Turkey By the Numbers

As the most common main dish of Thanksgiving dinner, turkey prices have a large impact on the overall price of the holiday meal. The average price per pound of a frozen whole turkey rose 1.3% last month from September to $1.56 according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But turkey prices have been coming down over the past two years. From October 2014, the price was down 6.5% and was 14.3% lower than its September 2013 peak of $1.82 per pound.

Average Consumer Price, Frozen Whole TurkeysAverage Consumer Price, Frozen Whole Turkeys

For six straight years beginning in 2009, turkey prices have declined from October to November suggesting that the average price paid this month may actually be less than $1.56 per pound.

Turkey prices have risen faster than overall inflation over the past decade, increasing 37% compared with a 19% increase in overall consumer prices.

And where are all those turkeys produced around the nation?  Based on the number of people employed, Minnesota and North Carolina topped the list in the first quarter of 2015 with 890 and 870 employees, respectively.  Missouri (527 workers), California (513), Ohio (292), and Indiana (286) make up the other states that employ at least 200 people in turkey production.

Top 10 States by Employment, Turkey Production (NAICS 112330)Top 10 States by Employment, Turkey Production (NAICS 112330)

Tracking Liftoff: Just in Time for Christmas?

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is getting ready for its December 15-16 two-day meeting, where it will decide whether it is time to raise the federal funds rate target.

Based on comments by some Fed officials, it looks like we’re ready for liftoff.  As shown in the graphic below, Fed officials are sliding into the ‘Second Half of 2015’ column.  Hover over their photo to see their quote which is hyperlinked to the full speech.  The right-hand column of the graphic below also shows that the labor market is improving—that’s one of the factors that points to a December liftoff. 

The photos of voting members are shown in circles with nonvoting members in squares. Key economic indicators are presented on the right (where the data shown represent the original estimates that were available at the time of the meeting rather than more recent revisions).

Major Change Coming to Replacement Rates

A heads-up if you use occupation replacement rates in your work: new rates are being developed and are planned to be released in two years…and it looks like they will be very, very different. On average, over four times larger.

Right—four times larger; that is not a misprint.

Occupation replacement rates are developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to describe the number of workers who leave their occupation and need to be replaced by new entrants into the occupation. The rates describe demand due to workers leaving the workforce (such as retiring) plus those moving from one occupation to another. Replacement demand is important in the fields of workforce development and education because—along with growth demand—it helps gauge the future training needs for specific occupations.

When publishing replacement estimates, the BLS includes the caution that the replacement needs are “underestimated” due to limitations in the methodology used for calculating these rates. In turn, in our JobsEQ system which uses these BLS rates, we reference the same caveat.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has developed a new method that they believe is a more accurate measure for this type of occupation demand. Accompanying this change, the BLS plans to change terminology from “replacement rate” to “separation rate,” partially to help highlight the change in methodology. Regardless of the name change, the BLS emphasizes that the “new method is designed to measure the same concept as the old methodology: workers who leave their occupation and need to be replaced by new entrants into the occupation.”[1]

While the new data have not yet been officially released, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has posted some “experimental” results for comparison purposes. Even though the rates for some occupations change only slightly—dentists, for example—the new rates for most occupations are substantially larger. As one example, the estimated replacement demand for machinists (SOC 51-4041) increases roughly by a factor of four when put in terms of “occupational separations.” Using the old method, replacement needs for machinists during the period from 2012 through 2022 were estimated at about 91,000 workers; using the new method, separations for machinists in the same period are estimated to be over 392,000.

The reason for the large increase from the current replacement rates to the new separation rates, to quote the BLS, is that “the current method undercounts openings because it only accurately measures workers who follow a traditional career path—entering an occupation at a young age, working in the same occupation for many years, then retiring—which is not the case for many workers in most occupations.”[2] The new method is generally described as being “more robust and more statistically sound,”[3] the details of which can be found on the BLS website.

To be complete, there is another technical difference between replacement and separation rates in how each deals with declining occupations, but that change is not as impactful on the change in magnitude in the rates compared to the other methodological changes.

The bottom line is that even though the new official rates may not be available for another two years, this impending change highlights the need to keep in mind the caution about replacement rates: the current rates should be considered only as a minimum measure of training needs due to replacements.[4] It is a caveat of particular importance, given that the degree of underestimation may be severalfold.

Replacement and Separation Rate Comparison for Select OccupationsReplacement and Separation Rate Comparison for Select Occupations

[1] http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_separations_faqs.htm

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] For example, see the BLS description of that here: http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_replacements.htm.

The Highest Paying Jobs that Don’t Require a College Degree or Significant Training

There are plenty of lists identifying the top 10 high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree, but it is misleading to suggest a recent high school graduate can easily step into most of those occupations. Many of the jobs that top these lists are supervisory roles that require years of experience in the industry, while others such as elevator installer and repairer may require a lengthy apprenticeship.

