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Tag Archives: Disabilities

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.

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

Digging Deeper into the Details about the Unemployed

National employment indicators, such as the unemployment rate, get attention as we release them each month. In August 2018, the unemployment rate stood at 3.9 percent, the same as in July. The rate in May, 3.8 percent, was the lowest since 2000. In addition to reporting this headline number, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides considerable detail about those who are employed – and those who are unemployed. Let’s explore.

But first, a reminder. The unemployment rate and details about the unemployed come from the monthly Current Population Survey, a survey of roughly 60,000 households. We collect information about household members age 16 and over. These individuals are counted as “employed” if they say they performed at least one hour of work “for pay or profit” during the reference week, the week including the 12th of the month. People are “unemployed” if they say that during the reference week they (1) had not worked; (2) were available for work; and (3) had actively looked for work (such as submitting a job application or attending a job interview) sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week.

Together, the employed and unemployed make up the “labor force.” The unemployment rate is the share of the labor force who are unemployed. Those who are neither employed nor unemployed are “not in the labor force.” This category includes students, retirees, stay-at-home parents, people with a disability, and others who are not working or actively looking for work.

We have more measures that help to provide a fuller picture of America’s labor force. These include people who work part time but would prefer to work full time. We also count people who have searched for work in the past 12 months but not in the past 4 weeks (and are therefore not counted as unemployed). Further, we count a subset of this group who are not looking because they do not believe work is available for them. People who fall into these categories are included in the alternative measures of labor underutilization, which we publish each month.

Let’s look at the unemployed in more detail. We can sort the unemployed into 4 groups: (1) new entrants to the labor force (such as recent graduates now looking for work); (2) reentrants to the labor force (those who had a job, then left the labor force, and are now looking for work again); (3) job leavers (those who recently left a job voluntarily); and (4) job losers (those who left a job involuntarily, such as getting laid off or fired or completing temporary jobs).

Typically, the largest share of the unemployed are job losers, and this share jumps during economic downturns. While the other categories are less volatile, they make up a larger share of the total as job losers decline. For example, in August 2018, 44 percent of the unemployed were either reentrants or those who recently left a job. The share of the unemployed in both of these categories is higher than in 2009, when job losers accounted for nearly two-thirds of the unemployed. A potential reason for people to reenter the labor market, or leave an existing job to look for another, is that they perceive jobs are readily available. In periods of high unemployment, reentrants make up a smaller proportion of the unemployed. For example, when the unemployment rate reached 10.0 percent in October 2009, reentrants made up only 22 percent of the unemployed. Similarly, in 2009 and 2010, the share of the unemployed who were job leavers (those who quit their jobs voluntarily) was less than 6 percent, about half of the current share.

A chart showing the number of unemployed by the reason for unemployment from 1998 to 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available from our data-retrieval tool.

Another measure to assess the strength of the labor market is the number of people quitting their job. These data are from our Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. That survey asks employers about the number of “separations” over the past month. It classifies separations as either quits (voluntary), layoffs or discharges (not voluntary), or other (including retirements, deaths, and disability). The most recent data, for July 2018, identified 3.6 million quits over the month, an all-time high. (The survey began in 2000.) The quit rate, which divides quits by total employment, was 2.4 percent, also close to a record high.

Most of the time, quits exceed layoffs and discharges, except in periods of high unemployment.

A chart showing the number of people each month who quit their jobs, were laid off or discharged from their job, or separated for other reasons from 2000 to 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available from our data-retrieval tool.

At any given time, there is a lot of movement in and out of jobs, and in and out of the labor market. And individuals have a variety of reasons for making such moves. But the overall trend in recent years toward individuals coming back into the labor market and voluntarily quitting their jobs suggests that individuals may feel that job opportunities are available.

People with a Disability in the Labor Market

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. BLS has been collecting data on the employment status of people with a disability for nearly a decade. Let’s talk about how we gather the data and then look at some long-term trends.

Why does BLS gather information about people with a disability?

BLS added six questions to the Current Population Survey in June 2008 to begin gathering timely information on the employment and unemployment status of people with a disability. Policymakers and others use these data to see how this population fares in the job market.

How does BLS collect these data?

The survey asks about physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. It is difficult to accurately identify all people with a disability using only a few questions. Research conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau and others resulted in six questions that identify this population.

The questions used to find out whether anyone in a household has a disability are:

  1. Is anyone deaf or does anyone have serious difficulty hearing?
  2. Is anyone blind or does anyone have serious difficulty seeing even when wearing glasses?
  3. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does anyone have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions?
  4. Does anyone have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs?
  5. Does anyone have difficulty dressing or bathing?
  6. Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does anyone have difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping?

People who respond “yes” to any of these questions are classified as having a disability.

How likely are people with a disability to be employed?

  • The employment-population ratio is the percentage of the population who are working.
  • People with no disabilities are more than 3 times as likely to be employed as those with a disability (65.3 percent in 2016, compared with 17.9 percent). This disparity has held throughout the time these data have been available.
  • People with a disability tend to be older, and older people are less likely to be employed. However, people with a disability are less likely to be employed regardless of their age.
  • About 1 in 30 employed people in the U.S. have a disability.

What is the unemployment rate for people with a disability?

