Topic Archives: The Economics Daily

Labor Day 2018 Fast Facts

About 92 percent of civilian workers with access to paid holidays receive Labor Day as a paid holiday. Before you set out for that long holiday weekend, take a moment to look at some fast facts we’ve compiled that show 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 62.9 percent in July. 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 3.9 percent in July. After 6 months at 4.1 percent, the rate has had offsetting movements in recent months. In May, the rate hit its lowest point, 3.8 percent, since April 2000.
  • In July, there were 1.4 million long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). This represented 22.7 percent of the unemployed, down from a peak of 45.5 percent in April 2010 but still above the 16-percent share seen in late 2006.
  • Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 13.1 percent in July, while the rates were 3.4 percent for adult men and 3.7 percent for adult women. The unemployment rate was 6.6 percent for Blacks or African Americans, 4.5 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, 3.1 percent for Asians, and 3.4 percent for Whites.

Job Openings

Pay and Benefits

  • Average weekly earnings rose by 3.0 percent between July 2017 and July 2018; adjusted for inflation, real average weekly earnings are up 0.1 percent during this period.
  • Civilian compensation (wage and benefit) costs increased 2.8 percent between June 2017 and June 2018; adjusted for inflation, real compensation costs decreased 0.1 percent during this period.
  • 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.
  • In March 2018, civilian workers 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 1.1 percent in 2017, continuing the historically below-average pace seen since the Great Recession. Some industries had impressive growth, however, including wireless telecommunications carriers (11.1 percent) and electronics and appliance stores (9 percent).
  • Multifactor productivity growth in the private nonfarm business sector recovered in 2017, rising 0.9 percent after falling 0.6 percent in 2016. Labor input for multifactor productivity—measured using the combined effects of hours worked and labor composition—grew 2.0 percent in 2017, outpacing the long-term 1987–2017 growth for labor input by 0.5 percentage points.

Safety and Health

  • In 2017, 14.3 percent of all workers were exposed to hazardous contaminants. The use of personal protective equipment was required for 11.8 percent of workers.

Education

  • Occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry made up 21.5 percent of employment. 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.

Unionization

  • The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.7 percent in 2017, unchanged from 2016. 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 union workers were $47.65 and for nonunion workers $32.87 per employee hour worked. The cost of benefits accounted for 40.4 percent of total compensation or $19.23 for union workers and 29.1 percent or $9.56 for nonunion workers.

Work Stoppages

  • In the first 7 months of 2018, there were 445,000 workers involved in work stoppages that began this year. This is the largest number of workers involved in stoppages since 2000, when 394,000 workers were involved. There have been 12 stoppages beginning this year, which surpassed the 7 recorded in all of 2017.

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.

Some Interesting Numbers about the Oscars

The annual Academy Awards ceremony was held Sunday, February 26, to recognize excellence in cinematic achievements in the U.S. film industry. Impress your friends with these facts we’ve gathered about the Oscars and the motion picture business.

This year’s Oscar for Best Picture went to La La Land Moonlight.

  • Not all actors reach the top, but lots are trying: Actors in the U.S. can be found coast to coast with a total employment of 50,570. Almost one-third, or about 14,560, work in the greater Los Angeles metro area alone. Employment of actors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

Walt Disney is the most Oscar-nominated person ever with 59 nominations.

  • Walt may be gone, but his legacy lives on: Today there are 30,240 multimedia artists and animators employed in the U.S. California employs about a third (10,110) with half of those in the greater Los Angeles area (5,830). Employment of multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Since 1945, the accounting firm Price Waterhouse (now called PricewaterhouseCoopers) has tabulated the Oscar ballots to ensure the secrecy of the results.

  • There are a total of 1,226,910 accountants in the United States, and California again has the largest employment with 144,540. Employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Oscar weekend is a boon to the beauty industry: Before walking down the red carpet, many use the services of a hairstylist – and house calls reportedly start at $500.

  • Nationwide, 348,010 hairstylists are employed. The five states with the most are California (26,340), New York (25,420), Pennsylvania (24,210), Florida (23,840) and Texas (22,050). The metropolitan area with the most hairstylists is New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ, with 20,790. Employment of barbers, hairdressers, and cosmetologists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2014 to 2024.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences identified 336 feature films eligible for the 2016 Academy Awards.

