Topic Archives: Occupational Requirements

BLS Learns from Civic Digital Fellows

In the few months that I’ve had the pleasure of occupying the Commissioner’s seat at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it’s been clear that I’m surrounded by a smart, dedicated, and innovative staff who collect and publish high-quality information while working to improve our products and services to meet the needs of customers today and tomorrow. And soon after I arrived, we added to that high-quality staff by welcoming a cadre of Civic Digital Fellows to join us for the summer.

In its third year, the Civic Digital Fellowship program was designed by college students for college students who wanted to put their data science skills to use helping federal agencies solve problems, introduce innovations, and modernize functions. This year, the program brought 55 fellows to DC and placed them in 6 agencies – Census Bureau, Citizenship and Immigration Service, General Services Administration, Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, and BLS. From their website:

Civic Digital Fellowship logo describing the program as "A first-of-its-kind technology, data science, and design internship program for innovative students to solve pressing problems in federal agencies."

BLS hosted 9 Civic Digital Fellows for summer 2019. Here are some of their activities.

  • Classification of data is a big job at BLS. Almost all of our statistics are grouped by some classification system, such as industry, occupation, product code, or type of workplace injury. Often the source data for this information is unstructured text, which must then be translated into codes. This can be a tedious, manual task, but not for Civic Digital Fellows. Andres worked on a machine learning project that took employer files and classified detailed product names (such as cereal, meat, and milk from a grocery store) into categories used in the Producer Price Index. Vinesh took employer payroll listings with very specific job titles and identified occupational classifications used in the Occupational Employment Statistics program. And Michell used machine learning to translate purchases recorded by households in the Consumer Expenditure Diary Survey into codes for specific goods and services.
  • We are always looking to improve the experience of customers who use BLS information, and the Civic Digital Fellows provided a leg up on some of those activities. Daniel used R and Python to create a dashboard that pulled together customer experience information, including phone calls and emails, internet page views, social media comments, and responses to satisfaction surveys. Olivia used natural language processing to develop a text generation application to automatically write text for BLS news releases. Her system expands on previous efforts by identifying and describing trends in data over time.
  • BLS staff spend a lot of time reviewing data before the information ends up being published. While such review is more automated than in the past, the Civic Digital Fellows showed us some techniques that can revolutionize the process. Avena used Random Forest techniques to help determine which individual prices collected for the Consumer Price Index may need additional review.
  • Finally, BLS is always on the lookout for additional sources of data, to provide new products and services, improve quality, or reduce burden on respondents (employers and households). Christina experimented with unit value data to determine the effect on export price movements in the International Price Program. Somya and Rebecca worked on separate projects that both used external data sources to improve and expand autocoding within the Occupational Requirements Survey. Somya looked at data from a private vendor to help classify jobs, while Rebecca looked at data from a government source to help classify work tasks.

The Civic Digital Fellows who worked at BLS in summer 2019

Our cadre of fellows has completed their work at BLS, with some entering grad school and the working world. But they left a lasting legacy. They’ve gotten some publicity for their efforts. Following their well-attended “demo day” in the lobby at BLS headquarters, some of their presentations and computer programs are available to the world on GitHub.

I think what most impressed me about this impressive bunch of fellows was the way they grasped the issues facing BLS and focused their work on making improvements. I will paraphrase one fellow who said “I don’t want to just do machine learning. I want to apply my skills to solve a problem.” Another heaped praise on BLS supervisors for “letting her run” with a project with few constraints. We are following up on all of the summer projects and have plans for further research and implementation.

We ended the summer by providing the fellows with some information about federal job opportunities. I have no doubt that these bright young minds will have many opportunities, but I also saw an interest in putting their skills to work on real issues facing government agencies like BLS. I look forward to seeing them shine, whether at BLS or wherever they end up. I know they will be successful.

And, we are already making plans to host another group of Civic Digital Fellows next summer.

Labor Day 2019 Fast Facts

I have been Commissioner of Labor Statistics for 5 months now, and I continue to be amazed by the range and quality of data we publish about the U.S. labor market and the well-being of American workers. As we like to say at BLS, we really do have a stat for that! We won’t rest on what we have done, however. We continue to strive for more data and better data to help workers, jobseekers, students, businesses, and policymakers make informed decisions. Labor Day is a good time to reflect on where we are. This year is the 125th anniversary of celebrating Labor Day as a national holiday. Before you set out 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

Working or Looking for Work

  • The civilian labor force participation rate—the share of the population working or looking for work—was 63.0 percent in July 2019. The rate had trended down from the 2000s through the early 2010s, but it has remained fairly steady since 2014.

Not Working

  • The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in July. In April and May, the rate hit its lowest point, 3.6 percent, since 1969.
  • In July, there were 1.2 million long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). This represented 19.2 percent of the unemployed, down from a peak of 45.5 percent in April 2010 but still above the 16-percent share in late 2006.
  • Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 12.8 percent in July 2019, while the rates were 3.4 percent for both adult women and adult men. The unemployment rate was 6.0 percent for Blacks or African Americans, 4.5 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, 2.8 percent for Asians, and 3.3 percent for Whites.