  • Someone is unemployed if they do not have a job but are available to work and looked for a job in the previous 4 weeks.
  • The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed people divided by the labor force, which is the sum of employed and unemployed people.
  • The unemployment rate for people with a disability has been about twice that of people with no disabilities in recent years. In 2016, the unemployment rate for people with a disability was 10.5 percent, and the rate for those without a disability was 4.6 percent.

 Chart showing the unemployment rates of people with and without a disability from 2009 to 2016.

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

What about people who are neither working nor looking for work?

  • People who are neither working nor looking for work are not in the labor force.
  • In 2016, a larger proportion of people with a disability—8 in 10—were not in the labor force than those with no disability, at about 3 in 10.
  • Many people with a disability are age 65 and older. In general, older people are less likely to participate in the labor force than younger people.
  • Most people with and without a disability who are not in the labor force do not want a job, perhaps because they are retired, have family responsibilities, or are in school.

We honor the contributions and innovations that people with a disability make to our workforce and to our nation. We look forward to providing information about people with a disability for years to come.

Want to learn more? Check out our webpage with more data about people with a disability. We also have answers to frequently asked questions.

Unemployment rates for people with and without a disability
Characteristic 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
With a disability 14.5% 14.8% 15.0% 13.4% 13.2% 12.5% 10.7% 10.5%
Without a disability 9.0 9.4 8.7 7.9 7.1 5.9 5.1 4.6

How do we spend our time? Unpaid Eldercare

Time is a limited resource. We have only 24 hours in a day to do everything we want to do, along with everything we need to do. Caregivers may be especially pressed for time, spending time not only on their own needs, but on the needs of their children or aging family members or friends.

Today I want to focus on care for the elderly. Sixteen percent of the population, amounting to 41.3 million people, provide unpaid eldercare in the United States. About one-quarter of this population provides unpaid eldercare on a given day, spending an average of 2.8 hours providing eldercare. Think about it. That’s almost 3 hours of the day spent caring for someone else—and that doesn’t even count the hours some eldercare providers spend caring for children!

We know this because the American Time Use Survey includes questions about unpaid eldercare. Eldercare commonly refers to the informal or unpaid care that family members or friends provide aging adults, although it can sometimes include formal or paid care. The number of people age 65 and older is expected to rise dramatically over the next two decades. The number of years elderly people live with chronic conditions due to longer life spans is also expected to rise. Because of this, there is wide interest in understanding how much time Americans devote to unpaid eldercare and how it affects caregivers’ lives.

Hours spent providing eldercare by eldercare activity and sex of eldercare provider, on days they provided care, 2015–16

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

Let’s take a closer look at eldercare providers using the 2015–16 American Time Use Survey data.

Who are they?

  • The majority (56 percent) of eldercare providers are women.
  • People ages 55 to 64 are the most likely to provide eldercare (24 percent), followed by those ages 45 to 54 (21 percent) and those ages 65 and older (19 percent).
  • Sixty-one percent of eldercare providers are employed.
  • Four million people are parents of children under the age of 18 and also provide care for their own parent. These people sometimes are called members of the “sandwich generation,” because they are between two generations that need care.

For whom are they providing care?

  • Thirty-nine percent of eldercare providers care for someone age 85 or older, while 14 percent provide care for someone ages 65 to 69.
  • Most eldercare providers ages 15 to 34 care for a grandparent. Providers ages 35 to 64 are more likely to care for a parent than are caregivers who are younger or older. Providers age 65 and older are more likely to care for a spouse.

How much time are they spending on eldercare?

  • Eldercare providers who care solely for someone with whom they live spend an average of 2.2 hours per day providing care.
  • On weekdays they provide care, employed caregivers spend an average of 1.8 hours doing so.
  • Among caregivers, women are more likely than men to provide eldercare on a given day. On days they provide eldercare, however, men and women spend about the same amount of time providing care.

What types of eldercare activities are they doing?

  • When we think of eldercare, it might be easy to think of just the physical care. However, eldercare may include nearly any activity. Providers care for their family and friends by helping with grooming, preparing meals, providing rides, and more. They also provide companionship or remain available to help when needed.
  • On days they provide care, 37 percent of eldercare providers prepare food, perform housework, or engage in other household tasks.
  • Eldercare providers spend an average of 1.0 hour in caregiving associated with leisure and sports on days they provide care. This includes socializing and communicating.

This is just a snapshot of the eldercare information available from the American Time Use Survey. Find out more about unpaid eldercare in the United States.

Hours spent providing eldercare by eldercare activity and sex of eldercare provider, on days they provided care, 2015–16
Caregiving activity Total Men Women
Total, activities reported as care done for those age 65 and older 2.84 2.77 2.88

Telephone calls, mail, and e-mail

0.03 0.03 0.02

Working and work-related activities

0.05 (1) 0.07

Other activities, not elsewhere classified

0.05 (1) 0.04

Organizational, civic, and religious activities

0.06 0.05 0.06

Purchasing goods and services

0.08 0.07 0.09

Traveling

0.17 0.17 0.17

Eating and drinking

0.19 0.23 0.17

Caring for and helping household members

0.28 0.24 0.31

Caring for and helping nonhousehold members

0.36 0.29 0.40

Household activities

0.54 0.52 0.56

Leisure and sports

1.03 1.10 0.99
 

(1) Estimate is not shown because it does not meet the American Time Use Survey publication standards.