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November 2015

The Occupational Requirements Survey: estimates from preproduction testing

Preproduction testing of the BLS Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) has generated estimates of the physical demands; exposure to environmental conditions; education, training, and experience requirements; and cognitive and mental requirements that workers encounter on the job. This article introduces these preliminary estimates and is a followup to previous articles that examined ORS data elements in the context of collection, review, and estimation.

Since the summer of 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been working with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to test and determine the feasibility of collecting information about the occupational requirements for workers in jobs across the United States economy.1 As a result, the Occupational Requirements Survey (ORS) was established to gather data on the physical demands, environmental conditions, necessary vocational preparation, and mental and cognitive requirements typically characterizing a job.

In 2015, BLS completed data collection, estimation, and validation for preproduction testing of the ORS. Unlike previous tests, the preproduction test served as a “dress rehearsal,” with the sample design, collection procedures, data capture systems, and review structured to resemble as closely as possible those same aspects under production conditions.2 The “dress rehearsal” produced estimates from data collected during the preproduction period. This article, a followup to previous articles that have described the ORS data elements in the context of collection, review, and estimation, introduces the preliminary estimates produced in that period. The focus of the article is largely on presenting the estimates as an example of what may be released in the future. The estimates are considered preliminary and are not meant to represent an exhaustive portrayal of all that has been collected or estimated. Rather, they were chosen specifically to provide a preview of ORS data and to support the discussion of key concepts in the ORS.

Collection overview

The ORS is an establishment-based survey that collects occupation-specific information on physical and cognitive demands, necessary vocational preparation (such as education, training, and experience requirements), and exposure to environmental conditions from a representative sample of establishments in the U.S. economy. To collect this information, field economists are trained to use a variety of methods, including interviewing employers, collecting job descriptions and lists of tasks, and utilizing opportunities to observe workers performing their duties.3 Data collection for preproduction began in October 2014 and continued until May 2015. Establishments surveyed included those in private industry and in state and local governments within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.4

Data elements and estimates

The ORS data elements are grouped into four main categories:5

    · Physical demands

    · Environmental conditions under which the work is typically performed

    · Vocational preparation, including education, experience, and training requirements

    · Mental and cognitive demands

It is important to note that the ORS is designed to capture information regarding what is required to perform a job and is not focused on the specific capabilities or experience of the worker. For example, a job may require a bachelor’s degree, but some workers performing the job may have a doctoral degree (Ph.D.). In this case, the ORS would capture the requirement of this particular occupation as being a bachelor’s degree. The distinction is significant because the desired outcome of the survey is to portray the requirements of a job, not necessarily the characteristics of the worker performing that job.


1 Background information on the partnership between BLS and SSA in the collection of occupational requirements is discussed in Occupational Requirements Survey: pre-production testing information (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 30, 2015), www.bls.gov/ncs/ors/pre-production.htm. (See also Gwyn R. Ferguson, “Testing the collection of occupational requirements data” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2013), http://www.bls.gov/osmr/pdf/st130220.pdf; Gwyn R. Ferguson, Erin McNulty, and Chester Ponikowski, “Occupational Requirements Survey sample design evaluation” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ors/sample_design.pdf; Bradley D. Rhein, Chester H. Ponikowski, and Erin McNulty, “Estimation considerations for the Occupational Requirements Survey” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ors/estimation_considerations.pdf; and Kristin N. Smyth, “Validation in the Occupational Requirements Survey: analysis of approaches” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ors/validation.pdf.)

2 Occupational Requirements Survey: preproduction collection report (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2015),http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ors/preprod_coll.pdf.

3 ORS collection manual: pre-production (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 2014).

4 For more detailed information on sampling, collection, and data review, see Occupational Requirements Survey: preproduction collection report.

5 For the full list of ORS data elements, see Appendix A in Occupational Requirements Survey pre-production estimation and validation report (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 10, 2015), http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ors/pre-prod_estval.pdf.

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About the Author

Nicole Dangermond

Nicole Dangermond is an economist in the Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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