8
Apr 2018 82.3 84.2
May 2018 85.8 63.4
Jun 2018 88.3 60.0
Jul 2018 90.3 72.9
Aug 2018 89.1 69.3
Sep 2018 89.9 68.1
Oct 2018 90.5 80.3
Nov 2018 104.0 128.6
Dec 2018 171.0 162.7
Jan 2019 115.9 90.7

Wages and Benefits in a City Near You

This started out as a blog about wages and benefits in New York City. But then I shared it with some colleagues, who thought it was too Gotham-centric. My real purpose is to highlight the data on employer costs for wages and benefits in several large metropolitan areas, including New York.

But maybe I should back up a little. Since 1986, BLS has published information on what it costs employers to employ their workforce. Employer Costs for Employee Compensation look at what employers spend on wages and benefits. Over the years, we have expanded the data to provide more industry and occupational detail and other job characteristics, such as union versus nonunion status and full-time versus part-time work. For the past decade, information has been available for private industry workers in 15 metropolitan areas, including New York. More on that in a moment.

Across the United States, private employers spent an average of $34.17 per hour worked on wages and benefits in March 2018. Of this amount, 69.5 percent ($23.76) went for wages. The rest (30.5 percent or $10.41) was for a wide range of benefits, including paid time off, insurances, retirement and savings plans, and legally required benefits (for example, the employer’s share of Social Security taxes).

There is a lot of variation around that average. For example, private employers in the financial activities industry spent an average of $49.46 per hour worked on wages and benefits, while employers in the leisure and hospitality industry spent less than one-third of that amount — $14.94. And the share of compensation dollars going toward benefits also varies — 40.4 percent for union workers, compared with 29.1 percent for nonunion workers.

Employer costs per hour worked for employee compensation, private industry, selected job characteristics, March 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

So how can you use this information? If you run a business, you might compare your compensation costs to the average for your industry. And you might see how your split between wage and benefit costs stacks up. As an employee, you might also check how you fare against the average.

Private employers in the New York metropolitan area (you knew I would get there eventually) spent $45.61 per hour worked to compensate their workers — fully a third more than the national average. New York was one of three metropolitan areas to have costs in the mid-$40 range, along with Boston and Seattle. All were eclipsed by the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland area, with average compensation costs of $56.92 per hour worked. In contrast, employers in Miami averaged $31.32.

Employer costs per hour worked for employee compensation, private industry workers in selected metropolitan areas, March 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the article “Compensation costs in San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland averaged $56.92 per hour in March 2018.”

How these costs are split between wages and benefits can vary for many reasons. These include the industry and occupation mix in an area, the extent of collective bargaining, local benefit practices (and legal requirements), and the generosity of benefit plans. Many benefits, such as paid leave and employer matching contributions to 401(k) plans, are tied partly to wages. The higher the wages, the higher the cost of benefits.

With this in mind, the data tell a couple of different stories. On the one hand, the share of compensation costs going toward benefits hovers around the national average (30.5 percent) in all areas, ranging from 27.7 percent in Dallas to 33.6 percent in Detroit. But the actual dollar amounts vary. Employers spend an average of $8.92 per hour worked on benefits in Miami and nearly twice that much ($17.12) in the San Francisco Bay Area. As noted, many of these costs are tied to wages.

Again, this information might be helpful to compare your compensation costs to the average in your area. Businesses might use the data when making relocation or expansion decisions. Or you might just call your friends in New York and show off how much you know about the Big Apple.

We update the national information quarterly, 3 months following the reference date. Data for the 15 metropolitan areas is available once a year — in the June release providing information for March. To keep the data consistent, I’ve used March 2018 data in this blog. The next release, with December 2018 data, is scheduled for March 19. Watch for these data coming your way soon. We also have more charts on employer costs for employee compensation.

