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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Laborblog. The writer is Rachel Krantz-Kent, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On any given day, about 80 percent of the population age 15 and up watch television, and they watch for an average of 3 hours 29 minutes.* That’s an interesting piece of trivia, you may be thinking, but why does the Bureau of Labor Statistics need to know that? Without context, TV watching may seem like an odd area of focus — but this is just one of many statistics we collect as part of the American Time Use Survey. And Americans across the country use that information every day to get their jobs done.
The statistics above, for example, may be helpful to those promoting healthy behaviors and products, such as those who work in the health and fitness industries. The data can also be useful to television producers in determining programming.
Unlike other BLS surveys that track employment, wages, and prices, the American Time Use Survey tracks a less conventional, but equally important, economic resource that we never have enough of: time. The survey compiles data on how much time Americans spend doing paid work, unpaid household work (such as taking care of children or doing household chores), and all the other activities that compose a typical day.
Some of these measurements have economic and policy-relevant significance. For example, the time people spend doing unpaid household work has implications for measures of national wealth. Information about eldercare providers and the time they spend providing this care informs lawmakers. Measures of physical activity and social contact shed light on the health and well-being of the population. And information about leisure—how much people have and how they spend it—provides valuable insight into the quality of life in the United States.
All of the data are publically available and used by businesses, government agencies, employers, job seekers, and private individuals to examine the different time choices and tradeoffs that people make every day. Here are some other interesting facts the survey reveals about how Americans spend their time.
Unpaid household work: 66 percent of women prepare food on a given day, compared with 40 percent of men.
Why it’s important: These statistics measure one aspect of women’s and men’s contributions to their families and households and help promote the value of all work people do, whether or not they are paid to perform it. Compared with men, women spend a greater share of their time doing unpaid household work, such as food preparation. Statistics like these can shed light on barriers to equal opportunities for women.
Where people work: 38 percent of workers in management, business, and financial operations occupations and 35 percent of those employed in professional and related occupations do some or all of their work at home on days they work. Workers employed in other occupations are less likely to work at home.
Why it’s important: Information like this is important for people starting or changing careers. For those interested in this aspect of job flexibility, or for those who want more separation between their work and home, this information can help them identify occupations that are the right fit and decide which careers to pursue.
Childcare: Parents whose youngest child is under age 6 spend 2 hours 8 minutes per day on average providing childcare as their main activity, compared to 1 hour for parents whose youngest child is between the ages of 6 and 12. (These estimates do not include the time parents spend supervising their children while doing other activities.)
Why it’s important: Parenting can be an intense experience for many reasons, including the time it demands of parents. These statistics provide average measures of the time involved in directly caring for children. The data can be helpful to health and community workers whose work supports parents, as well as employers interested in developing ways to promote work-life balance and staff retention.
Eldercare: 61 percent of unpaid eldercare providers are employed.
Why it’s important: Knowing the characteristics of those who provide unpaid care for aging family, friends, and neighbors can help lawmakers create targeted policies and aid community workers in developing supportive programs.
Transportation: Employed people spend an average of 1 hour 6 minutes driving their vehicles, 7 minutes in the passenger seat, and 8 minutes traveling by another mode of transportation on days they work.
Why it’s important: Knowing how workers travel and the amount of time they spend using different modes of transportation can be useful to a variety of people, including city and transportation planners, land and real estate developers, and designers in the automobile industry.
This is just a snapshot of the information available from the American Time Use Survey, all of which is used by researchers, journalists, educators, sociologists, economists, lawmakers, lawyers, and members of the public. View the data listed above and find out more about how time-use data can be used.
* All data are from the 2014 and 2015 American Time Use Surveys.
Working Parents’ Use of Time
Moms vs. Dads on an Average Day
Based on households with married couples who have children under age 18, in which both spouses work full time, 2011–15.
+55 minutes more working
+28 minutes more on housework
+39 minutes more on sports and leisure
+28 minutes more caring for children (more if those children are under 6)
Erica L. Groshen was the 14th Commissioner of Labor Statistics. She served from January 2013 to January 2017. This is her final post for Commissioner’s Corner.
