Topic Archives: Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

Most Dangerous Jobs?

TV shows like Dangerous Jobs, Deadliest Job Interview, Ax Men, and Deadliest Catch vividly portray some of the most dangerous jobs people have. Here at the Bureau of Labor Statistics we produce data about dangers in the workplace, or workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

Our list of occupations with high fatal injury rates (on page 19) is often used externally as a list of the “most dangerous” jobs. However, at BLS we strongly believe there is no one measure that tells which job is the most dangerous. Why is that?

A graphic showing the 3 occupations with the highest death rates.

For starters, there is no universal definition of “dangerous” or “hazardous.” There are many other elements that factor into any definition of a “dangerous job,” such as the likelihood of incurring a nonfatal injury, the potential severity of that nonfatal injury, the safety precautions necessary to perform the job, and the physical and mental demands of the job.

It’s also difficult to accurately measure fatal injury rates for occupations with fewer workers.

BLS has certain minimum thresholds that must be met for a fatal injury rate to be published. So, fatal injury rates are not calculated for many occupations that have a relatively small number of fatal work injuries and employment.

A graphic showing the 3 occupations with the highest number of deaths.

Take the occupation elephant trainer*, for instance. Because few workers are employed as elephant trainers, a small number of fatal injuries to elephant trainers would make the fatal injury rate extremely high for a single year, despite their low number of deaths. On the other hand, in most years, this occupation incurs no deaths, rendering their fatality rate 0 and ranking them among the least at risk for incurring a fatal injury.

BLS provides the data to help people, from policymakers to businesses and workers, better understand hazards in the workplace. However, we can only talk about what our data show, such as the number of deaths and fatal injury rates of different occupations. We have to leave it to others to analyze or rank the danger of particular jobs.

*“Elephant trainer” is a hypothetical occupational classification. The classification BLS uses groups these workers with either “artists and performers” or “animal caretakers,” both of which include many more people than just elephant trainers.

Now on Video: Finding Better Ways to Talk about Data

Our mission at BLS is to help people understand what’s going on in the labor market and the economy. Since our founding in 1884, we’ve aided that understanding by improving our products. We didn’t start with stone tablets, but we have produced mountains of paper and its electronic equivalent in 133 years. Whether it’s news releases or articles or bulletins, most of our output includes text, tables, and, more recently, graphics. Recently we have added another medium to our library, using video to tell stories about our data. We are pleased to introduce you to “Beth’s Bird Houses,” “What if there were only 100 jobs in the United States,” and more, now available on video.

Why video? Video lets us provide a large amount of information in a shorter time. We know you are busy, and we want to use your time wisely. We will always need written words and tables and charts to provide the details of our economic analyses and survey methods, but video helps us provide the main points more quickly. Video is also easy to share through social media, helping us reach more people.

The first video we produced is about our statistics on productivity. Productivity statistics are among the most technically complex data we produce. Despite their complexity, we believe it’s important to understand productivity statistics because productivity directly affects workers’ pay and the nation’s standard of living. We produced a video that explains in about 2 minutes the essential elements of productivity statistics. How’s that for being productive? Check it out and let us know how you enjoy it.

We recently posted two videos about the Employment Cost Index, which measures changes in the costs to employers of worker pay and benefits. One video explains what the Employment Cost Index is. The other video explains how the Employment Cost Index is used.

Want to know more about the different types of jobs workers have in the United States? What about workplace hazards and the safety of America’s workers? We have new videos on those subjects too, and we expect to keep adding to the list to keep you informed. You can see all of our videos on our video page.

Our customers use BLS information to support their private and public decision making. Our mission is to remain relevant to a diverse set of data users regardless of their technical expertise. We believe it’s important not just to tell people what the numbers are but to explain what they mean and where they come from. Video gives us new opportunities to reach a wider audience with our information. As they say in the movies, roll ‘em.

How United Parcel Service Uses BLS Data

I recently attended a BLS Data Users Conference in Atlanta, which included a lively panel discussion of how companies use BLS data in their everyday work. I was especially struck by the examples shared by Cathy Sparks, the Director of Corporate Workforce Strategy & Analytics for United Parcel Service. As a result, I asked Cathy to write a short blog post that I could share with all of you. My hope is to have more posts in the future highlighting how our data users put our data to work for them!

