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Topic Archives: Job Openings, Hires, and Separations

Innovations at BLS during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our work at the Bureau of Labor Statistics is driven by the idea that good measurement leads to better decisions. Good measures of economic and social conditions help public policymakers and private businesses and households assess opportunities and areas for improvement. Measuring these conditions consistently over time helps people who use our data evaluate the impact of public and private decisions.

We also believe we must be completely transparent about the design of our surveys and programs and the methods we use to conduct them. It isn’t enough to publish statistics and expect people simply to trust their quality. We gain this trust by documenting the design and procedures for all our programs in our Handbook of Methods. Our website also explains our policies for ensuring data quality and protecting the confidentiality and privacy of the people and businesses who participate in our surveys and programs. Further, BLS works with the wider U.S. statistical community to ensure and enhance the quality of statistical information.

Good measures are essential in “normal” times, but the global COVID-19 pandemic has made these last few months anything but normal. I am so proud of the work of the career professionals at BLS and our fellow statistical agencies for continuing to produce vital economic statistics. Our entire BLS staff moved to full-time telework in mid-March and didn’t miss a beat. We continue to publish measures of labor market activity, working conditions, price changes, and productivity like BLS has done since its founding in 1884. See our dashboard of key economic indicators in the time of COVID-19.

Publishing these measures hasn’t been easy. The pandemic has raised new questions about how businesses, households, and consumers have changed their behavior. BLS also has had to innovate to find new ways of doing things during the pandemic.

Today I want to tell you about the new data we have been collecting to learn more about the effects of the pandemic. I also want to tell you about some of the ways the BLS staff has innovated to keep producing data that are accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible.

New Data

How businesses have responded to the pandemic

We have collected new data on how U.S. businesses changed their operations and employment from the onset of the pandemic through September 2020. This information, combined with data collected in other BLS surveys, will aid in understanding how businesses responded during the pandemic. Other statistics we have collected and published during the pandemic show changes in employment, job openings and terminations, wages, employer-provided benefits, prices, and more. These new data provide more insights by asking employers directly what they experienced as a result of the pandemic and how they reacted. Data for the Business Response Survey to the Coronavirus Pandemic will be released in early December 2020.

Changes in telework, loss of jobs, and job search

The Current Population Survey is the large monthly survey of U.S. households from which we measure the unemployment rate and other important labor market indicators. We added questions to the survey to help gauge the effects of the pandemic on the labor market. These questions were added in May 2020 and will remain in the survey until further notice. One question asks whether people teleworked or worked from home because of the pandemic.

Percent of employed people who teleworked at some point in the previous 4 weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, May through October 2020

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

Other questions ask whether people were unable to work because their employers closed or lost business because of the pandemic; whether they were paid for that missed work; and whether the pandemic prevented them from searching for jobs.

Number of people not in the labor force who did not look for work because of the COVID-19  pandemic, May through October 2020

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

Changes in sick leave plans

We added several questions to the National Compensation Survey to understand the effects of the pandemic on sick leave plans. The questions asked whether private industry establishments changed their leave policies and whether employees used sick leave between March 1 and May 31, 2020.

Receiving and using stimulus payments during the pandemic

BLS is one of several federal agencies that developed questions for the rapid response Household Pulse Survey. The survey is a collaboration among the U.S. Census Bureau, BLS, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Center for Health Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. BLS contributed questions on the receipt and use of Economic Impact Payments and on sources of income used to meet spending needs during the pandemic.

Our staff will continue to publish research on how the pandemic has affected the labor market and markets for goods and services. Check back regularly as we add to this library of research.

Innovations in Data Collection and Training

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused profound changes in the daily lives of Americans. BLS is no exception. As I mentioned earlier, all BLS staff moved to full-time telework in March. The pandemic hasn’t prevented us from continuing to publish high-quality data, but we have had to change some of our data-collection methods and estimation procedures. We will continue to explain those changes so you can understand how they affect the quality of our measures.

