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Topic Archives: Occupations

BLS at the Olympics

When you find yourself in a 16-day marathon on the sofa shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A” at every swimmer, weightlifter, and beach volleyball player, you may not see the relationship to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But as you sprint through the pages of our website or add your likes to Twitter, you’ll begin to see how BLS has a stat for that.

Olympic symbol with five interlocking rings and BLS emblem

Uneven bars

As we head into the gymnastics venue, we notice one of the women’s apparatus reminds us of how we measure productivity. We use two factors to compute labor productivity—output and hours worked. Over the past decade, the “bars” for output and hours worked aren’t quite parallel, but they are definitely uneven; output grew a little faster than hours, leading to rising productivity.  The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in sharp drops in both output and hours, leaving productivity to maintain its steady climb. BLS productivity staff stick the landing by providing a series of quarterly charts to let you vault into all the details.

Labor productivity (output per hour), output, and hours worked indexes, nonfarm business, 2012 to 2021

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in our interactive chart packages.

Decathlon

You may not have to run, jump, and throw, but the fastest growing occupations from our annual employment projections represent a diversity of skills. A decathlon has 10 events, but we have so much Olympic spirit we want to show you the 12 fastest growing occupations. Half of these jobs are in the healthcare field, while a couple involve alternative forms of energy. And, of course, BLS is pleased to see statisticians and data scientists and mathematical science occupations make the list. While the “World’s Greatest Athlete” is decided at the track and field venue, our Employment Projections staff goes the extra mile (1,500 meters, actually) to identify where the jobs will be in the future.

Fastest growing occupations, projected, 2019–29

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

Swimming 4×100 medley relay

At the natatorium, we are here to witness one of the premier events of the Olympic Games, the swimming 4×100 medley relay. Four price indexes will each take a lap to demonstrate how they work together to provide a complete inflation picture. In the leadoff position is the Import Price Index, which rose 11.2 percent from June 2020 to June 2021—with fuel prices being one of the largest drivers. After touching the wall first, imports made way for the Producer Price Index, which rose 7.3 percent for the year ending in June. Price increases for a variety of goods drove this gain. The third leg belonged to the Export Price Index, which rose 16.8 percent over the past year, the largest gain among the quartet. Agricultural products were among the largest contributors to the increase in export prices. In the anchor position was the Consumer Price Index, freestyling with a 5.4-percent increase over the year, leading BLS to the gold medal. Among the largest increases over the past year were consumer prices for gasoline and for used cars and trucks.

Percent change in BLS price indexes, June 2020 to June 2021

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

Greco-Roman wrestling

We bypassed the freestyle wrestling venue to watch Greco-Roman wrestling. The difference between freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling is that freestyle wrestlers can use their legs for both defensive and offensive moves, but Greco-Roman forbids any holds below the waist. Our Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses reports on the part of the body where workplace injuries occur, and, just like Greco-Roman, many of those occur above the waist.

Among workplace injuries that resulted in time away from work, nearly two out of three affected parts of the body above the waist, with the greatest number related to the upper extremities (shoulder, arm, hand, and wrist).

Number of workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work, by part of body, 2019

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

Among the most prevalent injuries to the upper extremities were sprains, strains, punctures, cuts, and burns.

Beach volleyball

This popular sport takes place out on the sandy beaches, with two athletes on each side battling for the gold. Let’s look at some popular beach volleyball spots around the United States and pair them with the unemployment rates by state and metropolitan area. Florida serves up the lowest unemployment rate among the four states we have selected, at 5.7 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in June. Miami had an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent in June—the lowest among the metro areas chosen. Receiving the serve, Hawaii’s rate stood at a 7.9 percent. They bumped it to their teammate Illinois, which also had a rate of 7.9 percent. California reached a little higher, with a rate of 8.0 percent.

Unemployment rates in selected beach volleyball states and metropolitan areas, June 2021, not seasonally adjusted

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

BLS heads to Tokyo

Just as the United States exports its athletes to Japan for the Olympic Games, the two countries are regular trading partners. The BLS International Price Program provides a monthly look at inflation for U.S. imports and exports. Among the data available are price changes based on where the imports come from and where the exports go. And yes, this includes data for Japan. While we’ve seen increases in many inflation measures in recent months, the data show more modest increases in prices of U.S. imports from Japan. Not so for U.S. exports to Japan, which increased 15.8 percent from June 2020 to June 2021. No, this does not represent the price of exporting our athletes; it mostly relates to sharp increases in the price of agricultural exports.

