Increasing Commuting Costs?

With Earth Day approaching, we have been wondering about increased costs for commuting to work. At BLS, we don’t have environmental cost statistics, but we do have worker costs.

Some employees don’t have to commute — they are able to work from home.

  • In 2015, the share of employed persons who did some or all of their work from home on days they worked was 24 percent. This is up from 19 percent in 2003.

An image showing someone working at home.


But a large number of the workforce still travels to and from a physical workplace, day in and day out. If you do need to trek into work, over the last 10 years, changes in consumer prices for a couple modes of commuting follow.

If you go by car:

First you need a vehicle.

  • New cars: Up 6 percent
  • Next you need to fuel it.
  • Gasoline: Down 7 percent

But before you can put it on the road…

  • State motor vehicle registration and license fees: Up 27 percent
  • Motor vehicle insurance: Up 56 percent

And you may have to pay for parking once you get to work.

  • Parking and other fees: Up 38 percent

An image showing cars in rush hour traffic in an urban area.

Those in an urban area may have another option to driving:

  • Intracity transportation (bus, rail): Up 35 percent

And one last option:

  • Human-powered commuting (walking to work): No increase!

We hope these data help you make wise decisions on your commuting choices. If nothing else, you may decide to set up a car pool — to help pay for parking!

Teen Trends

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Teri Morisi, a supervisory economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A chart showing trends in teen labor force participation rates from 1979 to 2015 and projected to 2024

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

In our nation’s changing economy, the pull of education is a key factor in how teens are fitting into the labor force. Back in 1979, about 58 percent of teens (16–19) were in the labor force, but by 2000, only 52 percent were. By 2011, after the recession, about 34 percent of teens were in the labor force. What’s behind this change? Most teens who do not participate in the labor force cite school as the reason. Consider these factors:

  • Higher attendance: In 2015, about 3 in 4 teens were enrolled in school. This proportion has trended up from about 60 percent in 1985, which is the first year data are available.
  • Time-consuming classes: After sleeping, school activities take up more time than anything else in a teenager’s week day. And high school coursework has become more strenuous. High schoolers today are taking tougher and more advanced courses, including those specifically designed for college preparation and credit. And most start college the fall after graduating from high school. In October 2015, about 70 percent of recent high school graduates were enrolled in college, compared with less than half of recent graduates in October 1959.
  • More summer students: Summer has always been the most common time for teens to work, but fewer teens are holding summer jobs: about 4 in 10 teens were in the labor force last July, compared with about 7 in 10 in July 1978. At the same time, school attendance in summer is on the rise. The proportion of teens enrolled in July 2016 (42 percent) was more than four times higher than in July 1985.
  • Higher education costs: College tuition costs have risen dramatically in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, so a part-time job is generally not sufficient to cover costs.  Teens enrolled in college therefore are more likely to cover costs through loans and grants: 84 percent of full-time undergraduates received financial aid in 2011–12, compared with 58 percent in 1992–93.

A chart showing college enrollment rates for recent high school graduates from 1959 to 2015.

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

Teens who want to work face competition, of course. Labor force participation for those ages 55 and older has been growing; their labor force participation rate surpassed the rate for teens in 2009.

What does the future hold? BLS projects that the teen labor participation rate could drop further in 2024, to 26.4 percent.

Learn more about trends in teen labor force participation.


Chart: Labor force participation rates for teens ages 16-19, 1979-2015 and projected 2024
Year Percent
1979 57.9
1980 56.7
1981 55.4
1982 54.1
1983 53.5
1984 53.9
1985 54.5
1986 54.7
1987 54.7
1988 55.3
1989 55.9
1990 53.7
1991 51.6
1992 51.3
1993 51.5
1994 52.7
1995 53.5
1996 52.3
1997 51.6
1998 52.8
1999 52.0
2000 52.0
2001 49.6
2002 47.4
2003 44.5
2004 43.9
2005 43.7
2006 43.7
2007 41.3
2008 40.2
2009 37.5
2010 34.9
2011 34.1
2012 34.3
2013 34.5
2014 34.0
2015 34.3
Projected 2024 24.6
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey and Employment Projections Program.



Chart: College enrollment rates for recent high school graduates, 1959-2015
Year Percent
1959 45.7
1960 45.1
1961 48.0
1962 49.0
1963 45.0
1964 48.3
1965 50.9
1966 50.1
1967 51.9
1968 55.4
1969 53.3
1970 51.8
1971 53.5
1972 49.2
1973 46.6
1974 47.6
1975 50.7
1976 48.8
1977 50.6
1978 50.1
1979 49.4
1980 49.4
1981 53.9
1982 50.6
1983 52.7
1984 55.2
1985 57.7
1986 53.7
1987 56.8
1988 58.9
1989 59.6
1990 59.9
1991 62.4
1992 61.7
1993 62.6
1994 61.9
1995 61.9
1996 65.0
1997 67.0
1998 65.6
1999 62.9
2000 63.3
2001 61.6
2002 65.2
2003 63.9
2004 66.7
2005 68.6
2006 66.0
2007 67.2
2008 68.6
2009 70.1
2010 68.1
2011 68.3
2012 66.2
2013 65.9
2014 68.4
2015 69.2
Note: Data beginning in 2006 are not strictly comparable to earlier years because of a change in supplement weights.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, October Supplement.

