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Overview of U.S. Occupational Employment and Wages in 2011
(August 8, 2012) An overview of U.S. occupational employment and wages in 2011 was written by Audrey Watson of the Occupational Employment Statistics program.
A substantial share of U.S. employment in May 2011 was concentrated in a relatively small number of occupations. Just 10 occupations made up more than 20 percent of total employment, and the 20 largest occupations made up nearly one-third of employment—more than 41 million jobs. Most of these large occupations had below-average wages, as did most of the occupations with the highest job gains and losses between May 2007 and May 2011. Growth in the healthcare industry helped to shape employment gains in individual occupations, while construction and production occupations were concentrated in shrinking industries. Although the overall occupational structure of the U.S. economy generally reflected that of the private sector, education and protective service occupations were more prevalent in the public sector, particularly in local government.
This issue of Beyond the Numbers uses data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program to provide an overview of U.S. occupational employment and wages in May 2011. The first section presents employment and wage data for wage and salary workers in the largest U.S. occupations and selected occupational groups. The subsequent sections highlight occupations with the highest job gains and losses between May 2007 and May 2011, occupations prevalent in growing and shrinking industries, and occupational employment comparisons between the public and private sector.
Largest occupations and selected occupational groups
Retail salespersons and cashiers were the largest occupations in May 2011, with employment of 4.3 million and 3.3 million, respectively. (See chart 1.) The largest occupations also included general office clerks; combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food; registered nurses; and waiters and waitresses. The 10 occupations shown in chart 1 made up more than 20 percent of employment in May 2011, or more than 1 in every 5 jobs.
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Most of the 10 largest occupations in May 2011 were relatively low-paying occupations, such as retail salespersons, cashiers, and general office clerks. Several of the largest occupations also were among those with the highest job gains or losses between 2007 and 2011. Occupations with the highest employment increases included several occupations prevalent in the expanding healthcare and social assistance industry; occupations associated with manufacturing, construction, retail trade, and transportation were among those with the greatest job losses. Although some large occupations such as retail salespersons and waiters and waitresses were found almost entirely in the private sector, the largest public sector occupations were in education and found mainly in local government.
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