Tag Archives: Benefits

Thinking about Summer Jobs

It’s the last few days of school for many high schoolers, and college students have already started their summer break. Time to look for a summer job? Or maybe not. According to information from our Current Population Survey, fewer than half (43.2 percent) of teenagers ages 16–19 participated in the labor force in July 2016, meaning they either worked or were actively looking for work.

This is a sharp contrast from my own summer experience 40 years earlier, when I was either looking for opportunities to get out of the house and make some money, or it was made clear by my mom and dad that I wouldn’t be sitting around the house all summer. Apparently my experience wasn’t unique, as the labor force participation rate among 16–19 year-olds in July 1978 was 71.8 percent.

A chart showing labor force participation rates of 16-19 year-olds and 20-24 year-olds in July from 1948 to 2016.

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

Yes, kids worked in the summer. And what were we doing? You name it.

My buddy down the street delivered newspapers, winter and summer. You may have heard of a newspaper; it’s kind of like printing the entire Internet every day on grey paper. And it was typically delivered by kids on bicycles—twice a day where I grew up. My father enjoyed the afternoon newspaper and an adult beverage when he came home from work every day. Afternoon newspapers included partial box scores for day baseball games, as well as noon stock prices from Wall Street.

And the newspaper was the source of my first summer job. Every summer, the local newspaper would let kids place free want ads. You may have heard of want ads; it’s kind of like Craigslist on grey paper. Kids would advertise to babysit, do chores, mow the lawn, or any other kind of service. My jack-of-all-trades ad got me several jobs helping older folks clean out basements, attics, and assorted other overgrown spaces. It was hard work; I definitely earned my pay.

A graphic showing the top 10 industries employing 16-19 year-olds n July 2016.

I worked at the local cheese factory one summer, or should I say part of the summer. The smell wasn’t very pleasant. I spent several summers as a cafeteria worker, mostly working the cash register but occasionally serving food as well. A key skill needed to keep the cafeteria line moving was the ability to make change. In those days, the cash register didn’t tell you how much change to provide. In fact, at the end of each shift I had to reconcile my till against the day’s receipts. I quickly learned to provide the proper change lest I had to dig it out of my own pocket. And under the heading of “employee benefits,” I got free lunch every day, including ice cream.

And then there were the psych experiments. I lived near a university that was always looking for “subjects” for their experiments. They were mostly cognitive activities, like grouping items into categories. Only occasionally were there wires attached to my head. These activities might be considered an early version of a gig job, as they were typically scheduled at random times and always paid in cash. (There was no Venmo back then.) And yes, I reported every dime on my tax return.

I suspect summer jobs have changed over the years. I hear of kids getting internships to build skills and advance their future careers. And many students are spending their summers in school, or practicing sports, or in specialized programs to build skills, like computer programming.

Every year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases a special report on youth employment. We will release the 2017 report on August 16.


Labor force participation rates of young people in July 1948–2016, not seasonally adjusted
Year Ages 16 to 19 Ages 20 to 24
1948 65.5 66.7
1949 63.5 68.2
1950 63.2 66.1
1951 65.2 66.4
1952 63.5 63.9
1953 61.5 62.7
1954 59.5 63.8
1955 61.0 64.5
1956 65.5 66.5
1957 64.2 67.6
1958 60.3 67.5
1959 59.8 66.3
1960 61.3 68.0
1961 61.2 66.9
1962 60.5 68.0
1963 58.8 68.4
1964 57.7 68.8
1965 60.9 69.9
1966 64.4 69.2
1967 64.9 70.6
1968 64.8 70.8
1969 65.5 71.7
1970 64.5 72.8
1971 65.1 72.4
1972 65.7 74.3
1973 67.3 76.1
1974 68.5 77.3
1975 67.9 77.5
1976 68.8 78.8
1977 69.5 79.1
1978 71.8 80.5
1979 70.9 81.2
1980 70.7 80.8
1981 67.9 81.0
1982 66.9 80.7
1983 67.8 81.3
1984 68.9 81.6
1985 69.6 81.4
1986 68.5 82.7
1987 67.6 82.9
1988 69.8 82.4
1989 69.6 83.8
1990 66.5 81.7
1991 64.4 80.4
1992 65.0 81.7
1993 65.1 81.5
1994 65.4 80.9
1995 66.6 80.5
1996 64.8 80.6
1997 63.6 81.2
1998 63.9 80.7
1999 62.9 81.3
2000 61.8 80.2
2001 60.3 79.4
2002 57.5 79.3
2003 53.7 78.3
2004 53.6 78.1
2005 53.0 77.7
2006 53.5 77.5
2007 50.0 77.5
2008 49.6 78.1
2009 46.5 76.7
2010 42.6 74.7
2011 41.6 73.5
2012 43.4 73.8
2013 43.3 73.6
2014 42.3 74.2
2015 41.3 74.1
2016 43.2 73.1

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!

Data that Benefits You!

Happy National Employee Benefits Day! Looking for a way to celebrate—since I am certain it’s marked prominently on your calendar? We at BLS are happy to help out by giving you some facts from the unique benefits data we produce.

