Topic Archives: Educational Attainment

Teen Trends

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Teri Morisi, a supervisory economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A chart showing trends in teen labor force participation rates from 1979 to 2015 and projected to 2024

Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below.

In our nation’s changing economy, the pull of education is a key factor in how teens are fitting into the labor force. Back in 1979, about 58 percent of teens (16–19) were in the labor force, but by 2000, only 52 percent were. By 2011, after the recession, about 34 percent of teens were in the labor force. What’s behind this change? Most teens who do not participate in the labor force cite school as the reason. Consider these factors:

  • Higher attendance: In 2015, about 3 in 4 teens were enrolled in school. This proportion has trended up from about 60 percent in 1985, which is the first year data are available.
  • Time-consuming classes: After sleeping, school activities take up more time than anything else in a teenager’s week day. And high school coursework has become more strenuous. High schoolers today are taking tougher and more advanced courses, including those specifically designed for college preparation and credit. And most start college the fall after graduating from high school. In October 2015, about 70 percent of recent high school graduates were enrolled in college, compared with less than half of recent graduates in October 1959.
  • More summer students: Summer has always been the most common time for teens to work, but fewer teens are holding summer jobs: about 4 in 10 teens were in the labor force last July, compared with about 7 in 10 in July 1978. At the same time, school attendance in summer is on the rise. The proportion of teens enrolled in July 2016 (42 percent) was more than four times higher than in July 1985.
  • Higher education costs: College tuition costs have risen dramatically in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, so a part-time job is generally not sufficient to cover costs.  Teens enrolled in college therefore are more likely to cover costs through loans and grants: 84 percent of full-time undergraduates received financial aid in 2011–12, compared with 58 percent in 1992–93.

A chart showing college enrollment rates for recent high school graduates from 1959 to 2015.

Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below.

Teens who want to work face competition, of course. Labor force participation for those ages 55 and older has been growing; their labor force participation rate surpassed the rate for teens in 2009.

What does the future hold? BLS projects that the teen labor participation rate could drop further in 2024, to 26.4 percent.

Learn more about trends in teen labor force participation.


Chart: Labor force participation rates for teens ages 16-19, 1979-2015 and projected 2024
Year Percent
1979 57.9
1980 56.7
1981 55.4
1982 54.1
1983 53.5
1984 53.9
1985 54.5
1986 54.7
1987 54.7
1988 55.3
1989 55.9
1990 53.7
1991 51.6
1992 51.3
1993 51.5
1994 52.7
1995 53.5
1996 52.3
1997 51.6
1998 52.8
1999 52.0
2000 52.0
2001 49.6
2002 47.4
2003 44.5
2004 43.9
2005 43.7
2006 43.7
2007 41.3
2008 40.2
2009 37.5
2010 34.9
2011 34.1
2012 34.3
2013 34.5
2014 34.0
2015 34.3
Projected 2024 24.6
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey and Employment Projections Program.



Chart: College enrollment rates for recent high school graduates, 1959-2015
Year Percent
1959 45.7
1960 45.1
1961 48.0
1962 49.0
1963 45.0
1964 48.3
1965 50.9
1966 50.1
1967 51.9
1968 55.4
1969 53.3
1970 51.8
1971 53.5
1972 49.2
1973 46.6
1974 47.6
1975 50.7
1976 48.8
1977 50.6
1978 50.1
1979 49.4
1980 49.4
1981 53.9
1982 50.6
1983 52.7
1984 55.2
1985 57.7
1986 53.7
1987 56.8
1988 58.9
1989 59.6
1990 59.9
1991 62.4
1992 61.7
1993 62.6
1994 61.9
1995 61.9
1996 65.0
1997 67.0
1998 65.6
1999 62.9
2000 63.3
2001 61.6
2002 65.2
2003 63.9
2004 66.7
2005 68.6
2006 66.0
2007 67.2
2008 68.6
2009 70.1
2010 68.1
2011 68.3
2012 66.2
2013 65.9
2014 68.4
2015 69.2
Note: Data beginning in 2006 are not strictly comparable to earlier years because of a change in supplement weights.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, October Supplement.

12 Stats about Working Women

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Mark DeWolf, an economist in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.

A graphic showing the percentage of workers who are women in selected occupations.

Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below.

This Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look at women’s contributions to the U.S. labor force. Here are some noteworthy statistics we’ve rounded up!

Women are Integral to Today’s Workforce

  • There are 74.6 million women in the civilian labor force.
  • Almost 47 percent of U.S. workers are women.
  • More than 39 percent of women work in occupations where women make up at least three-quarters of the workforce.
  • Women own close to 10 million businesses, accounting for $1.4 trillion in receipts.
  • Female veterans tend to continue their service in the labor force: About 3 out of 10 serve their country as government workers.

A graphic showing the percentage of workers who are women in selected management occupations.

Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below.

Working Moms are the Norm

  • Seventy percent of mothers with children under 18 participate in the labor force, with over 75 percent employed full-time.
  • Mothers are the primary or sole earners for 40 percent of households with children under 18 today, compared with 11 percent in 1960.