Our survey respondents are the heart of everything we do at BLS. Without their generous and voluntary cooperation, we would not be able to publish high-quality data for public and private decision making. Respondents have businesses and households to run, and a pandemic is a challenging time to ask for their help. The data-collection staffs at BLS, the U.S. Census Bureau, and our state partners form great relationships with survey respondents. We must continue to protect the health of data collectors while also training them in a rapidly changing environment. Let me highlight a few of the innovative changes we have made during the pandemic that focus on our relationships with respondents and how we train data collectors.

Using videoconferencing technology for data collection

Several of our surveys have started using videoconferencing tools to speak with respondents and collect data from them. Some of the surveys that now use this technology include the National Compensation Survey, the Occupational Requirements Survey, and the Producer Price Index. Many of our surveys previously relied on interviewers visiting businesses or households to collect data. We suspended all in-person data collection in March to protect the health of data collectors and respondents, so we had to find other ways to collect data. Many of our surveys also use telephone and internet to collect data, but those modes aren’t always ideal for every kind of data. We often need to develop personal relationships with respondents to gain their trust and cooperation and ensure high-quality data. Videoconferencing helps us accomplish what we often can’t do with phones or web survey forms.

The Occupational Requirements Survey is one that has begun using videoconferencing in data collection. The survey provides information about the physical demands; environmental conditions; education, training, and experience; and cognitive and mental requirements for jobs in the U.S. economy. Collecting data for this survey often requires visual aids, hand gestures, and other nonverbal information to understand job characteristics. It often helps to watch jobs as they are performed at a worksite, but that’s not an option during the pandemic. Videoconferencing is the next best alternative.

Many of our data collectors and respondents have mentioned how helpful videoconferencing is for developing a rapport and for sharing screens and other visual information. Videoconferencing also helps us reduce travel and lodging costs, so we likely will continue to rely on videoconferencing at least partly even after the pandemic.

Using videoconferencing technology for training and mentoring

Many of our surveys are complex and require considerable ongoing training for data collectors. For example, before the pandemic, our Consumer Price Index Commodities and Services (C&S) survey involved in-person training at our Washington, DC, headquarters. There were two classroom training courses: a 2-week introductory course and a 1-week advanced course. Each course was followed by on-the-job training held in our regional offices. Even before the pandemic, we were developing videoconference training. The pandemic caused us to accelerate these plans. We now provide C&S survey training through video collaboration tools. We also integrate on-the-job training throughout the classes.

Several other surveys have adopted a similar training approach as the Consumer Price Index. Our data-collection staffs also increasingly use videoconferencing for mentoring and to share ideas about how to make the data-collection experience better for data collectors and respondents.

A final note

Before I conclude, I want to share some sad news about one of the people who played an indispensable leadership role in developing the new survey questions and innovative data-collection and training methods. Jennifer Edgar, our Associate Commissioner for Survey Methods Research, died November 8 in a tragic fall in her home. She leaves behind her husband and two young children, her parents, and her sister. Moreover, she leaves hundreds of BLS colleagues and many more throughout the statistical community and beyond, who will grieve the loss of an exceptionally gifted friend and professional whose great promise was cut suddenly and tragically short. Jennifer was using her considerable energies to move BLS forward. Her passing is a huge blow to her family, loved ones, and the entire statistical community. We are working on ways to ensure Jennifer’s memory and passion is forever present at BLS.

