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Labor Market Data and Research at the Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau is a leading federal source of labor market data and research. From the Decennial Census to the American Community Survey, Current Population Survey, Annual Business Survey, and among numerous other surveys, as well as administrative data sources such as Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics, the Census Bureau collects and disseminates some of the most authoritative and geographically detailed data on the U.S. labor market. Indeed, key data that guide our understanding and decision making about work and education have their roots in the Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau also is applying the latest in data science techniques to combine its own survey data with administrative and private third-party data to deepen our understanding of the nexus between education and the labor market.  The results will begin to fill data and research gaps cited by the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion.

Experimental Data on Labor Market Outcomes of College Graduates

In 2017, the Census Bureau released the first set of tabulations from the University of Texas system as part of a pilot public-use data product on labor market outcomes for college graduates, offering prospective students a useful tool and a fresh perspective in their considerations of post-secondary education.  These data come from the Census Bureau’s Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) experimental data product, which higher education institutional systems partner with the Census Bureau to produce data to examine the relationship between college degree attainment and graduate earnings. Since the initial data release, the PSEO has expanded to include 243 institutions. In addition to earnings outcomes, PSEO also publishes data on what industries graduates are employed in, as well as where in the country they are employed.  

Current partners with released data include University of Texas System, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Colorado Department of Higher Education, State Universities of New York, City Universities of New York, Pennsylvania State University System, University of Michigan, and University of Wisconsin. These systems provide administrative educational data on enrollment and graduation, which the Census Bureau matches with the national jobs frame produced by the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program in the Center for Economic Studies.

Select findings for the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin) include the following:

  • Petroleum engineering graduates have the highest median earnings of all UT Austin graduates, with the median graduate earning approximately $120,000 one year after graduation, and $320,000 five years after graduation.
  • Other engineering graduates receive high returns on their degree, with the median chemical and mechanical engineering graduates earning $103,000 and $90,000 five years after graduation, respectively. Among engineering graduates, biomedical engineers earn the least, with the median graduate earning $58,000 five years after graduation.
  • The median applied design graduate also earns $58,000 five years after graduation. The median music and studio arts majors earned almost $50,000 and $40,000, respectively, five years after graduation.
  • About 80% of engineering majors stay in the state of Texas one year after graduation and are most likely to be employed in the manufacturing and professional, scientific and technical services industry sectors.
  • For bachelors graduates that majored in business, 74% of those in the finance industry sector are employed in Texas, and 15% of those are in the Middle Atlantic Census division.

Civilian Employment Outcomes for Recent Army Veterans

More than 650,000 enlisted soldiers left the U.S. Army between 2000 and 2015. New experimental Veterans Employment Outcomes (VEO) data provide a detailed picture of how veterans who left service during this period fared in the civilian labor market. These new statistics are possible thanks to a partnership between the Census Bureau and the U.S. Army. The VEO data show a wide disparity in earnings and employment for recent veterans across military occupations and demographics. Former infantry and combat veterans in particular tend to have lower earnings and employment rates after leaving service.  

Select findings on civilian labor market outcomes for veterans from the VEO data include the following:

  • Former U.S. Army soldiers who were drone operators, military intelligence, cyberspace or telecommunications specialists have the highest earnings in the civilian labor market after leaving service.  For example, a veteran who worked in operational intelligence in the Army has a first-year median civilian salary more than twice that of an infantry veteran, $63,700 vs. $31,700.
  • As a group, combat veterans are more likely to start their civilian careers in lower-paying retail trade, manufacturing and support services jobs. But there are higher-paying jobs for veterans in professional services, where the median infantry veteran earns $63,130 in their first year after leaving service.
  • Those veterans exiting the Army during the Great Recession were much less likely to be steadily employed their first year after exit as those who left between 2004-2007, 28% vs. 55%.

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