It didn’t take long after I became Commissioner of Labor Statistics in January 2013 for me to appreciate the skill, dedication, and innovation of the staff that works here. Whether they’re doing sampling, data collection, estimation, or dissemination; whether they’re the IT professionals or the statisticians or the HR staff; whether they’re the newest employees who are so tech-savvy or the more senior employees who hold a wealth of institutional knowledge. To a person they are phenomenal. I am honored to have had the pleasure of leading them — and letting them lead me — during the past 4 years.
I have had many opportunities to observe and encourage innovation during my tenure at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from listening tours to senior staff conferences to regional office visits to discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders. From these efforts, we have identified several activities that will help us develop and implement the next generation of labor statistics. These days, we call these efforts a variety of names, such as “modernization” and “reengineering.” But, in truth, they just continue the impressive progress that has been the hallmark of BLS for the past 133 years.
In my final Commissioner’s Corner post, I want to tell you a little about some of our current reengineering efforts.
One of the things we do best at BLS is data collection, largely because we are always looking for ways to improve. Recent efforts include identifying alternative data sources, expanding electronic collection, and “scraping” information directly from the Internet. These efforts can expand the information we provide, lessen the burden we place on employers and households that provide data, and maybe even save some money to provide taxpayers the best value for their data dollar.
These efforts are not new. One source of alternative data we’ve used for many years comes from state unemployment insurance filings, which identify nearly every employer in the country. We tabulate these data but also use them as the source of our sample of employers for certain surveys and as a benchmark of detailed employment by industry. We also use information from private sources and from administrative sources, like vital statistics. Our latest efforts involve examining techniques to combine data across multiple sources, including mixing survey and nonsurvey data.
We want to give employers the opportunity to leverage the electronic data they already keep so it’s easier to respond to our surveys. These efforts include allowing employers to provide electronic information in multiple formats; identifying a single source of electronic data from employers, reducing the number of locations and number of requests made to multiple sites of the same organization; and working with employers to allow BLS to access their data directly from the Internet. We rely on good corporate citizens to supply the information that we use to produce important economic data. Making data collection easier is a win-win.
The innovation doesn’t stop at collection. We are using electronic text analysis systems extensively to streamline some of our data-processing activities. Much of the information we collect is in the form of text, such as a description of an industry or occupation, details about a workplace injury, or summaries of employee benefit plans. Transforming text into a classification system for tabulation and publication used to be a manual task. BLS has begun to transform this task through the use of machine-learning techniques, where computers learn by reviewing greater and greater amounts of information, resulting in accurate classification. As we expand our skills in this area and find more uses for these techniques, the benefits include accurate and consistent data and greater opportunities for our staff to use their brainpower to focus on new, unique, and unusual situations.
We are also modernizing our outputs, producing more with the information we have. For example, we have begun several matching projects, combining data from two or more sources to produce new information. One example is new information on nonprofit organizations. By linking our employment data with nonprofit status obtained from the Internal Revenue Service, we now have employment data separately for the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. And we took that effort one step further and produced compensation information for these sectors as well. Look for more output from these matching efforts in the future.
Finally, we’ve made great strides in how we present our information, including expanded graphics and video. And we are not stopping there. Each year we are expanding the number of data releases that include a companion graphics package. We are developing prototypes of a new generation of data releases, with more graphics and links to data series. And we have more videos to come.
My 4 years as Commissioner of Labor Statistics have flown by. I’m excited to see so many innovations begin, thrive, and foster additional innovations. I have no doubt that the culture of innovation at BLS will continue. As my term comes to an end, I know now more than ever that the skill, dedication, and creativity of the BLS staff will lead this agency to even greater advances in the years to come.
Commissioner Erica Groshen on the set with Eric Morath of the Wall Street Journal and C-SPAN host Peter Slen.
I appeared this morning on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal “America by the Numbers” series to talk about the October Employment Situation report. With me was Eric Morath of the Wall Street Journal. We discussed the headline numbers—nonfarm job growth of 271,000 and an unemployment rate of 5.0 percent—but we also discussed some of the thousands of other numbers in the report. We also talked about how BLS gathers these numbers to provide the most accurate gauge possible of labor market conditions. Watch the video and let me know what you think.