Percent of employed people who teleworked at some point in the previous 4 weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic
MonthPercent

May 2020

35.4%

Jun 2020

31.3

Jul 2020

26.4

Aug 2020

24.3

Sep 2020

22.7

Oct 2020

21.2
Number of people not in the labor force who did not look for work because of the COVID-19 pandemic
MonthNumber not in the labor force

May 2020

9,740,000

Jun 2020

7,043,000

Jul 2020

6,454,000

Aug 2020

5,200,000

Sep 2020

4,499,000

Oct 2020

3,563,000

Celebrating World Statistics Day 2020

At the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we always enjoy a good celebration. We just finished recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month. We are currently learning how best to protect our online lives during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. We even track the number of paid holidays available to workers through the National Compensation Survey. Today I want to focus on a celebration that happens once every 5 years — World Statistics Day. While there may not be parades, special meals, or department store sales to honor this day, we at BLS and our colleagues worldwide take time out on October 20, 2020, to recognize the importance of providing accurate, timely, and objective statistics that form the cornerstone of good decisions.

United Nations logo for World Statistics Day 2020

World Statistics Day, organized under the guidance of the United Nations Statistical Commission, was first celebrated in October 2010. This year, the third such event, focuses on “connecting the world with data we can trust.” At BLS, the trustworthy nature of our data and processes has been a hallmark of our work since our founding in 1884. Our first Commissioner, Carroll Wright, described our work then as “conducting judicious investigations and the fearless publication of results.” That credo guides us to this day. As the only noncareer employee in the agency, I am surrounded by a dedicated staff of data experts  whose singular mission is to produce the highest-quality data, without regard to policy or politics. BLS and other statistical agencies throughout the federal government strictly follow Statistical Policy Directives that ensure we produce data that meet precise technical standards and make them available equally to all. For nearly 100 years, we have regularly updated our Handbook of Methods to provide details on data concepts, collection and processing methods, and limitations. Transparency remains a hallmark of our work.

The United States has a decentralized statistical system, with numerous agencies large and small spread throughout the federal government. Despite this decentralization, the agencies work together to improve statistical methods and follow centralized statistical guidance. This partnership was recently strengthened by the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which reinforced how the statistical agencies protect the confidentiality of businesses and households that provide data. The Act also designated heads of statistical agencies, like myself, as Statistical Officials for their respective Departments. In my case, my BLS colleagues and I advise other Department of Labor agencies on statistical concepts and processes, while continuing to stay clear of policy discussions and decisions.

World Statistics Day is a global event, so this is a good time to share some examples where BLS participates in statistical activities around the world:

  • We have regular contact with colleagues at statistical organizations around the world. Just recently, I participated in a very long-distance video conference on improvements to the Consumer Price Index. For me, it was 6:00 a.m., and I made sure I had a mug of coffee handy; for my colleagues in Australia, it was 6:00 p.m., and I’m certain their mug had coffee as well.
  • We have a well-established training program for international visitors, focusing on our processes and methods. We hold training sessions at BLS headquarters (or at least we did before the pandemic), we send experts to other countries, and we are exploring virtual training. We are eager to share our expertise and long history.
  • We participate in international panels and study groups, such as those organized by the United Nations, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and others, with topics ranging from measuring the gig economy to use of social media.
  • We provide BLS data to international databases, highlighting employment, price, productivity and related information to compare with other countries.

And that’s just a taste of how BLS fits into the World of Statistics. As Commissioner, I’ve had the honor to represent the United States in conferences and meetings across the globe. The BLS staff and I also hold regular conversations with statistical officials worldwide. In a recent conversation with colleagues in the United Kingdom, we were eager to learn about each other’s changes in the ways we provide data and analyses to our customers. These interactions expand everyone’s knowledge and keep the worldwide statistical system moving forward.

To celebrate World Statistics Day, I asked some BLS cheerleaders if they would join me in a video message about the importance of quality statistical data. Here’s what they had to say:

In closing, let’s all raise a toast to World Statistics Day, the availability of high-quality and impartial data, and the dedicated staff worldwide who provide new information and analysis every day.

Happy World Statistics Day!