Employer costs per hour worked for employee compensation, private industry, selected job characteristics, March 2018
Characteristic Wages Benefits
Union workers $28.42 $19.23
Nonunion workers 23.31 9.56
1–99 workers 20.87 7.92
100–499 workers 23.94 10.82
500 workers or more 32.00 17.16
Financial activities 32.53 16.93
Leisure and hospitality 11.73 3.21

Tracking the Changing Nature of Work: the Process Continues

The days of working the same 9-to-5 job for 40 years are a fading memory. Work today may involve multiple part-time jobs, working from home, obtaining work through a mobile device, and changing jobs frequently. The so-called “changing nature of work” is already here, and at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics we are trying to keep up with this new world.

One of our primary sources of information on Americans’ labor market activity is the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly survey of households that provides a real-time snapshot of the share of the population who are employed and unemployed. These data are complemented by other BLS programs that focus on labor turnover, how Americans spend their time, details about local labor markets, and other topics.

But how well do these programs track nontraditional forms of employment, including short-term assignments, platform work, temporary help, and jobs so new and different we haven’t even named them yet? BLS has been working on these issues for many years. Let’s consider a few timely questions and see how BLS has responded.

Not all jobs are permanent. What do we know about jobs that are not expected to last?

Throughout its history, BLS has been exploring perceived changes in the nature of work. For example, an article in the October 1996 Monthly Labor Review described “…reports of corporate downsizing, production streamlining, and increasing use of temporary workers…” as raising questions about “…employers’ commitment to long term, stable employment relationships.” This article, and many others in the same issue, went on to introduce the first “Contingent Worker Supplement” (CWS) to the CPS. Supplements such as this are additional questions on specific topics generally asked once (as opposed to every month) of CPS households.

The CWS asks about jobs that are not expected to last, as well as alternative work arrangements, such as working as an independent contractor or through a temporary help agency. While not an ongoing BLS program, we received funding to conduct the supplement in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2005, and 2017. This allows us to track contingent work over time. In May 2017, there were 5.9 million contingent workers – those who did not expect their job to last. This represented 3.8 percent of the total employed. Twelve years earlier, a slightly higher percentage, 4.1 percent, did not expect their job to last.

Percent of employed in contingent jobs

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

How many people are in different types of jobs, such as independent contractors?

The CWS also included questions to identify people who were in four types of alternative work arrangements:

  • Independent contractors
  • On-call workers
  • Temporary help agency workers
  • Workers provided by contract firms

The most prevalent of these arrangements was independent contractors. The 10.6 million independent contractors identified in May 2017 represented 6.9 percent of the total employed.

Percent of employed in alternative arrangements

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Does BLS have a measure of the “gig” economy?

BLS does not have a definition of the gig economy or gig workers. In fact, researchers use many different definitions when they talk about the gig economy. You may think of a gig as something your high school band played on a Saturday night. Or today you might consider your ride-share driver as performing a gig. Classifying workers as gig could get very confusing. For example:

  • A plumber or electrician may be on the payroll of a contracting company on the weekdays and obtain individual jobs through an app on the weekend. Gig worker?
  • A substitute teacher in one school district may obtain assignments and pay through traditional means, while the neighboring district assigns and pays workers through an app. Is one a gig worker?

Confused? So am I. To repeat, BLS does not have a definition of gig. Definitions developed by others may overlap with contingent workers and some of those in alternative employment arrangements in the CWS. Rather than try to develop such a definition, BLS chose to focus new questions narrowly, as you will see in the next section.

What about work obtained through an app?

In preparing for the 2017 CWS, and knowing the interest in work obtained through an app on a phone or other mobile device, BLS added four questions about short jobs or tasks that workers find through an app or website that both links them with customers and arranges payment. Separate questions asked about in-person work (such as driving for a ride-sharing company or providing dog-walking services) and online-only work (such as coding medical records). At BLS, we call these jobs “electronically mediated employment.”

