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Covering statewide industry employment trends

July 5, 2016

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From food service workers to business professionals and hospitality personnel, the Bureau of Labor Statistics under the U.S. Department of Labor provides plenty of data to cover specific industries in your region, state or city.  The website has an entire section for data tools and economic releases. Some of the statistics are updated monthly.

In late May, the BLS released data showing the percent change in industry employment from April 1990 to April 2016 for all states including the District of Columbia. The interactive graph lets you select and deselect industries for a clearer view by state and by industry. Checking these percentages by state is easy with the interactive graph. Which industries have the smallest and largest percent change of employment? For example, in Arizona, the manufacturing industry had a -10.3% change and 203.8% increase in education and health services. These are good anchor points for data stories on specific employment industries. How has this increase in health and education jobs affected the local economy? North Dakota and Utah were the only two states with no negative percent changes for any industry. Does this reflect in the state’s economy or employment numbers? What made the states so successful in their industry employment over the past 25 years?

The outliers provides another aspect of the graph to look at. Why are these outliers so drastic? For example, North Dakota had a 380% increase in mining and lodging. The oil boom in North Dakota has been covered pretty extensively and the data supports this — however still take a look. Another outlier is the -83.8% percent change in manufacturing in the District of Columbia. What caused this change and how has it affected the district’s manufacturing economy?

With the graph’s interaction datasets, you can highlight one industry and focus on how that industry has changed in each state. For example, when selecting “leisure and hospitality” the data shows that no state had a negative percent change. What does this mean for the industry as a whole? Mississippi had the largest change with 134.3%. What changed in Mississippi since 1990 to reflect such a large change in the hospitality industry?

Another angle to take with the data is to research which industries saw the most positive change and which saw more negative change. As mentioned above, leisure and hospitality saw no negative percent changes. However, manufacturing saw mostly negative percent changes. Only a handful of states saw positive changes. What does this mean for manufacturing in America over the past 25 years?

With a little time and some math, reporters can go through each industry and find the average percent change over the past 25 years in each industry to see overall how employment has changed in that industry in America. The “chart data” tab shows a better view of the actual numbers for more in-depth analysis like this. For more visuals, create your own chart showing your state’s specific industry employment change data.


  • Chloe Nordquist

    Chloe Nordquist is a national journalist for the E.W. Scripps Company. She has a passion for telling community stories and giving a voice to the voiceless. Chloe has had the opportunity to report across the world, as far as Milan and Berlin. Previous...

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