Labor Day 2020 Fast Facts

I have been Commissioner of Labor Statistics for about a year and a half now, and what a time it has been! BLS has faced many challenges throughout its history, but none quite like those from the COVID-19 pandemic. All of our staff moved to full-time telework March 16, and I am so proud of how well they have worked under trying circumstances. In a very short time—days, not weeks—we had to change our data collection processes to eliminate in-person collection and move to a combination of telephone, internet, and video. We recognize how challenging it is for our survey respondents to provide data during the pandemic, and I am very grateful for their cooperation. Response rates have dipped a bit in some programs, but the quality of our samples remains strong across the board. Despite all of the challenges, BLS has been able to produce all of our economic reports without interruption.

The pandemic has taught us there’s an unlimited appetite for data. The U.S. statistical system is working to satisfy that appetite. At BLS, we strive for more and better data to understand the hardships caused by the pandemic. Starting in May we added new questions to our monthly survey of households. The questions ask whether people teleworked or worked from home because of the pandemic; whether people were unable to work because their employers closed or lost business; whether they were paid for that missed work; and whether the pandemic prevented job-seeking activities. We continue to gather new data from those questions.

We collaborated with our partners at other U.S. statistical agencies to find out how many people received payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, 2020. For those who received payments, we asked how they used them.

Soon we will have new data about how businesses have responded to the pandemic. These data are from a brand new survey that seeks to identify changes to business operations, employment, workforce flexibilities, and benefits as a result of the pandemic.

These are just a few examples of how our data collection has responded to the pandemic. Good data are essential for identifying problems, guiding policymakers, and gauging whether and how fast conditions improve for workers, jobseekers, families, and businesses.

Labor Day is a good time to reflect on where we are. Despite these difficult times, I hope you are able to enjoy the long holiday weekend. Take a moment to look at some fast facts we’ve compiled on the current picture of our labor market.

Working

Our monthly payroll survey shows that employment had been increasing through February 2020. With March came the pandemic and the job losses related to it. We lost more than 22 million jobs in March and April and then regained about 48 percent of them in May, June, July, and August.

The employment–population ratio was 56.5 percent in August. This ratio is the number of people employed as a percent of the population age 16 and older. The ratio was 61.1 percent in February.

There were 7.6 million people working part time for economic reasons in August 2020. These are people who would have preferred full-time employment but were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs. This number was down from 10.9 million in April. The number was 4.3 million in February.

Not Working

The unemployment rate reached 14.7 percent in April 2020. That was the highest rate, and the largest over-the-month increase, in the history of the data back to January 1948. The rate has fallen since then, reaching 8.4 percent in August. The rate was 3.5 percent back in February, the lowest since 1969.

We have noted the challenges of measuring unemployment during this pandemic. The rates we have seen since March likely understate unemployment, but the trend is clear. The rate rose sharply in March and even more sharply in April and has trended down since April.

Among the major worker groups in August 2020, the unemployment rate was 8.4 percent for adult women and 8.0 percent for adult men. The rate for teenagers was 16.1 percent. The unemployment rate was 13.0 percent for Blacks or African Americans, 10.7 percent for Asians, 10.5 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, and 7.3 percent for Whites.

Job Openings

On the last business day of June 2020, the number of nonfarm job openings was 5.9 million. That was a decline of 18 percent from June 2019.

The ratio of unemployed people per job opening was 3.0 in June 2020. Since the most recent peak of 4.6 in April 2020, the ratio of unemployed people per job opening declined in May and June. In February 2020, there was 0.8 unemployment person per job opening.

Pay and Benefits

Civilian compensation (wage and benefit) costs increased 2.7 percent in June 2020 from a year earlier. After adjusting for inflation, real compensation costs rose 2.1 percent over the year.

Paid leave benefits are available to most private industry workers. The access rates in March 2019 were 73 percent for sick leave, 79 percent for vacation, and 79 percent for holidays.

In March 2019, civilian workers with employer-provided medical plans paid 20 percent of the cost of medical care premiums for single coverage and 33 percent for family coverage.

Productivity

Labor productivity—output per hour worked—in the U.S. nonfarm business sector grew 2.8 percent from the second quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020. That increase reflects large pandemic-related declines in output (−11.2 percent) and hours worked (−13.6 percent).

