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Handbook of Methods Occupational Requirements Survey Data sources

Occupational Requirements Survey: Data sources

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) field economists are extensively trained and given detailed instructions on data collection techniques. They employ a variety of methods, including personal visits, mail, telephone, and email, to obtain data from Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) respondents. Field economists do not use a paper or an online questionnaire to collect these data; instead, they rely on a conversational interview and descriptive documents, such as task lists, to collect occupational requirements from respondents. Respondents are typically human resources managers or specialists, occupational safety managers, or supervisors. Field economists attempt to gather the following information from the respondent:

  • The primary business activity of the establishment. The field economist verifies that the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry code for the establishment is correct.

  • A list of employees or a list of job titles with employee counts. If the field economist is provided with a list of employees, jobs are selected using equal probability sampling to select a sampled job, where each entry on the list has an equal chance of selection. If the field economist is provided a list of job titles and employee counts, jobs are selected using probability proportional to size sampling, where the greater the number of employees associated with a job title the more likely the job will be selected. 

  • The tasks, knowledge required, controls and complexity, contacts, and environmental conditions of the job. The field economist uses this information to determine the correct occupation code and work level for each sampled job based on the job description and type of work performed. (For more information on pay factors and work levels, see National Compensation Survey: Guide for Evaluating Your Firm’s Jobs and Pay).

  • The amount of employees in each sampled job that is matched to an occupational description. The field economist determines how many employees in the establishment can be defined by the occupational code for the sampled job.
  • Work attributes for the workers in the sampled job in terms of whether they work full or part time, classified as union or nonunion workers, and paid on a time or incentive basis. The field economist determines these three work attributes of the employee in the sampled job.

  • The various occupational requirements that the employee must meet to successfully perform their job. The field economist collects job requirements that pertain to the sampled job’s physical demands, environmental conditions, education training, and experience, and mental requirements. Field economists refer to a list of tasks provided by respondents to understand the relationship between job demands and occupational data needed for collection. A task refers to a distinct activity assigned to or performed by workers.

Collection period

A BLS field economist contacts the sampled establishment for the collection of data. The collection for ORS data is done on an annual basis, and generally runs from August to July. The 2017 estimates are from two samples of data collected from the Occupational Requirements Survey. The ORS is an establishment-based survey and uses a national sample design. To maximize the amount of publishable information, the BLS is combining data across three annual ORS samples to produce the 2018 estimates. The number of publishable occupations and the level of occupational detail is expected to increase with the addition of each subsequent year’s sample until the full ORS sample size of up to 26,500 sampled establishments is reached in 2018.  


All data collected in the ORS are subject to the BLS confidentiality requirements that prevent the disclosure of identifying information. Data collected from the ORS are used solely for statistical purposes. BLS has a strict confidentiality policy which ensures that the survey sample composition, lists of reporters, and names of respondents will be kept confidential. In addition, the policy assures respondents that published figures will not reveal the identity of any specific respondent and will not allow the data of any specific respondent to be identified. Each published estimate is screened to ensure that it meets these confidentiality requirements.

Last Modified Date: June 13, 2018