SHRM CEO Proposes Revamping Labor Market Data

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer September 18, 2019
SHRM CEO Proposes Revamping Labor Market Data

SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.

​The American Workforce Policy Advisory Board heard and approved recommendations to change how national labor market data is collected and presented to improve employment opportunities in the areas with the most need.  

SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, and Visa CEO Al Kelly offered the proposals at a Sept. 18 meeting of the board. The two men chair a subgroup tasked with finding ways to improve the U.S. labor force participation rate and modernize hiring.

"Before employers can appropriately modernize our candidate recruitment, hiring and training initiatives, we need a more complete understanding of the existing and potential labor force," Taylor told the panel, which is sponsored by the White House and U.S. Commerce Department. "We need to know both who is on the sidelines and why, and also where these people are located. This work will better identify underutilized talent pools, target their education and skills training, and optimize the linkage of people to jobs."

Taylor said that federal data sets and reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) don't provide the labor market information employers need to target job creation efforts.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey (JOLTS), for example, has reported on national estimates of job openings, hires and separations by industry since 2000. It's used to better understand the dynamics of the U.S. labor market, particularly the flows of workers in and out of jobs, but its relatively small sample size means it lacks important data points.

"More detailed job openings data would help pinpoint existing and emerging labor shortages, as well as identify the right types of education and skills training needed for jobs that are growing and are in-demand," Taylor said.

Taylor and Kelly asked that Congress permanently extend an experimental data project BLS began earlier this year to publish estimates of job openings, hires and separations by state and local area. "This new, more granular reporting helps track labor flows, assists employers, educators, and policymakers target skills training and workforce development efforts, and allows job seekers to better identify the very best states and industries [in which] to look for work," Kelly said.

Both leaders also called for the creation of a central repository and improved coordination of state and federal labor market, employment and education data to reflect both the current and potential labor force, including people still on the sidelines.

For example, the Department of Labor's Standard Occupational Classification system could be better coordinated with the Department of Education's Classification of Instructional Program codes to better align education programing with labor market needs. "These data sets, in particular, are not updated frequently enough to keep up with the changing nature of work and the skills required to fill open jobs," Kelly said.

They also recommended that BLS produce regular state and local area reports like its monthly Employment Situation Report.

"Information on the country's potential labor supply—in particular, persons outside the labor force—is lacking," Taylor said. "The federal government regularly reports on the national employment situation, but fails to provide a comprehensive, comparable summary or analysis for states and local areas. It also fails to help the public fully appreciate, understand, and use comprehensively the numerous data sets that federal statistical agencies produce on the U.S. labor market."

[SHRM members-only resource: Using Government and Other Resources for Employment and Training Programs]

Opportunity Zones

Taylor also talked about developing a game plan for investing in workforce development in the newly created "opportunity zones" established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development in low-income urban and rural communities nationwide.

Governors selected nearly 9,000 opportunity zones where companies and individuals can invest to establish new businesses, accelerate business expansion, create jobs and improve housing in exchange for capital gains tax incentives.

"Focusing on opportunity zones is a way to quickly identify geographic areas where the prospects for optimizing employment for untapped labor pools is high," Taylor said. "Thirty-six percent of prime [working] age adults residing in opportunity zones are out of work, and in 12 percent of opportunity zones, at least half of the prime age adult population is not working. In addition, more adults in opportunity zones lack a high school diploma than have a four-year college degree."

However, with over 350 two- and four-year colleges and universities located in opportunity zones, the opportunity is there to leverage these institutions to "increase on-ramps to employment," Taylor said.

Promoting Alternate Career Paths and Creating 'Resumes of the Future' 

Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM, updated the group about efforts to develop a national marketing campaign promoting the growing number of multiple career pathways to well-paying jobs. The media campaign is set to launch in early 2020.

Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, shared plans to map the ecosystem of over 700 credentials available in the United States and develop digital learning records for workers engaged in lifelong learning.   

"U.S. learners deserve a way to translate education, training and work experience into records of transferable skills that will provide them opportunities at higher wage occupations," McDermott said. "Employers deserve to have a way to communicate to potential applicants what skills and abilities they require to fill a position."

Envisioning them as "resumes of the future," board co-chair Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to President Donald Trump, said that the learning records would bridge education, training and employment, as well as be secure, portable, shareable and verifiable.

The advisory board comprises leaders from the private, nonprofit and public sectors and is working on ways that government, educators and employers can train workers and reduce skills gaps. The board voted to approve the recommendations and pass them on to the National Council for the American Worker—made up of Trump administration officials charged with workforce education, training and reskilling. An update on the recommendations will be presented at the next gathering in December.


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