Safety and Health

In 2018, there were 5,250 fatal workplace injuries. That was a 2-percent increase from 2017 and was the highest number of fatal work injuries in a decade. It was, however, below the numbers of workplace deaths in the 1990s, when over 6,000 fatalities occurred per year.

There were about 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported in 2018 by private industry employers. This resulted in an incidence rate of 2.8 cases per 100 full-time workers in 2018. The rate is down from 9.2 cases per 100 full-time workers in 1976.

Unionization

The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.3 percent in 2019, down by 0.2 percentage point from 2018. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.

Total employer compensation costs for private-industry union workers were $48.57 and for nonunion workers $34.16 per employee hour worked in March 2020. The cost of benefits accounted for 40.5 percent of total compensation (or $19.65) for union workers and 28.4 percent (or $9.71) for nonunion workers.

Looking to the Future

We released our latest set of long-term employment projections September 1. We project employment to grow by 6.0 million jobs from 2019 to 2029. That is an annual growth rate of 0.4 percent, slower than the 2009–19 annual growth rate of 1.3 percent. The healthcare and social assistance sector is projected to add the most new jobs, and 6 of the 10 fastest growing occupations are related to healthcare. These projections do not include impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts. We develop the projections using models based on historical data. The historical data for this set of projections cover the period through 2019, so all input data precede the pandemic. We will continue to examine the effects of the pandemic as we update our projections next year and the years that follow.

From an American worker’s first job to retirement and everything in between, BLS has a stat for that! Want to learn more? Follow us on Twitter @BLS_gov.

New State and Metropolitan Area Data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey

Soon after I became Commissioner, the top-notch BLS staff shared with me their vision to expand the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The JOLTS program publishes data each month on the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations (broken out by quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations). These data are available at the national level and for the four large geographic regions—Northeast, Midwest, South, and West.

That left a major data gap on labor demand, hires, and separations for states and metropolitan areas. BLS provides data on labor supply for states and metro areas each month from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program. We also provide data on employment change in states and metro areas each month from the Current Employment Statistics survey. Employment change is the net effect of hires and separations, but it doesn’t show the underlying flow of job creation and destruction. Having better, timelier state and metro JOLTS data would provide a quicker signal about whether labor demand is accelerating or weakening in local economies.

About 2 months after the staff briefed me, the JOLTS program published experimental state estimates for the first time on May 24, 2019. We have been updating those estimates on a quarterly basis since then. We use a statistical model to help us produce the most current state estimates. We then improve those estimates during an annual benchmark process by taking advantage of data available from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. The JOLTS program is well on its way to moving these state estimates into its official, monthly data stream. Look for that to happen in the second half of 2021!

The President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2021 includes three improvements to the JOLTS program.

  • Expand the sample to support direct sample-based estimates for each state.
  • Accelerate the review and publication of the estimates.
  • Add questions to provide more information about job openings, hires, and separations.

If funded, this proposal would allow BLS to improve the data quality available from the current JOLTS state estimates. It also would let us add very broad industry detail for each state and more industry detail at the national level.

The proposed larger sample size may also let us produce model-assisted JOLTS estimates for many metro areas. To demonstrate this potential, the JOLTS team produced a one-time set of research estimates for the 18 largest metropolitan statistical areas, those with 1.5 million or more employees. These research estimates show the potential for data that would be available regularly with a larger JOLTS sample. I encourage you to explore this exciting new research series and let us know what you think.

Number of unemployed per job opening in the United States and four large metropolitan areas, 2007–19

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

This is just one example of the excellent work I see at BLS every day. The BLS staff are consummate professionals who continue to do outstanding work even in the most trying of times. The entire BLS staff has been teleworking now for several months due to COVID-19, and every program continues to produce high quality data on schedule! Even in these extraordinary circumstances, BLS professionals continue to innovate and find ways to improve quality and develop new gold standard data products to help the policymakers, businesses, and the public make better-informed decisions.

