Occupation data counts the number of jobs according to the type of work performed, instead of by industry. An industry describes a type of economic activity that goes on at a particular establishment, while an occupation describes the type of job that a single worker might hold. Examples of occupations are software engineers, registered nurses, fast food cooks, surgeons, janitors, retail cashiers, and accountants. These types of positions are needed by establishments classified in many different industries; for example—manufacturing facilities, hospitals, corporate offices, and restaurants are all types of establishments that employ janitors or bookkeepers.
While macro-economists are typically interested in industry data in order to measure GDP, track total payroll employment, or build input-output economic models, occupation data is more in the domain of labor market experts. Occupation data is often more useful for the more “human” side of economics—to answer questions about education, training, and re-employment programs.
Occupational Classification: SOC and O*NET Codes
EMSI occupation data is organized by “Standard Occupational Classification 2000” (SOC) codes, with a few differences. The first two digits divide occupations into 23 major groups, such as “11-0000: Management Occupations”; the third digit divides them into 96 minor groups, such as “11-3000: Operations Specialties Managers”; and the fourth digit divides them into 449 broad occupations, which are further divided by the fifth and sixth digits into a total of 821 detailed occupations. For more information, see www.bls.gov/soc/.
A very similar system used by the federal government is the O*NET-SOC occupation code system (see www.onetcenter.org). These codes are nearly identical to SOC codes, except that there are only 812 occupations in the O*NET database compared to the 821 in the SOC system. In addition, a handful of O*NET occupations are more detailed than SOC occupations and have a two-digit decimal extension (e.g., “.01”) to the original SOC code.