The graphic below (based on data from the BLS) shows that lower education requirements for an occupation are often offset by on-the-job training. Seventy-seven percent of occupations that typically need an associate’s degree or higher don’t require on-the-job training, and the same is true for 55% of those that require some college but not a 2-year degree. Only 8% of occupations that typically need a high school diploma or less also don’t require on-the-job training. Instead, 37% require some short-term training, and 41% require moderate-term training.

Typical On-the-Job Training Needed for Competency in Occupations, by Typical Education Needed for EntryTypical On-the-Job Training Needed for Competency in Occupations, by Typical Education Needed for Entry

There are high-paying jobs for workers without a college degree, but most of them require experience or other training. Postal service mail carriers top the list of occupations requiring short-term on the job training along with a high school diploma or less.  First-line supervisors of police and detectives is the highest paid occupation with moderate-term on-the-job training.

Top 10 Occupations That Require a High School Diploma or Less and Short-Term On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
43-5052 Postal service mail carriers $56,490
33-3052 Transit and railroad police $55,210
43-5051 Postal service clerks $53,090
43-5053 Postal service mail sorters, processors, and processing machine operators $53,090
53-7111 Mine shuttle car operators $52,110
53-7033 Loading machine operators, underground mining $48,420
33-3031 Fish and game wardens $48,070
47-5011 Derrick operators, oil and gas $46,900
53-6011 Bridge and lock tenders $45,940
53-7121 Tank car, truck, and ship loaders $44,100
Source: BLS


Top 10 Occupations That Require a High School Diploma or Less and Moderate-Term On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
33-1012 First-line supervisors of police and detectives $78,270
33-3021 Detectives and criminal investigators $74,300
53-2012 Commercial pilots $73,280
53-6051 Transportation inspectors $63,680
11-9131 Postmasters and mail superintendents $63,050
53-4041 Subway and streetcar operators $62,730
33-1011 First-line supervisors of correctional officers $57,840
49-9097 Signal and track switch repairers $55,450
33-3051 Police and sheriff's patrol officers $55,270
53-4031 Railroad conductors and yardmasters $54,700
Source: BLS

When it comes to jobs that require no college degree and no on-the-job training, BLS has identified only 35 jobs (out of 820 detailed occupations) that fall in that category. However, recent high school graduates cannot easily step into most of those jobs, as they typically require a few years of related work experience in a different occupation. The list is even smaller for occupations that require no college degree, no on-the-job training, and no related work experience—only eight occupations fit those criteria. Of those eight, five fall under an “all other” title, a bucket for occupations that don’t easily fit into one of the Standard Occupational Classification codes.  The highest paid of those occupations, business operations specialists, all other, earned a median annual wage of $65,120 in 2012—much higher than the $34,750 national median wage in 2012.

Occupations That Don’t Require a College Degree or On-The-Job Training
SOC code Occupation Title Median Annual Wage, 2012
13-1199 Business operations specialists, all other $65,120
29-2092 Hearing aid specialists $41,430
29-2099 Health technologists and technicians, all other $40,700
31-9099 Healthcare support workers, all other $32,800
41-9099 Sales and related workers, all other $25,800
41-9012 Models $18,750
35-9031 Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop $18,580
27-2099 Entertainers and performers, sports and related workers, all other
Source: BLS

Research support provided by Patrick Clapp.

Economic Impact: College degrees provide resiliency amid change

Apparently a college degree does make a difference — at least when it comes to a region’s ability to recover from recession.

Northern Virginia is a driver of growth in our state. This was the case in the period between the last two recessions. From 2002 through 2007, employment in the Northern Virginia portion of the Washington metro area expanded at an annual average rate of 2.7 percent, compared with a 1.5 percent rate statewide.

Employment in Northern Virginia also recovered from the most recent recession more quickly than the state and nation. It reached the former peak in employment early in 2011, compared with 2014 in both the state and the nation.

Then came federal budget cuts and a government shutdown. During this period, the lack of growth in Northern Virginia caused the economy in Virginia to stall.

Employment growth in Northern Virginia contracted 0.7 percent on a year-over-year basis in February 2014 and drove the overall state growth down 0.3 percent during the same period. In contrast, employment growth in the nation was accelerating and stood at 1.6 percent.

One would expect such a sharp slowdown in employment that is caused by one industry sector — federal spending — to generate a prolonged slowdown in economic activity as displaced workers try to find other employment.

Similar to the 1990s, when a cut in military spending slowed growth in Northern Virginia for a short time, the latest employment report shows the region growing at the same rate as the nation. For the 12 months ending with September 2015, employment grew 2 percent in Northern Virginia compared with 2 percent in the nation and 0.9 percent in the state.

A highly educated population is a major reason for the quick rebound in Northern Virginia.

Based on census data from 2013, 54 percent of residents in the region have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 30.5 percent in the nation. The unemployment rate for people in the labor force with a bachelor’s degree was 2.5 percent in September, compared with 5.2 percent for those who have only a high school diploma.

Skills that come with a bachelor’s degree are more easily transferable from one industry to another. It’s not quite as easy as changing a consultant’s letterhead from Defense Inc. to Cyber Security LLC, but the transferable skills possessed by workers in Northern Virginia clearly give the region resiliency during times of economic change.