Our National Compensation Survey helps us answer a simple question: who has what benefits? The survey produces comprehensive data on benefit plans such as holidays and vacations, sick leave, health and life insurance, and retirement plans. Maybe you’ve wondered who reads the detailed benefits descriptions provided by employers. Answer: BLS does! That’s how we gather much of the data behind the benefits reports we publish.

We’ve compiled some “fast facts” below to give you a snapshot of the benefits information we provide. You can use these facts to check out how your benefit plan stacks up or to get background on some of the policy issues in the news these days.

How many private industry workers are offered medical insurance? At what cost?

  • Sixty-nine percent of workers were offered medical insurance by their employer in 2015.
  • Full-time employees were nearly four times more likely to be offered medical insurance by their employer than part-time workers (86 percent versus 21 percent).
  • In most cases, private industry workers had to share the cost of medical insurance, paying an average of $122 per month for single coverage and $476 per month for family coverage.


Do most private industry workers have access to employer-sponsored retirement plans?

  • Sixty-six percent of workers had access to a retirement plan through their job, frequently a 401(k) plan.
  • The more money you made, the more likely you were to have access. In 2015, 88 percent of the highest-wage workers (top 10 percent) had access, as opposed to 31 percent of the lowest-wage workers (bottom 10 percent).


What types of paid leave are offered by private industry employers?

  • Seventy-one percent of workers received both paid holidays and paid vacation in 2015. How many days? On average, workers received 8 paid holidays. After a year on the job they received 10 paid vacation days. After 10 years, the number of days increased to 17.
  • Sixty-one percent of workers were offered paid sick leave.
  • Nineteen percent of the lowest-earning workers (bottom 10 percent) received both paid vacation and paid sick leave, compared to 84 percent of the highest-earning workers (top 10 percent).


What types of financial benefits are provided in private industry?

  • Thirty-nine percent of workers received a nonproduction bonus such as an end-of-year bonus or cash profit sharing in 2015.
  • Nearly one in four workers had access to a Health Savings Account.
  • Eight percent of workers were offered stock options.


Why This Counts: Measuring “Gig” Work

With so much chatter about the emerging “gig” economy, you may wonder if BLS has a stat for that. While our regular measures of labor market activity probably reflect a lot of “gig” work, we can’t currently break this work out separately. To do that, we need to repeat a survey specially designed to measure contingent and alternative work arrangements. Fortunately, BLS has conducted such surveys in the past, and I am very happy to say that we will do it again in 2017.

If you follow our monthly and quarterly employment reports, you know we publish lots of information not just on the number of jobs gained or lost but on the characteristics of jobs and workers. What industries or occupations are growing or shrinking? What are the employment trends for states, counties, or metro areas? How many people work part time, either by choice or because they prefer a full-time job but can only find part-time work? How many people are self-employed? How many people have more than one job? These are just some of the questions we can answer regularly with our employment reports. Other questions are harder to answer.

Many people want to know about workers whose jobs are temporary or irregular or not expected to last. So what kinds of jobs are those? You may be familiar with services where drivers use their own cars to take people where they want to go. Customers who need a ride use a computer or mobile app to request a pickup. If a driver agrees to provide a ride, a third party electronically receives the payment from the rider and pays the driver. Other examples of workers we want to know more about are people who sign up online to perform tasks for pay when it is convenient for them.

While many of these short-term jobs are new, similar jobs have been around a long time in the U.S. economy: substitute teachers, truck drivers, freelance journalist, day laborers in agriculture or construction, on-call equipment movers, actors, and photographers. These jobs are often short term, and many people in these occupations now go online to match up with potential employers. Some people call jobs like these “gigs,” much like the Saturday night gigs your high school garage band played. At BLS we call these contingent or alternative employment arrangements. What do we mean by those terms? Contingent workers do not expect their jobs to last, or their jobs are temporary. Workers with alternative employment arrangements include independent contractors, on-call workers, or people who work through temporary help agencies or contract firms.

Not to brag about being ahead of the curve, but we first examined workers like these in a 1995 survey. We conducted similar surveys in 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2005. Sadly, we haven’t had funding to conduct the survey about contingent and alternative work arrangements since 2005. However, I am delighted the U.S. Department of Labor is funding a one-time update to the survey in May 2017.

BLS will conduct the survey on contingent and alternative employment as part of the May 2017 Current Population Survey. That’s the monthly survey from which we measure the unemployment rate and other important labor market indicators. The questions will identify workers with contingent or alternative work arrangements; measure workers’ satisfaction with their current arrangement; and measure earnings, health insurance coverage, and eligibility for employer-provided retirement plans. To be able to compare today’s economy with results from previous surveys, most of the questions will be the same as they were in earlier surveys. We also will explore whether we need to add questions to reflect changes in work arrangements since the 2005 survey.

To keep this information coming in the future, the 2017 President’s budget requests funds for BLS to permanently conduct one supplement to the Current Population Survey each year. If Congress approves this funding, we would ask the questions on contingent and alternative work arrangements every 2 years, with questions on other important topics in the alternating years.

We have a lot of work to get ready for the survey next year, but I’m very excited that all of us will soon have these measures again after so many years without them.

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.


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.