Number of unemployed per job opening in the United States and four large metropolitan areas
DateNew York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PADallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TXChicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WILos Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CAUnited States

Jan 2007

1.81.41.81.61.6

Feb 2007

1.81.41.91.61.6

Mar 2007

1.71.31.81.61.6

Apr 2007

1.61.11.61.51.4

May 2007

1.51.01.51.51.4

Jun 2007

1.51.11.61.41.4

Jul 2007

1.61.21.81.51.5

Aug 2007

1.71.21.91.51.5

Sep 2007

1.71.21.81.71.5

Oct 2007

1.61.11.71.81.5

Nov 2007

1.61.21.81.91.5

Dec 2007

1.71.21.91.91.6

Jan 2008

1.91.32.02.11.7

Feb 2008

2.11.32.22.21.8

Mar 2008

2.21.32.42.21.9

Apr 2008

2.11.22.22.01.8

May 2008

2.01.22.22.11.8

Jun 2008

1.91.22.42.51.9

Jul 2008

2.21.43.03.02.2

Aug 2008

2.31.73.13.52.4

Sep 2008

2.41.83.13.62.5

Oct 2008

2.51.93.04.02.6

Nov 2008

2.82.13.44.62.9

Dec 2008

3.12.43.95.93.3

Jan 2009

3.62.94.86.74.0

Feb 2009

4.43.25.57.34.6

Mar 2009

5.03.56.47.45.1

Apr 2009

5.03.66.77.35.3

May 2009

5.14.06.87.15.4

Jun 2009

5.14.67.26.85.6

Jul 2009

5.25.37.77.46.0

Aug 2009

5.15.67.97.76.2

Sep 2009

5.45.88.08.06.1

Oct 2009

5.95.37.87.85.8

Nov 2009

6.75.68.68.25.9

Dec 2009

7.15.69.58.36.2

Jan 2010

7.06.310.88.36.2

Feb 2010

7.06.410.37.56.2

Mar 2010

7.05.98.87.15.9

Apr 2010

6.55.17.86.75.4

May 2010

5.94.86.66.54.9

Jun 2010

5.05.16.26.74.8

Jul 2010

4.85.26.07.14.9

Aug 2010

4.75.46.27.54.9

Sep 2010

4.94.76.17.54.7

Oct 2010

4.64.25.27.14.5

Nov 2010

4.84.05.07.14.5

Dec 2010

5.34.15.17.14.6

Jan 2011

6.04.35.57.15.0

Feb 2011

6.14.25.76.84.9

Mar 2011

5.54.05.36.34.6

Apr 2011

5.03.85.15.84.2

May 2011

4.63.64.65.84.1

Jun 2011

4.53.74.55.64.0

Jul 2011

4.63.84.65.94.1

Aug 2011

4.53.84.96.04.0

Sep 2011

4.43.44.65.83.8

Oct 2011

4.23.14.25.63.6

Nov 2011

4.03.04.25.33.6

Dec 2011

4.23.04.85.53.7

Jan 2012

4.63.05.25.93.7

Feb 2012

5.33.04.86.23.7

Mar 2012

5.12.84.25.73.5

Apr 2012

4.22.43.65.03.3

May 2012

3.92.13.44.83.1

Jun 2012

3.92.13.64.63.1

Jul 2012

4.22.33.95.33.3

Aug 2012

4.02.43.95.23.4

Sep 2012

3.82.43.55.53.2

Oct 2012

3.72.13.25.03.0

Nov 2012

3.92.03.44.83.0

Dec 2012

4.02.03.75.13.2

Jan 2013