Percent change in U.S. import and export prices, June 2020 to June 2021

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

Whether it’s weightlifting or dressage or the new sports climbing activities, BLS is cheering on the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians in Japan. At the same time, we’ll still be keeping to our data release schedule. Find out what’s available from BLS during August and September and be sure to follow BLS on Twitter.

Fastest growing occupations, projected, 2019–29
OccupationProjected percent change

Wind turbine service technicians

60.7%

Nurse practitioners

52.4

Solar photovoltaic installers

50.5

Occupational therapy assistants

34.6

Statisticians

34.6

Home health and personal care aides

33.7

Physical therapist assistants

32.6

Medical and health services managers

31.5

Physician assistants

31.3

Information security analysts

31.2

Data scientists and mathematical science occupations, all other

30.9

Derrick operators, oil and gas

30.5
Percent change in BLS price indexes, June 2020 to June 2021
Price indexPercent change

Import Price Index

11.2%

Producer Price Index

7.3

Export Price Index

16.8

Consumer Price Index

5.4
Number of workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work, by part of body, 2019
Part of bodyNumber

Upper extremities (shoulder, arm, hand, wrist)

284,860

Lower extremities (knee, ankle, foot)

216,850

Trunk

187,130

Multiple body parts

82,650

Head

79,620

Body systems

15,150

Neck

11,600

All other body parts

10,360
Unemployment rates in selected beach volleyball states and metropolitan areas, June 2021, not seasonally adjusted
State or metropolitan areaRate

States

Florida

5.7%

Hawaii

7.9

Illinois

7.9

California

8.0

Metropolitan areas

Miami

6.2

Honolulu

7.1

Chicago

8.5

Los Angeles

9.5
Percent change in U.S. import and export prices, June 2020 to June 2021
Price indexAll countriesJapan

Import prices

11.2%1.8%

Export prices

16.815.8

A Truckload of Transportation Statistics

BLS recently participated in the North American Transportation Statistics Interchange, better known as the NATS Interchange. (Not to be confused with the local baseball team, as the Washington Nationals are known. I look forward to the day when I’m back in the stands yelling “N-A-T-S, Nats, Nats, Nats — whoooo!” after each run scores. But I digress.)

Like many recent conferences, the NATS Interchange was held virtually and focused on the pandemic—how statistical agencies in the United States, Mexico, and Canada continued operations, produced new data, and are planning for the future. Our friends at the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, led the U.S. effort and invited several other U.S. statistical agencies to share information. BLS was asked to participate in a short session on the transportation-related information we produce that may be useful in measuring the economic recovery. This turned into a great opportunity to focus on the BLS Industry at a Glance feature on our website, and to look further into what BLS has available related to transportation.

We classify workplaces by industry based on their principal product or activity. Industries are categorized using the North American Industry Classification System, or NAICS. BLS releases considerable data by NAICS classification, including employment, wages, workplace safety, and more. The BLS Industry at a Glance webpages bring these different statistics together for over 100 industries. Want to know everything BLS produces for the transportation and warehousing industry classification (NAICS codes 48–49)? It’s all there at Industry at a Glance. Want to dig deeper and look just at the air transportation industry (NAICS code 481)? We’ve got that, too. Of course, we may have less information available as you ask for more detailed classifications, but if we’ve got it, it’ll be there.

Let’s look at a couple of examples, starting with employment. In April 2020, BLS reported a loss of more than 20 million jobs in one month, based on data from the Current Employment Statistics program. The job losses were widespread, including a loss of 570,000 jobs in the transportation and warehousing industry from February to April. That’s a decline of 10 percent from the January 2020, level of 5.7 million workers in this industry. Through December, the sector had recovered about 84 percent of that job loss and still had a net loss of 90,000 jobs since January.

But looking at the overall sector hides some of the details. The job losses in early 2020 occurred in all components of transportation and warehousing except couriers and messengers. This industry recorded an increase of 210,000 employees from January to December 2020, likely due to the surge in online shopping and associated shipping and delivery. While initially losing jobs, employment in warehousing and storage was up 79,000 in December from the March level. All other sectors continue to have net losses. Of particular note is employment in air transportation, which showed inconsistent recovery for several months before recording new jobs losses in October.

