Understanding Employment Statistics

Veteran hiring leaders strongly advise job seekers to do a lot of research before applying for employment. One aspect of job research is employer-specific – check employers’ websites, search the Internet for comments on the employers, talk to people who work for them, etc.

Another aspect is field-specific. What is the employment situation in the field that interests you? What are the prospects for employment? Is the field growing? Is the pay good, and will it get better?


You can think of “the field” in either of two ways – as an occupation or as an industry. So, if someone says that he or she is interested in “a job in healthcare,” one of the two themes of this issue of Search & Employ®, that could mean:

- working in a healthcare occupation for a company that is in the healthcare industry – for example, as a medical technologist for a research hospital
- working in a healthcare occupation for a company that is not in the healthcare industry – e.g., as a nurse on an offshore oil rig
- working in a non-healthcare occupation for an establishment that is in the healthcare industry – e.g., as an accountant for a residential care facility


In my view, most job seekers should research both the occupations and the industries that interest them. And when the research turns to statistics, job seekers need to understand exactly how certain terms are used. Otherwise, their research findings can be misleading.

For example, a job seeker who is interested in a healthcare occupation below the level of physician, dentist, or registered nurse might try to determine what the prospects are for “medical technician” jobs. But that term refers to a large group of occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a part of the United States Department of Labor, includes those occupations under the more general category “Medical and Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians.” The BLS discusses the job [outlook for that category](http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Medical-and-clinical-laboratory-technologists-and-technicians.htm).

But probably would want to dig deeper if that outlook is favorable. What about the individual occupations that make up that group?

The BLS lists employment figures for the specific occupations according to a system of names and numerical codes called the Standard Occupational Classification and Coding Structure (SOC). The SOC lists 23 [“major groups”](http://www.bls.gov/soc/major_groups.htm) of occupations. The major groups are divided into 97 “minor groups”; which, in turn, are divided into 461 “broad groups.” The latter consist of 840 “detailed occupations.”

For industrial statistics, the BLS uses the [North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)](http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/sssd/naics/naicsrch?chart=2012).


In the following discussion, I use healthcare occupations as examples.

The groups and occupations have six-digit codes. The highest-level codes consist of two digits other than zero, followed by four zeroes. In the next level down, a non-zero digit replaces the first zero. This pattern continues, with successive digits other than zero representing successively narrower classifications.

- First two digits: major groups, which include Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations, SOC 29-0000; and Healthcare Support Occupations, SOC 31-0000.
- Third digit: minor groups. SOC 29-0000 consists of three minor groups: SOC 29-1000, Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners; SOC 29-2000, Health Technologists and Technicians; and SOC 29-9000, Other Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations.
- Fourth and fifth digits: broad groups. SOC 29-2000 consists of nine broad groups, which include SOC 29-2010, Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians; SOC 29-2020, Dental Hygienists; and SOC 29-2030, Diagnostic Related Technologists and Technicians.
- Sixth digit: detailed occupations. SOC 29-2030 consists of five detailed occupations, which include SOC 29-2031, Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians; SOC 29-2032, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers; and SOC 29-2033, Nuclear Medicine Technologists.


NAICS is a 2- through 6-digit hierarchical classification system, offering five levels of detail. Each digit in the code is part of a series of progressively narrower categories, and more digits in the code signify greater classification detail. The first two digits designate the economic sector, the third digit designates the subsector, the fourth digit designates the industry group, the fifth digit designates the NAICS industry, and the sixth digit designates the national industry. The 6-digit level allows for the three countries participating in NAICS – the United States, Canada, and Mexico – each to have country-specific detail.

In the discussion below, I use Health Care and Social Assistance categories as examples.

- Two digits: sectors, which include NAICS 62, Health Care and Social Assistance.
- Three digits: subsectors. NAICS 62 consists of four subsectors: NAICS 621, Ambulatory Health Care Services; NAICS 622, Hospitals; NAICS 623, Nursing and Residential Care Facilities; and NAICS 624, Social Assistance.
- Four digits: industry groups. NAICS 623 consists of four industry groups: NAICS 6231, Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities); NAICS 6232, Residential Intellectual and Developmental Disability, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse Facilities; NAICS 6233, Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly; and NAICS 6239, Other Residential Care Facilities.
- Five digits: NAICS industries. NAICS 6233 consists of one NAICS industry of the same name and an NAICS code of 62331.
- Six digits: United States industries. NAICS 62331 consists of two United States industries: NAICS 623311, Continuing Care Retirement Communities; and NAICS 623312, Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly.

*Lisa Miller is a national account executive at RecruitMilitary. Contact her at [lmiller@recruitmillitary.com](lmiller@recruitmillitary.com).*