Ice Cream versus Bacon

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Steve Henderson. When not relaxing with a bowl of ice cream, Steve is a supervisory economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. He’s spent half of his government career working on the Consumer Price Index and half on the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

How much did you spend on ice cream last year? According to the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average U.S. household spent around $54. But why does BLS need to know that?

Let’s take a deep dive into that ice cream. That’s just one of thousands of data we collect to calculate the Consumer Price Index, a monthly assessment of price changes for goods and services in the United States. The CPI has separate inflation indexes for just about everything people purchase. For example, the CPI has an index for “Bacon and related products,” and lots of other itemized food categories, including “Ice cream and related products.”

(Curious about what else we measure? Here’s the CPI’s online table generator tool. You can drill down to the most detailed CPI categories in step 2. Note: You’ll need to enable Java to see the chart.)

Why so many indexes? The CPI needs to carefully track how the prices of food, and just about everything else, change because not every item’s price goes up or down at the same rate. For example, bacon has increased in price almost 32 percent over the past 10 years, while ice cream went up 21 percent over the same time period.

A graphic showing trends in ice cream prices and bacon prices from 2007 to 2017.

Looking at how prices have moved over the last year, bacon is slightly less expensive than it was in January 2016, while the price of ice cream has gone up slightly. This information is helpful for families looking to see where their food budget money went, as well as researchers investigating changing food prices and other indicators of inflation.

Most importantly, the CPI needs to know how much the average U.S. household spends on both of those two food items in order to measure the impact different inflation rates have on total inflation. If everybody spent the same number of dollars on ice cream as they do on bacon, then you could just use a simple average of the two inflation rates to get a total. Here is where BLS’s Consumer Expenditure Survey comes in. It measures, in great detail, all the different goods and services consumers purchase in a year, and passes these numbers to the CPI to form a “market basket” — that is, a list of everything people buy and what percentage of their total spending goes to each item.

The latest spending numbers showed that the average dollar amount per year that all U.S. households spent on ice cream was $54.04, while the average amount on bacon was $39.07. That means that ice cream has a greater importance than bacon when tracking inflation, not only in the Henderson household, but in the CPI. In other words, the more people spend on an item, the more inflationary changes to its cost will affect the total inflation rate.

Policymakers, researchers, journalists, government bodies, and others use the CPI to make important decisions that directly affect American citizens. U.S. Census Bureau analysts use CPI data to adjust the official poverty thresholds for inflation, and it’s one of several factors the Federal Reserve Board considers when deciding whether to raise or lower interest rates. Employers may use it to determine whether to give cost-of-living increases, and policymakers use the CPI when considering changes to allotments for things like Social Security, military benefits, or school lunch programs.

I hope this deep dive into ice cream spending helps you understand why the Consumer Expenditure Survey is so detailed.

Why Do We Ask about How People Use Their Time?

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. 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.

A graphic showing how mothers and fathers spend their time on an average day.Editor’s note: A text-only version of the graphic is below.

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.

Dads Moms
+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)
+10 minutes more on lawn & garden care +24 minutes more on food prep & cleanup


Bringing You Better Data on Occupational Wages

At BLS, we believe better decisions begin with better data. That belief inspired the collaboration between our Occupational Employment Statistics and National Compensation Survey programs to produce more detailed data on occupational wages than either program can provide separately. We developed these wage estimates by listening to our customers’ needs, while working within our existing resources.

We produce these wage estimates using a statistical model that combines wage and geographic data from one survey with data on job characteristics and work levels from the other survey. Job characteristics include full-time or part-time status, bargaining status (that is, union or nonunion), and time-based pay or incentive pay. For example, estimates from our 2015 data show that, nationwide, full-time cashiers earned an average of $11.48 per hour, compared with $9.56 for their part-time counterparts.

Work levels are based on such characteristics as the knowledge needed to perform the job, the complexity of the job, how much the employee can control how the work is performed, the nature and purpose of contacts on the job, and the physical environment.

For one example, the chart below shows the average wages in 2015 of full-time workers in education, training, and library occupations by their work level. The lower levels are typically administrative and clerical positions. Entry-level professionals may range from levels 5 to 9. Those at the upper end are typically experienced professionals.

Chart showing mean hourly wages of full-time workers in education, training, and library occupations by work level in 2015

Editor’s note: Data for the chart are provide below.

The modeled wage estimates are available by occupation, geographic location, job characteristics, and work levels. We will update the modeled wage estimates each year. Want to know more? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions or ask us your own questions by email.


Mean hourly wages of full-time workers in education, training, and library occupations by work level, 2015
Work level Wage
All levels $28.06
Level 2 10.36
Level 3 11.18
Level 4 14.03
Level 5 16.23
Level 6 15.52
Level 7 22.10
Level 8 29.59
Level 9 29.62
Level 10 37.47
Level 11 42.21
Level 12 66.16