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Copyright 1997 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning

Analysis of Job Seekers by Occupational Code

by: David Bullard
Research by: Norman Baron and David Bullard

One major responsibility of the Employment Resources Division is to help job seekers find suitable work in Wyoming. This task is accomplished through 12 Employment Resource Centers (ERC's), 19 touch screen kiosks and the Wyoming Job Bank on the Internet. In helping applicants find work, ERC's collect information about the applicants’ previous jobs and skills. To learn more about Wyoming’s labor force, we analyzed ERC applicant files for the Program Year 1996 ending June 30, 1996. This study includes 74,066 job seekers or almost one-third of the Wyoming labor force at any given point in time. Alternatively, these 74,066 job seekers are about one-quarter of all people who worked in covered employment (288,289) during the same one-year period. While these job seekers are not representative of the whole labor force, it is important to understand them because at a time when the labor force is not growing (see "Civilian Labor Force and Unemployment") they are the most readily available source of labor within the state.

We found the largest concentration of ERC applicants had skills in construction, services and clerical type occupations. However, as Table 1 shows, ERC applicants are found in many fields including engineering, education and health related occupations. By matching the ERC applicant files with wage record files, we show that ERC applicants earn considerably less than the average Wyoming worker.

File Structure

The information about applicants is stored in several electronic files that are summarized at the state level and sent to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) each month. The first file is by far the largest and contains the applicant’s name, social security number (SSN), gender, birth date, educational information and any comments about what kind of work he or she is seeking. The second file, which is the subject of this article, contains a history of the applicant’s work experience. It is a summary of the applicant’s last four jobs. ERC staff look at the job duties performed on an individual’s application and assign a Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) code to each work experience. The code is assigned to facilitate automated matching with current job openings similar to the applicants’ past work.

In this file of DOT codes we found 74,066 job seekers, their DOT codes and months of experience in each occupation. The DOT codes for each individual were sorted by experience, so the DOT code with the most experience was listed first. In this analysis we only used each individual’s primary DOT code (the one with the most experience)--this eliminated the possibility of double-counting.

The DOT code is a nine-digit code and refers to very specific occupations. For example, there are twelve different DOT codes for lawyers (everything from Criminal Lawyer to Title Attorney). Because of the overwhelming detail in DOT codes and their hierarchal structure, we aggregated or summed them into the first two digits. Thus, nine-digit DOT codes represent very specific occupations and two-digit DOT codes represent a number of related occupations.


Table 1 shows the most common two-digit DOT codes of ERC applicants and examples of occupations included within those codes. Please note that the occupations listed are only examples--they do not necessarily correspond to actual nine-digit DOT codes of applicants. We organized our results this way because of the assumption that job skills are transferable and in many cases nine-digit codes are unnecessarily specific. In the applicant file we studied, 86 was the most frequent DOT code. Over ten percent of ERC applicants (7,481) had it as their primary code. As seen in Table 1, DOT 86 represents Construction Occupations, Not Elsewhere Classified. Included in this classification are: carpenter, house mover, house builder, swimming pool installer, construction worker, plumber and many more construction related occupations. Even after aggregating the files to a two-digit DOT code, we found over 50 codes with at least one hundred applicants. ERC applicants bring a diverse range of skills to the workplace.

From looking at the DOT codes, it appears that ERC applicants are concentrated in construction, services and clerical type occupations. However, it is also clear that there is a broad range of occupations represented by ERC applicants. For example, there are 939 applicants who listed DOT codes relating to engineering and architectural occupations, 943 with DOT codes relating to medical care occupations and 1,069 listing DOT codes for occupations in education. While each of these codes only represents about 1.3 percent of the applicants, they are still sizeable pools of highly skilled labor.

What about Job Openings?

Our finding over 7,000 applicants in the Construction category (86) was surprising in light of some recent unpublished research on high wage job openings listed at the ERC’s. Similar to the job applicant files, the ERC keeps files on the job openings that they received. In a study of job openings that were not filled with ERC applicants during Program Year 1996, Lee Saathoff, a Statistician with Research & Planning, found 248 unfilled openings in the Construction category. Table 2 summarizes some of Saathoff’s findings.

Why, if we have over 7,000 applicants in the category of Construction (86), are there unfilled job orders? There are several possible answers. First, the applicants could all be in the wrong detailed occupational codes (six- or nine-digit DOT). An example would be if the job orders called for bricklayers (DOT 861.381-018) but the applicants were roofers (866.381-010). In this case, the first two digits (86) match, but the rest do not. Both bricklayers and roofers are construction occupations, but they require different skills and a surplus of roofers won’t help anyone fill bricklayers jobs.

Also, by using behavioral variables, some of the applicants were already working and may only have been interested in finding a better job. We matched the 74,066 SSN’s in the DOT file with the first and second quarter 1996 wage record files* (containing 196,435 and 214,454 records, respectively) to see how many ERC applicants worked in covered employment in Wyoming. Over half of the applicants (38,227 and 42,553, respectively) were found in unemployment insurance covered employment during the first or second quarter of 1996. However, their average quarterly wages ($2,958 and $3,085, respectively) were less than 60 percent of the average wage of all persons who worked in covered employment during these two quarters, signaling that many job seekers probably worked part-time, were underemployed in some manner or only worked for part of the quarter. The ERC applicants’ low wages and low rate of employment offer further evidence that the ERC applicant files are not representative of the whole labor force.

A third answer to the question of unfilled jobs involves seasonality. The files used for analyzing job orders and for analyzing the applicant pool represent a whole year's worth of data, but many industries, such as construction and agriculture are largely seasonal. Thus, many construction and farm workers could apply at the ERC's during the off-season, but still be working (and not available to fill job orders) during the busy season.

Geographic differences in labor supply and demand could be another reason why construction jobs go unfilled. Both the applicant file and the job order file were analyzed on a statewide basis; we didn't break them down by region or county. Interestingly, there are wide variations in the unemployment rate across Wyoming's regions and counties, ranging (in January 1997) from 2.1 percent in Niobrara County to 9.2 percent in Fremont County (see "Civilian Labor Force and Unemployment"). This variation suggests that while some areas of our state face a surplus of labor, others face a shortage.

Finally, there may be other factors. For example, a specific skill required by an employer may be missing from an applicant’s skill repertoire or employers may fail to advance a competitive wage or benefit package as part of the job order. Some job seekers may lack skills that are not specific to any occupation, such as punctuality or the ability to learn quickly.

Future Research

Each of these possible answers to the unfilled job question is a starting place for future research. Both job orders and applicants can be analyzed by county and region. Future research could look at the specific six- or nine-digit DOT codes rather than aggregating them to two digits. A final idea involves using wage records to look at where ERC applicants are currently employed (by industry) and follow up on applicants to see where they worked and how much they earned after job placement by the ERC.

David Bullard is a Statistician at Research & Planning, specializing in Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) coding and special projects. He is also the Associate Editor of Wyoming Labor Force Trends.

Norman Baron is a Statistician at Research & Planning, specializing in Labor Market Information (LMI).

* The wage records file is a database of all people who worked in unemployment insurance covered employment during a given quarter. It is sorted by social security number and contains the wages of each job worked and the unemployment insurance number of each of the individual's employers.


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Last modified on June 1, 2001 by Valerie A. Davis.