The first Academy Awards ceremony was on May 16, 1929, at the Roosevelt Hotel’s Blossom Room with 270 attendees. The price of admission was $5, which included a broiled chicken dinner.

The Oscar statuette is 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds. A New York foundry casts them in bronze before they receive a 24-karat gold finish.

  • Workers who make these kinds of items are part of a small industry, known as “other nonferrous foundries, excluding die-casting,” with only 12,372 employees nationwide. About half are employed in three states: Michigan, Oregon and Ohio. Employment in the foundries industry is projected to decrease by about 17 percent from 2014 to 2024.

After the Oscars ceremony, you may be inspired to go to a movie. But did you know how much these prices have changed over the last 10 years?

  • Admission to movies, theaters and concerts is up 21 percent, carbonated drinks are up 19 percent, and candy and chewing gum are up 28 percent. We don’t track popcorn — sorry!

Editor’s note: Oscar-specific facts are from the official Oscars website, unless another source is provided.

Why This Counts: New Data on Employee Benefits in 2015

Be honest now. What do you do with all those booklets you get that describe your employee benefits in detail? I suspect most of us add them to our “reading pile,” along with the latest magazines or inserts from the electric bill. Of course, you may no longer do this physically, since these days a lot of information about employee benefits comes to us electronically, perhaps on our employer’s internal website. Either way, the result is largely the same—you probably add the link to your online viewing pile with the latest cat-playing-piano video. Here at BLS, we actually read those documents and websites on employee benefits for you and use them to help everyone understand the benefits coverage of American workers.

As a result, last week BLS released data on the percentage of workers covered by employee benefits in 2015. This report is part of an annual series about benefits. The newest data show that 50 percent of private industry workers participated in a medical care benefit plan through their work, 49 percent had a retirement plan, and 61 percent had paid sick leave available.

benefits-blog-chart

A strength of these data is the detail about the workplaces that provide benefits and the workers who receive them. For example, paid sick leave benefits vary based on the number of workers at the employer’s location: 80 percent of private industry workers had paid sick leave in the largest establishments (500 workers or more), while 49 percent had paid sick leave in the smallest establishments (fewer than 50 workers). Looking at retirement benefits, 12 percent of private industry workers in the group with the lowest 10 percent of wages ($9.00 or less per hour) participated in a retirement plan through their employer. That compares with 78 percent of workers in the group with the highest 10 percent of wages ($43.27 or more per hour).

A recent edition of The Economics Daily features visualizations about how retirement and medical care benefits vary by occupation.

The new report also shows how the cost of medical care benefits is divided between employee and employer. This year, employees in private industry paid, on average, 22 percent of the cost for single coverage and 32 percent of the cost for family coverage; employers picked up the remaining cost. Later this year, more detail will be available on the cost that employees and employers paid for these benefits.

Back to those plan booklets. At BLS, we cull through the details to report on plan features and the value of benefits. Earlier this year BLS released those details for 2014 health and retirement plans in private industry. Among the findings are that one in three workers covered by a medical care plan was in a high-deductible plan, with a median individual deductible of $2,000 per year. Among 401(k) plans, 41 percent of participants were in plans that automatically enroll new employees into the plan, often with a default contribution of 3 percent of earnings. Plan booklets also showed that 401(k) plans commonly match 50 percent of the first 6 percent of earnings that workers contribute.

Employee benefits are a key part of compensation—just over 30 percent, on average. Benefits protect employees and families in the face of medical, financial, and other concerns. So, even though reading the details of those plans may not be high on your to-do list, rest assured that BLS is keeping on top of these issues for you and reporting the details throughout the year.

Visualizing BLS Data to Improve Understanding

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s the value of a striking, cool chart or map of some BLS data? At the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we’re always thinking of better ways to help our users understand the information we produce. The global economy is complex, and the statistics to explain the economy can be complex too.

Data visualizations are one tool we use to present our data more clearly. What are data visualizations? They are any method of presenting numerical information visually—most commonly through charts and maps. Good data visualizations can improve understanding for all types of audiences, from students of all ages to experts with advanced degrees in economics, statistics, or other fields.

