The Bureau of Labor Statistics is considering reducing the number of occupations, industries, and regions it reports data on in the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. These proposals, if adopted, would eliminate the publication of separate data on 72 detailed occupations, dozens of industries, and 38 metropolitan divisions in the OES survey.
The reason for the proposed changes, per the BLS, is to “curtail survey detail for lesser-valued products while improving quality of remaining products and allow for new products.”
This is understandable on one hand. The OES program is a survey, after all. If the BLS isn’t getting large enough samples on some or all of the 72 detailed occupations to feel confident in releasing employment and wage data on those occupations, then it’s hard to blame it for wanting to replace them with less-detailed aggregations.
Not all occupations that would be consolidated are large or well-known fields, either. The majority are specific types of postsecondary teachers, plus somewhat obscure fields like fallers and segmental pavers.
But as a company that helps make labor market information—including OES data—more useful to decision-makers, we strongly feel that these proposed changes should not be adopted. Here are a few reasons why.
Good Career Decision-Making Hinges on Detailed Occupation Data
Hundreds of organizations and millions of college students are using our BLS-derived data, of which OES is a major component. Our customers consistently say that statistics by detailed occupation are the No. 1 most valuable type of labor market information. This type of information is exactly what American students and workers need to make critical decisions about their future careers. In addition, our customers are constantly clamoring for occupational data with even more detail (e.g., O*NET codes). It’s already problematic that statistics agencies do not invest enough in occupational data, so to curtail it further would absolutely have a negative impact on data users throughout the country, including Emsi and our customers.
OES is the Only Source of Detailed Occupation Data in the US
OES is the only source of data in the US that offers all detailed SOC codes. What is the good of having detailed SOC codes at all if there are no statistics available for dozens of occupations? The impact of the O*NET system has already been greatly limited by the lack of statistics at the O*NET code level.
In addition, detailed industries in OES are critical for connecting OES to other types of labor market information. Eliminating the publication of data for select 4- and 5-digit NAICS industries would hurt this effort.
Some of the Proposed Consolidated Occupations Are Large or Growing
The proposed occupation aggregations would take the number of occupations that OES reports data on from 820 to 766. Some of these are somewhat inconsequential occupations, but not all of them.
Right now, OES reports data on two types of software developers: software developers, applications and software developers, systems software. Under the proposed changes, these two occupations would be rolled into one, software developers.
Software development is the fastest-growing part of the tech economy. We need more data detail, not less, on the positions that make up this important field.
Other large or important occupations that would be consolidated under the BLS’s proposal:
- Medical and clinical laboratory technicians and technologists
- Team assemblers (into miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators, including team assemblers)
- Technical wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives (into one occupation with sales reps of non-technical products)
- Fast food prep workers (into one occupation with counter attendants, cafeteria, food concession, and coffee shop)
Let the BLS Know!
The BLS’s deadline for comments just passed (June 13). But we still encourage you to let the BLS know why these proposed changes would hinder students’ and workers’ ability to make good decisions on their careers. Email the BLS at OESinfo@bls.gov.