Job Openings

Pay and Benefits

  • Average weekly earnings rose by 2.6 percent from July 2018 to July 2019. After adjusting for inflation in consumer prices, real average weekly earnings were up 0.8 percent during this period.
  • Civilian compensation (wage and benefit) costs increased 2.7 percent in June 2019 from a year earlier. After adjusting for inflation, real compensation costs rose 1.1 percent over the year.
  • Paid leave benefits are available to most private industry workers. The access rates in March 2018 were 71 percent for sick leave, 77 percent for vacation, and 78 percent for holidays.
  • About 91 percent of civilian workers with access to paid holidays receive Labor Day as a paid holiday.
  • In March 2018, civilian workers with employer-provided medical plans paid 20 percent of the cost of medical care premiums for single coverage and 32 percent for family coverage.

Productivity

  • Labor productivity—output per hour worked—in the U.S. nonfarm business sector grew 1.8 percent from the second quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of 2019.
  • Some industries had much faster growth in 2018, including electronic shopping and mail-order houses (10.6 percent) and wireless telecommunications carriers (10.1 percent).
  • Multifactor productivity in the private nonfarm business sector rose 1.0 percent in 2018. That growth is 0.2 percentage point higher than the average annual rate of 0.8 percent from 1987 to 2018.

Safety and Health

Unionization

  • The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.5 percent in 2018, down by 0.2 percentage point from 2017. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.

Work Stoppages

  • In the first 7 months of 2019, there have been 307,500 workers involved in major work stoppages that began this year. (Major work stoppages are strikes or lockouts that involve 1,000 or more workers and last one full shift or longer.) For all of 2018, there were 485,200 workers involved in major work stoppages, the largest number since 1986, when about 533,100 workers were involved.
  • There have been 15 work stoppages beginning in 2019. For all of 2018, 20 work stoppages began during the year.

Education

  • Occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry made up 22 percent of employment in 2018. This educational category includes registered nurses, teachers at the kindergarten through secondary levels, and many management, business and financial operations, computer, and engineering occupations.
  • For 18 of the 30 occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026, some postsecondary education is typically required for entry. Be sure to check out our updated employment projections, covering 2018 to 2028, that we will publish September 4!

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.

Why This Counts: Measuring Occupational Requirements

You probably know that BLS publishes data and analysis about employment, unemployment, job openings, earnings, productivity, occupational safety and health, and more. But did you know we also publish information about how often workers have to lift objects; the maximum weight they lift or carry; whether they work in extreme heat or cold; and how much training and experience they need for a job? We call these characteristics “occupational requirements.”

What are occupational requirements?

The Occupational Requirements Survey provides information about the requirements of jobs:

  • Physical demands of work, such as keyboarding, reaching overhead, lifting or carrying
  • Environmental conditions, such as extreme heat, exposure to outdoors, proximity to moving parts
  • Education, training, and experience requirements, such as prior work experience, on-the-job training, and license requirements
  • Cognitive and mental requirements, such as interaction with other people, independence of work, and the amount of review

How did BLS get into doing this survey?

This survey is one of our newest statistical programs; we first published data on December 1, 2016.

The Social Security Administration asked us to help them obtain accurate and current data to use in their disability programs. They are developing an Occupational Information System, which will use data from the Occupational Requirements Survey. That means the survey is crucial for Social Security to manage their disability programs fairly and efficiently.

How can I use occupational requirements information?

Users of Occupational Requirements Survey data include:

  • Researchers exploring occupational change
  • Jobseekers and students
  • Government agencies evaluating skill gaps
  • People with disabilities and their advocates

Let’s discuss a couple of examples to show you what I mean.

Educational requirements

You may want to know the minimum formal education requirements for jobs. The survey has a stat for that! In 2018, a high school diploma was required for jobs covering 40.7 percent of workers, while 17.9 percent had a bachelor’s degree requirement. The chart below shows the percent of jobs by minimum education requirement.

Percent of jobs with a minimum education requirement, 2018

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

We have more information on education, training, and experience. The 2018 news release showed that on-the-job training was required for about 77 percent of workers, and the average duration was 34 days.

We also have information on preparation time, which includes minimum formal education, training, and work experience a typical worker needs to perform a job. Preparation time between 4 hours and 1 month was required for 31.5 percent of workers.

Environmental Conditions

Is the noise level at your workplace closer to a library (quiet) or a rock concert (very loud)? For some jobseekers, understanding the noise level and other environmental conditions might be extremely important as they evaluate job options. The chart below provides examples of the noise intensity in different occupations.

Percent of jobs with noise intensity level requirements, selected occupations, 2018

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

Examples of work environments with different noise intensity levels include:

  • Quiet: private office, a golf course, or art museum
  • Moderate: department stores, business office, or fast food restaurant
  • Loud: manufacturing plant, atop large earth moving equipment, or jobs next to the highway
  • Very loud: rock concert venues, working with jack hammers, or rocket testing areas

How do we collect job requirement data?