A graphic showing that 34 percent of women have earned college degrees by age 29, compared with 26 percent of men.

Trends in Women’s Employment Have Evolved over Time

  • Women’s participation in the U.S. labor force has climbed since World War II: from 32.7 percent in 1948 to 56.8 percent in 2016.
  • The proportion of women with college degrees in the labor force has almost quadrupled since 1970. More than 40 percent of women in the labor force had college degrees in 2016, compared with 11 percent in 1970.
  • The range of occupations women workers hold has also expanded, with women making notable gains in professional and managerial occupations. In 2016, more than one in three lawyers was a woman, compared to fewer than 1 in 10 in 1974.
  • Despite these gains, women are still underrepresented in STEM occupations, with women’s share of computer workers actually declining since 1990.
  • The unemployment rate for women was 4.8 percent in January 2017, down from a peak of 9.0 percent in November 2010. (Source)

Since 1920, the Women’s Bureau has been working to address the challenges and barriers unique to women in the labor force, and data from BLS and other sources plays an important role in helping us understand those challenges. For more of the latest stats on working women, be sure to check out the Women’s Bureau’s data and statistics page. You may also like the BLS report Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2015 and a BLS webpage with links to more data about women.


Women at Work: Percentage of Women’s Representation in Selected Occupations

Speech-language pathologists 98%
Dental assistants 93%
Social workers 82%
Physical therapists 69%
Pharmacists 60%
Lawyers 36%
Civil engineers 11%
HVAC and refrigeration mechanics and installers 1%


Women in Management Occupations

Human resources managers 74%
Social and community service managers 71%
Education administrators 65%
Food service managers 46%
Marketing and sales managers 45%
Chief executives 27%
Computer and information systems managers 26%
Construction managers 7%


Shape the Future with a Teaching Career

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Allen Chen, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This blog post was adapted from a Career Outlook article by Dennis Vilorio, an economist formerly employed by BLS.

If you dream of inspiring the minds of the future, consider teaching. Teachers give students the knowledge and tools to succeed both in school and beyond the classroom. It’s a smart career choice, too: Most teaching jobs pay above the median for all occupations ($36,200), and BLS projects there will be more than 2 million job openings between 2014 and 2024 for teachers at all levels.

Types of teachers

  • Preschool and K-12 teachers: These teachers are often generalists in lower grades but specialize in certain subjects in higher grades.
  • Postsecondary teachers: Commonly referred to as professors or instructors, these teachers work in community colleges, universities, technical and trade schools, and other institutions of higher learning. Besides instructing students, they conduct research and publish academic papers and books.
  • Special education and other teachers: These teachers work with children and adult students who have special needs, who want remedial help, or who need literacy instruction.

A day in the life

Teachers might be envied for the summer and holiday breaks they get, but the data show that they put in long hours preparing for their students. Many work on the weekends and outside the classroom after school by sponsoring student clubs or chaperoning events.

Some teachers are with the same students all day; others have a few classes throughout the day with different students. Many teachers say that challenges with classroom management, workload, and bureaucratic oversight are the most frustrating elements of the job. But they say the most satisfying parts are watching students learn, the variety each day brings, and working with supportive colleagues.

A chart showing the percentage of teachers working at each hour of the average weekday and weekend day.

Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below. The data are restricted to days that people who described their main job as being a teacher and reported doing at least one minute of work for their main job. Holidays are excluded from the data.

By the numbers

BLS data show variation in employment, projected job openings, and wages among teaching occupations. Wages also vary based on grade level and geographic location, but nearly all teaching jobs had median annual wages that were higher than the $36,200 median annual wage for all occupations in May 2015.

A graphic showing employment and wages for different types of teaching careers, including preschool, K-12, postsecondary, and special education.

Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below. Job openings are from employment growth and the need to replace workers who leave the occupation. The “other” category includes adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors, self-enrichment education teachers, and miscellaneous teachers and instructors.

Becoming a teacher

Before leading your own classroom, you’ll have to learn to be a teacher. The skills, education, and other qualifications to be eligible vary widely — one good resource for finding requirements in your state is

For example, preschool teachers typically must have an associate’s degree, kindergarten through secondary teachers usually require a bachelor’s degree, and postsecondary teachers generally need a doctoral degree or a master’s degree in their field. None of the occupations typically require work experience in a related occupation for entry-level employment, but an internship or residency may be necessary as part of on-the-job training. And teachers in public schools usually need certification or a license.

There are plenty of ways to help shape the future, one mind at a time. Which path will you choose?

Learn more: More information about teaching or teaching-related occupations is available in the Occupational Outlook Handbook, as well as from the U.S. Department of Education and professional teaching associations. You might also qualify for loan forgiveness or for taking an alternative route to becoming teacher if you commit to work in a low-income community.