While BLS conducted some testing of the questions on electronically mediated employment and vetted them with a variety of stakeholders, the results made it clear that people had difficulty understanding the questions. This effort resulted in many false-positive answers, such as a surgeon who said all of his work was obtained through an app. BLS used companion information, where available, to recode responses. To be completely transparent, BLS published both the original and recoded data, but we encourage data users to focus on the recoded information. These results indicate that 1 percent of the employed in May 2017 – about 1.6 million people – held electronically mediated jobs. A slightly higher number of workers (990,000) held in-person jobs than online-only jobs (701,000). Note that some workers indicated they had both types of jobs.

Compared with workers overall, electronically mediated workers were more likely to be ages 25 to 54 and less likely to be age 55 and older.

Percent distribution of workers by age, May 2017

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Maybe these “app” jobs are a second job. Do we know how many people hold more than one job?

We get information from the CPS each month on the number of workers who hold more than one job. In 2018, there were 7.8 million multiple jobholders – about 5.0 percent of total employment in 2018. That’s around the same share of employment it has been since 2010, but it was below the rates recorded during the mid-1990s, which were above 6.0 percent.

With all these new types of work, is the BLS monthly employment information missing anyone?

As noted, the CPS is an authoritative source of labor market information and has provided consistent data for over three-quarters of a century. But BLS is always looking to improve its measures, and there are other data sources that can supplement the CPS. For example, the American Time Use Survey obtains information about an individual’s activities during a 24-hour period. Among the categories that may be identified are “income-generating activities,” such as making pottery for pay, playing in a band for pay, and mowing lawns for pay.

Recently, BLS looked at people who were not counted as “employed” but who participate in income-generating activities. The research suggested that between 657,000 and 4.6 million people participated in income-generating activities but were not otherwise counted as employed in the survey. Given that total employment is around 155 million Americans, this undercount ranges from 0.4 to 3.0 percent of the total.

The study also examined the extent that employed people who did informal work in addition to a regular job might not be correctly classified as multiple jobholders. The research found that reclassifying workers misclassified as single jobholders would increase the number of multiple jobholders somewhere between 3.0 percent and 20.7 percent.

What more is BLS doing to improve labor market measures?

So, yes, BLS is doing a lot to improve our labor market measures, and the work continues. We know there is likely a small number of people who are not counted as employed yet perform income-generating activities. We know that definitions and concepts may need to be updated from time to time. We know that some terms, like “gig,” are not well defined and mean different things to different people. And we know it is not easy to define or identify electronically mediated employment.

Given all this, we continue to move forward. BLS has contracted with the Committee on National Statistics, part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, to convene an expert panel to address these issues and provide recommendations to BLS. This work began in late 2018 with a report due in early 2020. BLS will review the recommendations and, resources permitting, develop plans to test any new concepts or questions.

There’s been interest in emerging types of work for many years. It’s also a moving target, as the “changing nature of work” keeps changing. BLS has provided gold-standard data on America’s labor force for many years and will continue to research and refine and improve.

Percent of employed in contingent jobs
Year Percent of employed
February 1995 4.9%
February 1997 4.4
February 1999 4.3
February 2001 4.0
February 2005 4.1
May 2017 3.8
Percent of employed in alternative arrangements
Alternative arrangement May 2017 February 2005 February 2001 February 1999 February 1997 February 1995
Independent contractors 6.9% 7.4% 6.4% 6.3% 6.7% 6.7%
On-call workers 1.7 1.8 1.6 1.5 1.6 1.7
Temporary help agency workers 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.9 1.0 1.0
Workers provided by contract firms 0.6 0.6 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.5
Percent distribution of workers by age, May 2017
Workers 16 to 24 years 25 to 54 years 55 years and older
Total employed 12.4% 64.4% 23.1%
Workers with electronically mediated jobs 10.3 71.2 18.5
Electronically mediated jobs, in-person work 7.4 72.5 20.1
Electronically mediated jobs, online work 15.7 69.6 14.8