4.22.24.35.43.4

Feb 2013

4.22.14.15.43.4

Mar 2013

4.02.03.94.93.2

Apr 2013

3.51.93.54.12.9

May 2013

3.21.93.53.82.7

Jun 2013

3.22.13.63.62.7

Jul 2013

3.42.33.83.82.9

Aug 2013

3.42.33.73.92.9

Sep 2013

3.42.13.64.02.8

Oct 2013

3.22.03.33.92.5

Nov 2013

3.22.03.24.12.5

Dec 2013

3.22.03.34.22.6

Jan 2014

3.42.03.54.22.7

Feb 2014

3.41.93.53.72.7

Mar 2014

3.21.93.33.32.6

Apr 2014

2.81.72.62.82.2

May 2014

2.51.62.12.82.0

Jun 2014

2.41.62.02.81.9

Jul 2014

2.61.62.13.12.0

Aug 2014

2.61.62.12.91.9

Sep 2014

2.51.62.02.91.9

Oct 2014

2.31.51.92.71.7

Nov 2014

2.41.51.92.91.8

Dec 2014

2.51.31.92.91.8

Jan 2015

2.61.32.02.91.9

Feb 2015

2.51.31.92.61.8

Mar 2015

2.41.31.82.41.7

Apr 2015

2.21.21.62.21.6

May 2015

2.01.11.52.21.5

Jun 2015

1.91.01.62.31.5

Jul 2015

1.91.01.62.31.5

Aug 2015

1.90.91.62.31.5

Sep 2015

1.80.91.52.31.4

Oct 2015

1.70.81.52.01.3

Nov 2015

1.60.81.52.01.3

Dec 2015

1.60.81.51.91.4

Jan 2016

1.70.91.61.91.4

Feb 2016

1.80.81.61.71.5

Mar 2016

1.70.81.61.61.4

Apr 2016

1.60.71.61.61.3

May 2016

1.40.71.41.61.2

Jun 2016

1.40.81.41.61.3

Jul 2016

1.40.91.41.81.3

Aug 2016

1.50.91.51.91.4

Sep 2016

1.40.91.51.91.3

Oct 2016

1.30.91.51.71.3

Nov 2016

1.30.91.41.71.3

Dec 2016

1.30.91.51.71.3

Jan 2017

1.41.01.71.81.4

Feb 2017

1.51.01.71.81.4

Mar 2017

1.51.01.51.81.4

Apr 2017

1.30.91.41.61.2

May 2017

1.30.91.21.51.1

Jun 2017

1.31.01.21.41.1

Jul 2017

1.31.11.21.51.1

Aug 2017

1.41.11.21.61.1

Sep 2017

1.41.01.11.51.1

Oct 2017

1.31.01.01.31.0

Nov 2017

1.21.01.01.31.0

Dec 2017

1.21.01.11.31.0

Jan 2018

1.21.11.31.31.1

Feb 2018

1.21.11.31.21.1

Mar 2018

1.21.11.21.21.1

Apr 2018

1.11.01.11.11.0

May 2018

1.01.00.91.00.9

Jun 2018

1.00.90.81.10.9

Jul 2018

1.00.80.81.10.9

Aug 2018

1.00.80.91.20.9

Sep 2018

0.90.80.91.20.8

Oct 2018

0.90.80.81.10.8

Nov 2018

0.80.80.81.20.8

Dec 2018

0.90.70.81.30.8

Jan 2019

1.00.80.91.40.9

Feb 2019

1.10.81.01.40.9

Mar 2019

1.10.80.91.40.9

Apr 2019

1.00.70.91.10.8

May 2019

0.80.70.81.00.8

Jun 2019

0.80.60.80.90.8

Jul 2019

0.80.70.81.00.8

Aug 2019

0.80.80.91.10.9

Sep 2019

0.80.80.91.20.8

Oct 2019

0.80.80.81.10.8

Nov 2019

0.80.80.71.00.8

Dec 2019

0.80.80.71.00.8

Projected Occupational Openings: Where Do They Come From?