Graphic 1: What Time Teachers Work

Percent of teachers working, by time of day on days they worked, 2011–15
 Time of day Weekday Weekend day
4-4:59 am 1.2 1.1
5-5:59 am 4.3 1.1
6-6:59 am 21.6 5.5
7-7:59 am 69.6 13.6
8-8:59 am 88.1 20.6
9-9:59 am 90.7 31.1
10-10:59 am 91.0 28.6
11-11:59am 91.2 29.7
12-12:59 pm 88.1 28.9
1-1:59 pm 89.1 33.2
2-2:59 pm 89.7 32.8
3-3:59 pm 80.0 32.4
4-4:59 pm 47.9 34.4
5-5:59 pm 30.1 30.8
6-6:59 pm 16.0 25.5
7-7:59 pm 15.0 22.9
8-8:59 pm 18.2 27.4
9-9:59 pm 14.3 23.4
10-10:59 pm 7.2 14.0
11-11:59 pm 3.6 8.0
12-12:59 am 2.0 2.5
1-1:59 am 0.4 1.1
2-2:59am 0.3 0.7
3-3:59 am 0.3 0.9


Graphic 2: Types of Teaching Occupations

Occupation Number employed in 2014 Projected job openings, 2014-24 2015 median wages Typical education needed for entry
Postsecondary teachers 1,869,400 550,600 $64,450 Master’s degree or higher
Others, such as self-enrichment and adult literacy teachers 1,408,700 391,000 $30,760 Variable
Elementary school teachers 1,358,000 378,700 $54,890 Bachelor’s degree
Secondary school teachers 961,600 284,000 $57,200 Bachelor’s degree
Middle school teachers 627,500 175,500 $55,860 Bachelor’s degree
Preschool teachers 441,000 158,700 $28,570 Associate degree
Special education teachers 491,100 123,500 $58,500 Bachelor’s degree
Kindergarten teachers 159,400 56,100 $51,640 Bachelor’s degree


Why the unemployment rate still matters

Just like your body, the economy is a superbly complex system. When you visit doctors or other healthcare providers, they routinely take several measurements — height, weight, blood pressure, and temperature. Tracking these vital signs over time can lead you and your healthcare providers to seek further tests. Yet, even when your healthcare providers need more information, they continue to take the basic measurements.

In much the same way, the government routinely measures the health of the economy. Here at BLS, we specialize in tracking labor market activity, working conditions, productivity, and price changes. One of our most important measures is the national unemployment rate. Since it is measured the same way each month, year after year, changes in the rate can be an important signal of changes in the labor market and economy.

We realize, of course, that the unemployment rate doesn’t tell the full story. It isn’t meant to. Much like your temperature is a necessary measurement, its usefulness increases when viewed with other measures. When we release the unemployment rate each month, we also publish five alternative measures of labor underutilization to help assess labor market conditions from several perspectives.

Chart showing trends in alternative measures of labor underutilization.

In addition, the source for the unemployment data, the Current Population Survey, provides a wealth of information about workers, jobseekers, and people who aren’t working or looking for work. For example, we also get information about trends in labor force participation, a topic that has received much public attention in recent years. BLS releases thousands of other measures monthly, quarterly, and annually, depending on the topic.

For example, if you want to know how adult Black men are performing in the labor market, we have a stat for that. Ditto for people with a less than high school education or veterans with service-connected disabilities.

And if you want to know how employers are doing (say, how many job openings they’ve posted and how many workers have been fired or quit their jobs in the past month), check out our Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey.

Want to know what is happening in your local area? Not a problem. Each month BLS releases state employment and unemployment data and metropolitan area data too.

We invite you to visit our website or contact one of our expert economists next time you have a question about the health of labor market—or your favorite economic “symptom.”

BLS Microdata Now More Easily Accessible to Researchers across the Country

I am pleased to announce that BLS is now part of the Federal Statistical Research Data Center Network.

Researchers at universities, nonprofits, and government agencies can now go to 24 secure research data centers across the United States to analyze microdata from our National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth and our Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Before, researchers had to visit our headquarters in Washington, D.C., to use these data.Image of researchers examining data.

Making our underlying data more accessible for researchers from coast to coast is a huge step forward, and I hope it will lead to a surge in research using BLS data. I believe that having more researchers use BLS data not only will showcase new uses of the data but improve our products by encouraging researchers from BLS and other organizations to collaborate. It also supports transparency because external researchers can analyze inputs to our published statistics.

Another key benefit to having BLS data alongside datasets from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics is that researchers can combine data from two or more agencies. Using multiple datasets allows researchers to match data to answer new questions with no more burden on our respondents. Put simply, more data = better research = better decisions that rely on research.

Researchers are enthusiastic about adding BLS data to the research data center network.

“We at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta are excited that more BLS microdata are available to researchers. Policy questions are usually complicated. Matched data from different sources can give researchers a much better understanding of economic relationships. That will help us provide more informed policy advice,” said John Robertson, senior policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Over the next year, we will add more BLS data to the research data centers based on user demand.

Researchers can also still visit us at our D.C. headquarters to access our full suite of microdata. To learn more and to apply, see our BLS Restricted Data Access page.