Cathy shares:

From Reporting to Problem Solving

I am certain that, in the 109-year history of United Parcel Service (UPS), this is the most exciting time to be in Human Resources and working with data.

In 2015, UPS processed nearly 70 million online tracking requests every day and operated more than 1,990 facilities employing roughly 444,000 people. Data is part of everything we do at the world’s largest transportation and logistics company. We tap into data to deliver lasting results. From an HR perspective, we are in the foundational stages of building a true analytics team. We want to use business intelligence to better understand our workforce and align those findings with broader strategic goals.

The recent BLS Data Users Conference in Atlanta was a great opportunity to highlight how we’re using analytics to create value and enhance our problem-solving skills.

Cathy Sparks and her team at UPS discussing data.

Our challenge is to transition from simple reporting to diagnosis. We are finding new opportunities to integrate our internal UPS data with BLS external data to analyze human capital trends, including predictive staffing models, safety correlations, and engagement risks. For example, using our data, we have created a model to evaluate state-by-state seasonal staffing needs. We incorporate BLS data to control for economic conditions, thus enriching the model. We hope to predict employee attrition risks and forecast a two-year, five-year, and seven-year staffing blueprint for our largest metropolitan areas.

The greatest data-driven opportunities are yet to come. UPS data, combined with BLS economic indicators, provide new insights and value throughout our global organization, improving service for our customers around the world.

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.

A Brief Labor Market Update for Labor Day 2016

A diverse group of people in a variety of occupationsIn 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the law designating “Labor Day” as the first Monday in September. This national holiday pays tribute to American workers. A decade before Labor Day existed—since the creation of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1884—we began reporting on how the labor market is faring. So, what’s up as we reach Labor Day 2016?

  • Our monthly payroll survey shows that employment continues to expand—now nearly 6.2 million jobs above the January 2008 peak.
  • Although job growth continues, it has been slower in 2016 than in the last couple of years. The average monthly job gain in 2016 has been 182,000, compared with 229,000 in 2015 and 251,000 in 2014.
  • At 4.9 percent in August, the unemployment rate has changed little since August 2015. During late 2006 and early 2007, the unemployment rate was at its recent low, 4.4 percent. In October 2009, the rate reached 10.0 percent.
  • The number of long-term unemployed people (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 2.0 million in August. That was 26.1 percent of the total unemployed, down from the recent peak of 45.5 percent in April 2010, but still above the 16-percent share seen in late 2006 and early 2007.
  • July unemployment rates were uneven among the states. South Dakota (2.8 percent) and New Hampshire (2.9 percent) had the lowest rates, while Alaska (6.7 percent) and Nevada (6.5 percent) had the highest.
  • Among major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 15.7 percent in August, while the rates were 4.5 percent for both adult women and adult men. The August unemployment rate for African Americans was 8.1 percent, compared with 5.6 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, 4.4 percent for Whites, and 4.2 percent for Asians.
  • The labor force participation rate—the share of the population working or seeking work—has been trending down since the early 2000s and even more rapidly since 2008. The rate was 62.8 percent in August 2016, down from rates around 66 percent that prevailed from late 2003 to 2008.
  • Real (adjusted for inflation) average hourly earnings for all employees increased 1.7 percent from July 2015 to July 2016. Real earnings have finally started to grow in 2015 and 2016, after several years of little change.
  • Among workers in private industry, 64 percent had access to paid sick leave in March 2016, and 76 percent had access to paid vacations.
  • Labor productivity in nonfarm businesses decreased at a 0.6-percent annual rate in the second quarter of 2016. Although labor productivity has fallen recently, it has grown by 330 percent since 1947.
  • There were 4,821 workers in the United States who died from an injury suffered at work in 2014. That was the highest annual total since 2008 but still below the numbers of workplace deaths in the 1990s and early 2000s.
  • The rate of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses has declined over the past several decades in the private sector. The rate in 2014 was 3.2 cases per 100 full-time workers, down from 9.2 cases per 100 full-time workers in 1976.
  • From 2014 to 2024, 7 of the 10 occupations with the fastest projected growth are related to healthcare, but there will be opportunities in a variety of fields.

The U.S. economy is large, complex, and evolving. So, BLS works hard to provide good information to help Americans make better informed decisions. We’ve been doing this for over 130 years and plan to keep serving America’s information needs for many decades to come!