To collect job requirement data, our field economists ask business owners, human resource professionals, worker safety officers, and supervisors to collect requirements of work. Field economists do not use paper or online questionnaires to collect these data; instead, they rely on a conversational interviews and descriptive documents, such as task lists, to collect information on occupational requirements.

How are we improving the survey?

Survey scope: Since it began, we have continued to refine the survey to improve its accuracy. In the third year of collection, we redefined the survey scope to focus on critical job functions—that is, the reason the job exists.

Survey content: Beginning with the current sample in collection, we added questions about cognitive and mental requirements. The Social Security Administration asked for this change so we can provide information on the requirements for workers to adapt to changes in the pace of work, solve problems, and interact with others.

Sample: The survey sample is collected over a 5-year period. That will provide the large amount of data necessary to publish information about detailed occupations. We have revised the sampling process to ensure we collect information about less common occupations.

Website: We recently improved the web layout to make it easier for users to find the data they want.

Where is more information?

We have data for occupational groups and occupations through the Occupational Profiles. All data are available through the public data tools. For concepts, methods, and history of the survey see the Handbook of Methods or visit our homepage.

Let us know if you have questions or comments about occupational requirements:

  • Email
  • Phone: (202) 691-6199

Use these gold-standard data to learn more about your job requirements or to find out about new ones. Whatever your occupational requirements question, “We have a stat for that!”

Percent of jobs with a minimum education requirement, 2018
Education requirement Percent
No minimum education requirement 31.5%
High school diploma 40.7
Associate’s degree 3.8
Associate’s vocational degree 2.1
Bachelor’s degree 17.9
Master’s degree 2.3
Professional degree 0.9
Doctorate degree 0.5
Percent of jobs with noise intensity level requirements, selected occupations, 2018
Occupation Quiet Moderate Loud
Bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists 49.0% 51.0%
Computer programmers 60.1
Construction laborers 48.6 51.4
Electricians 49.0 51.0
Highway maintenance workers 46.2 53.8
Home health aides 54.1 45.9
Library technicians 56.0
Medical transcriptionists 68.7
Paralegals and legal assistants 66.5 33.5
Welders, cutters, and welder fitters 48.2 50.9

Earth Day 2019: Careers that Care for Our Earth

Next year will be the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day! The first Earth Day occurred on April 22, 1970, and I will show my age and admit that I clearly recall marching around my little campus on a blustery spring day in Topeka. Now, 49 years later, we want to celebrate Earth Day by highlighting some jobs that take care of our planet.

One way we keep track of jobs in the United States is through the Occupational Outlook Handbook which provides career information for hundreds of occupations. The Occupational Outlook Handbook was first published in 1949 to serve returning veterans of World War II. This year, the Handbook is 70 years old!

In honor of Earth Day, here are six earth-friendly career paths to consider:

Agricultural Engineers

What they do: Solve agricultural problems concerning power supplies, the efficiency of machinery, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.Female scientist in a field examining crops.

  • 2018 median pay: $77,110 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 2,700
  • Projected growth. 2016–26: 8% (As fast as average)

 

 

 

Environmental Engineering Technicians

What they do: Test, operate, and, if necessary, modify equipment used to prevent or clean up environmental pollution. They may collect samples for testing, or they may work to mitigate sources of environmental pollution.Scientist standing near waterfalls and wearing protective clothing.

  • 2018 median pay: $50,560 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Associate’s degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 17,000
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 13% (Faster than average)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biochemists & Biophysicists

What they do: Study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.Two biochemists talking in a lab

  • 2018 median pay: $93,280 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Doctoral or professional degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 31,500
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 11% (Faster than average)

 

 

Atmospheric Scientists, including Meteorologists

What they do: Study the weather and climate, and examine how those conditions affect human activity and the earth in general.Two meteorologists tracking a storm with satellite images.

  • 2018 median pay: $94,110 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 10,400
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 12% (Faster than average)

 

Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Installers

What they do: Assemble, install, and maintain solar panel systems on rooftops or other structures.Person wearing protective clothing installing solar panels.

  • 2018 median pay: $42,680 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: High school diploma or equivalent
  • Number of jobs 2016: 11,300
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 105% (Fastest of the more than 800 occupations BLS projects)

 

 

Environmental Scientists & Specialists

What they do: Use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. They may clean up polluted areas, advise policymakers, or work with industry to reduce waste.Scientists taking notes while conducting research in a nature area

  • 2018 median pay: $71,130 per year
  • Typical entry-level education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Number of jobs 2016: 89,500
  • Projected growth, 2016–26: 11% (Faster than average)

 

 

 

Want more information? You can explore hundreds of occupations using our Occupational Outlook Handbook. For a larger list of new and emerging earth-friendly or “green” jobs, visit the Department of Labor’s O*Net Resource Center.

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