Share of January 2020 employment in selected transportation industries through December 2020

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

Other details you can glean from the Industry at a Glance page for Transportation and Warehousing:

  • 16.1 percent of wage and salary workers in the transportation and warehousing industry were members of a union in 2019, and 17.6 percent were represented by a union.
  • The occupation with the most workers in this industry is heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, with nearly 1.1 million workers in 2019. The next largest occupation was school bus drivers, with about 284,000 workers.
  • 948 workers in this industry suffered a fatal work injury in 2019, up from 909 fatalities in 2018.

In preparing for the NATS interchange, BLS took a broader look at the world of transportation statistics. Turns out, if you look beyond the industry classification, you find even more information. For example, BLS programs on prices and spending look at what consumers spend on transportation, and the change in transportation prices over time. From the BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys, we know the average “consumer unit” (our fancy name for households) spent an average of $10,742 on transportation in 2019, including vehicle purchases and maintenance and public transportation.

The pandemic revealed major disruptions in certain transportation activity, and those disruptions were evident in the BLS Consumer Price Index. The CPI as a whole declined by 0.8 percent in April, the largest one-month decline in more than a decade. Many of the declines were the result of stay-at-home orders and related shutdowns, as prices for gasoline, airfares, and other transportation-related items declined sharply. Of note was a sharp decline in the price of gasoline—down over 20 percent in April.

Percent change in consumer prices for transportation-related items, April and May 2020

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

To stretch the transportation concept just a little further, the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries records the “event or exposure” that results in each fatal work injury. Of the 5,333 fatal work injuries in 2019, nearly 40 percent were the result of a transportation incident. Such incidents may occur to workers in the transportation industry, such as truck drivers, but also to many other workers, including farmers, protective service officers, landscapers, and construction laborers. Transportation incidents are most often on a roadway but can also involve aircraft, rail, and water vehicles.

The NATS interchange asked BLS to consider what data might be helpful in tracking the recovery. Many of the transportation statistics discussed here, such as employment, consumer expenditures, and price changes, will likely provide a clue about returning to activity levels reached before the pandemic.

This exercise provided an opportunity to dig a little deeper into the transportation and warehousing industry and to expand the definition to explore related information. The BLS Industry at a Glance webpages offer that same opportunity to explore the current economic landscape of over 100 industries.

Share of January 2020 employment in selected transportation industries through December 2020
IndustryJanuaryAprilDecember

Transportation and warehousing

100.0%90.0%98.4%

Air transportation

100.085.176.9

Warehousing and storage

100.093.4107.9

Couriers and messengers

100.0100.2124.5
Percent change in consumer prices for transportation-related items, April and May 2020
ItemAprilMay

Gasoline (all types)

-20.6-3.5

Car and truck rental

-16.6-3.5

Airline fares

-15.2-4.9

Motor vehicle insurance

-7.2-8.9

Lodging away from home

-7.1-1.5

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!

Increasing Access and Opportunity: Using Quality Data to Inform Evidence-Based Policy

We have a guest blogger for this edition of Commissioner’s Corner. Savi Swick is a Supervisory Research Analyst in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

Symbols representing different types of disabilities

During National Disability Employment Awareness Month each October, there is much to celebrate and reflect upon. It’s a time to reaffirm our commitment to increasing access and opportunity for workers with disabilities and honor the value and talent they add to America’s workforce and economy. And this year’s celebration is doubly essential, marking both 75 years of this observance and helping bring to a close the yearlong commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

For researchers like me, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the importance of data. As a research analyst in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, my thoughts turn to how credible, consistent data are key to delivering on the promise of disability inclusion inherent in the Americans with Disabilities Act, today and into the future.

That’s why we partnered with BLS in 2008 to add six disability-related questions to the monthly Current Population Survey, the official source for estimates on U.S. labor force participation, employment, and unemployment. As a result, monthly data on the employment status of people with disabilities were released for the first time in January 2009—and have been every month since.

In addition, we collaborated with BLS and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Chief Evaluation Office to gather additional data through supplements to the Current Population Survey in May 2012 and July 2019. Through these supplements, we gleaned critical information on barriers to employment, prior work experience, career and financial assistance, requested changes to the workplace, and other related topics from respondents with disabilities.

Today, these data provide reliable, accurate information to a range of stakeholders on a topic of critical importance to America’s families and communities. Most significantly, they help facilitate evidence-based policymaking at the national, state, and local levels.