In recent years we’ve done more to include data visualizations in nearly all our publications. We have designed two of our publications to showcase data visualizations. One is The Economics Daily—or TED, as we call it. We publish a new edition of TED every business day, and we’ve done that since 1998. Each edition of TED typically includes a chart or map, sometimes two, with a few words to explain the data in the visualization.

Another publication geared toward data visualizations is Spotlight on Statistics. Spotlight tells a longer, more detailed story about a topic through a series of visualizations presented in a slideshow format. As with TED, Spotlight includes brief written analysis to explain more about the data.

Even our publications that feature mostly written analysis often include visualizations to tell a more complete story. Our flagship research journal, the Monthly Labor Review, has evolved a lot over its 100 years of publication to serve readers better; that evolution includes more and better data visualizations. Beyond the Numbers and BLS Reports often include visualizations as well.

We take pride in crafting our words carefully, but good data visualizations can complement the words. For example, during and after the Great Recession, the monthly Employment Situation news release has discussed the historically high levels of long-term unemployment. The number of long-term unemployed—those jobless 27 weeks or longer—has remained high years after the recession ended in June 2009. It’s one thing to read about long-term unemployment, but a good chart can tell the story even more clearly. long-term-unemployment

For an even broader perspective, we have a Spotlight on Statistics that examines long-term unemployment more fully.

Not only have we presented more data visualizations in recent years, but our visualizations also have gotten more sophisticated. A basic image can present information effectively. Take this simple map that shows the proportion of each state’s population age 16 or older that had a job in 2014. state-employment-population ratios

Now check out the interactive version of this map that we published in the March 9, 2015, edition of TED. When you hover over each state, more information pops up to show the state’s employment–population ratio in 2014 and how much it changed from 2013. When you hover over the items in the map legend, the states in each category light up more brightly to help you see the states with similar employment–population ratios. When you click on each state, you go to a webpage that provides even more information about the state’s labor market. Interactive features in our charts and maps give you the power to choose what information you want to see.

If you like the interactive features in our charts and maps, I think you’ll love the animation in some of our visualizations. Animation adds a time dimension to our data to let you see how measures change. For a great example of animation, see a TED we published last year that shows state unemployment rates before, during, and after the Great Recession.

The BLS website will feature even more data visualizations soon. Watch this space to learn more about them.

We share many of our data visualizations on Twitter, so follow us @BLS_gov. You also can sign up to receive email alerts for TED, Spotlight on Statistics, and our other publications.

And if you have created a great visualization of BLS data, please share it with us and the readers of this blog!

Seeking an expert to speak about the labor market and economy?

If you’ve ever visited the Bureau of Labor Statistics website or seen a news story about unemployment, inflation, wages, or some other economic topic, you know that BLS collects and publishes a huge volume of statistics to help inform businesses, workers, policymakers, households, and journalists about labor market and economic conditions in the United States. You also probably know that BLS has many publications that provide analytical insights about the mountains of statistics BLS produces. These publications include hundreds of news releases issued each year from the BLS national office and our regional offices. We also publish the Monthly Labor Review, Beyond the Numbers, our daily feature The Economics Daily, Spotlight on Statistics, and more.

Even if you are an experienced user of BLS data and publications, you may not know about another valuable service we provide: BLS can send an expert to speak at your conference, meeting, or classroom. If you are looking for a knowledgeable person to provide informative presentations about the U.S. labor market and economy, see our BLS Speakers page. Staff from our national office and our eight regional offices are happy to speak about such topics as the following examples:

  • How the government measures unemployment
  • Trends in labor force participation and long-term unemployment
  • How BLS calculates consumer, producer, and import and export prices
  • How many hours Americans work and how they spend their time outside of work
  • How local labor markets fared during and after the 2007–2009 recession
  • Trends in pay and benefits
  • Trends in workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths
  • What labor productivity can tell us about the U.S. economy

Our experts can cover many other topics besides these and even customize topics to meet your needs.

I frequently speak at events myself. For example, in mid-July, I had the pleasure of participating in a lively conference at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The topic of the conference, organized by the Institute for Research on Poverty, was “Building Human Capital and Economic Potential.” My talk described the ways in which BLS statistics inform us about the labor market, reviewed our resources for researchers, and told participants how they can help us.

It certainly was great to be back in Madison, and my BLS colleagues and I always enjoy the talks we give around the country. So if you need a speaker, we’re at your service!