Toward the beginning of each school year, BLS issues a new set of Employment Projections, looking at projected growth and decline in occupations over the next decade. These estimates are important for understanding structural changes in the workforce over time. But to identify opportunities for new workers, we need to look beyond occupational growth and decline, to a concept we call “occupational openings.”

Occupational openings are the sum of the following:

  • Projected job growth (or decline)
  • Occupational separations — workers leaving an occupation, which includes:
    • Labor force exits — workers who leave the labor force entirely, perhaps to retire
    • Occupational transfers — workers who leave one occupation and transfer to a different occupation.

This video explains the concept of occupational openings further.

BLS publishes the projected number of occupational openings for over 800 occupations. Not surprisingly, some of the largest occupations in the country have some of the largest number of openings. For example, certain food service jobs, which include fast food workers, are projected to have nearly 800,000 openings per year over the next decade. I guess this isn’t a surprise in an occupation with over 3.7 million workers.

But when we delve into the information on occupational openings a little further, more stories emerge. Some related occupations have very different patterns of openings. And some occupations have similar levels of openings for different reasons. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

In 2018, there were over 800,000 lawyers in the U.S., and a projected 45,000 annual openings for lawyers, about 5.5 percent of employment. At the same time, there were fewer than half the number of paralegals and legal assistants (325,000), with projected annual openings around 40,000 per year – 12.4 percent of employment. These two related occupations had similar numbers of projected openings, but those openings represented different proportions of current employment. Such differences reflect required education, demographics, compensation, and other variables. Lawyers tend to have professional degrees that are specialized for that occupation and are therefore more closely tied to their occupation than paralegals, who have more diverse educational backgrounds. You can find out more about how worker characteristics affect these numbers in the Monthly Labor Review.

Now let’s look at the sources of occupational openings. In this first example, we compare two occupational groups: installation, maintenance, and repair occupations and healthcare support occupations. These are broad categories that include a number of different individual occupations.

Average annual occupational openings for installation, maintenance, and repair occupations and healthcare support occupations, 2018–28

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

In this example, both occupational groups have projected annual openings of a little over 600,000 per year, yet they come from different sources. Two-thirds of the openings among installation occupations result from workers leaving to go to other occupations; in contrast, just under half the openings among healthcare support occupations are from people moving to other occupations. Looking at projected job growth, BLS projects that healthcare support occupations, the fastest growing occupational group, will add more than three times as many new jobs as installation occupations, annually over the next decade (78,520 versus 23,320).

Now let’s look at two individual occupations — web developers and court, municipal, and license clerks. These are very different jobs, but both are projected to have about 15,000 annual openings over the next decade. Here, too, occupational openings come from very different places, as this chart shows:

Average annual occupational openings for web developers and court, municipal, and license clerks, 2018–28

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

In this case, around 67 percent of openings for web developer jobs come from workers transferring to other jobs, compared with only 49 percent transfers for clerks. But a greater share of clerks are exiting the labor force. Once again, differences are due to a variety of factors, although the age of workers is a significant factor in this case — web developers have a median age of 38.3, while clerks tend to be older, with a median age of 49.1. Younger workers are more likely to transfer occupations, while older workers are more likely to exit the labor force, as for retirement.

So what does all this really mean? If nothing else, you can see that the thousands of individual data elements available through the BLS Employment Projections program tell a thousand different stories, and more. Whether large or small, growing or declining, there’s information about hundreds of occupations that can be helpful to students looking for careers, counselors helping those students and others, workers wanting to change jobs, employers thinking about their future, policymakers considering where to put job training resources, and on and on. These examples just scratch the surface of what BLS Employment Projections information can tell us. Take a look for yourself.

Average annual occupational openings, 2018–28
OccupationEmployment growthExitsTransfers

Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

23,320195,700413,900

Healthcare support occupations

78,520235,500299,600
Average annual occupational openings, 2018–28
OccupationEmployment growthExitsTransfers

Web developers

2,0902,90010,100

Court, municipal, and license clerks

6707,0007,300