What exactly is evidence-based policymaking? It’s the simple notion that public policy should be informed by established, objective evidence. While that may seem obvious in principle, the reality is that, absent such evidence, policymakers often make decisions based on assumptions derived from anecdotal evidence, which can be subjective. This can lead to inefficient use of public resources and poor outcomes.

That’s because—and this is what often fascinates data geeks like me—things are not always as they seem. Often, data reveal that what we assume to be true, in fact, may not be true, or at least not the whole truth. This is especially the case for complex, multifaceted issues, such as the employment of people with disabilities.

Increasing access and opportunity requires us to first understand what the barriers to access are and where the opportunities exist. It also requires us to anticipate changes and identify intersections. For example, data from May 2012 and July 2019 supplements pinpointed a lack of transportation as an ongoing barrier to work for many people with disabilities. As a result, the Office of Disability Employment Policy, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Access Board, is engaging disability advocates and private industry to promote more accessible transportation options—especially inclusive autonomous vehicles that can help people with disabilities get to work.

Of course, the employment landscape has shifted this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes it has brought to our workforce and economy compel us to consider what questions we need to ask now to ensure we can meet the needs of workers with disabilities in the years ahead. Already, BLS data are helping us detect trends, especially in the context of different occupations.

In any climate—whether the historically robust economy before the pandemic or one recovering in the wake of unprecedented challenges—quality data helps us serve America’s 15 million working-age people with disabilities better. They also help us deliver on the spirit of the bipartisan 2018 Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. Going forward, with continued support from BLS, the Chief Evaluation Office, and Department of Labor’s Chief Data Officer, we will continue to develop and implement data-driven policies and programs that meet the needs of America’s workers with disabilities, every month of every year.

New Recommendations on Improving Data on Contingent and Alternative Work Arrangements

The workplace is changing. We have seen more evidence of that in recent months as workplaces have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, many of us wanted to learn more about telework, flexible work hours, and independent contracting. We also wanted to know more about intermittent or short-term work found through mobile devices, unpredictable work schedules, and other employment relationships we might not think of as traditional. It’s our job at BLS to keep up with these new work relationships and figure out how to measure them.

In 2018, we released data collected in 2017 about people in contingent and alternative work arrangements. Contingent workers are people who do not expect their jobs to last or who report their jobs are temporary. Alternative work arrangements include independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers, and workers provided by contract firms. We also published data in 2018 about electronically mediated work. All of these data reflect the rapidly changing workplace.

Those reports received a lot of attention, but policymakers, employers, researchers, and others told us they want to know more about these nontraditional workers. We need to understand people in jobs that often involve doing short-term tasks, such as ridesharing or data-entry services. Our 2017 survey included a few questions about these arrangements, but this work can be complex and varied. That makes it hard to measure nontraditional work arrangements with just a few questions.

To effectively analyze these hard-to-measure work arrangement, BLS sought out experts on nontraditional work. In 2019, we contracted with the Committee on National Statistics to explore what we should measure if we had the funding to collect and publish more data about these workers. We asked the committee not to recommend changes to the main Current Population Survey, the large monthly survey of U.S. households from which we measure the unemployment rate and other important labor market measures. The committee had free rein, however, to recommend topics we should examine in any future edition of the Contingent Worker Supplement to the Current Population Survey. We also asked the committee to recommend changes to the survey design and methods of data collection if we were to conduct the supplement again.

The Committee on National Statistics is a federally supported independent organization whose mission is to improve the statistical methods and information that guide public policies. The committee moved quickly to form a group of experts on the relevant topics. I asked these experts to review the Contingent Worker Supplement and consider other sources of information on nontraditional work arrangements. The group was impressive and included a former BLS Commissioner, a former Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, and several experts in economics and survey methods. They all volunteered their time to help us improve the Contingent Worker Supplement.

The group held public meetings and a workshop, hearing from experts, data users, and policymakers to understand what data would be the most valuable. At the end of their year-long review, they produced a report with specific recommendations in July of 2020 about measurement objectives and data collection.

BLS thanks the Committee on National Statistics and the expert panel for the time and effort they put into the report. Their recommendations thoughtfully balanced the desire to measure everything about this important topic with the limited time and information survey respondents can give us. In the coming months, we will study the report. It will guide us as we consider how to update the Contingent Worker Supplement to reflect the variety of work arrangements in the U.S. labor market.