Working in the New Millennium

By: Charles Bowen

Work is our great crossroads. Whether we’re talking about finding work or finding ways to get out of work, it’s what we all have in common. We even begin early educating our children about work values in the ways our schools assign importance to attendance, responsibilities for homework, and the impact of tests and grades.

But, of course, work is constantly changing and a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides an intriguing picture of employment at the dawn of a new century.

Accessible online as well as in print, the report covers topics ranging from education levels to retirement plans. Other sections discuss how the labor force is growing more slowly, how more women are working today than in the past, and how immigrants are found at both high and low ends of the education scale.

Here too you’ll find details on how workers with computer skills are in more demand than ever before and how the workplace is becoming safer. It even identifies the 10 occupations that will generate the highest employment and how they differ widely in their skill requirements. There’s much to be mined here by reporters, columnists and editorial writers.

To look in on the report, visit the site at http://www.bls.gov/opub/working/home.htm, where a very attractive introductory page summarizes the study’s purpose and findings, then provides clickable links to the sections in the table of contents. Each section includes a title (such as “Minorities are the fastest growing part of the labor force”), followed by clickable links to:

— Topic page, that is, the starting point of that particular portion of the report.
— Chart page, with relevant data presented in bar, line or pie graph format.
— Numbers, which provides the raw data of the charts in a simple text chart form that you can pick up in any word processor.
— PDF (Portable Document Format). With this option, you can view the material with the Adobe Acrobat Reader. The files here are best viewed with Adobe Acrobat Reader 4.0 or higher. If you do not have 4.0 or higher, you may have trouble viewing or printing the data. If you do not already have this viewer configured on a local drive, you can download a free copy from Adobe’s Web site (www.adobe.com).

After you have viewed the details of a section of the report, you can return to the home page by clicking the “Chartbook Home” on any inside page.

If you’re looking for the story behind some of the numbers, scroll to the bottom of the introductory page and click the “Sources” link. On a resulting screen, the site lists specific resources used in the reporting of the findings in each section, along with dozens of clickable links to related material. (Boy,
isn’t THAT an idea we wish more online studies would adopt!)

Also, another way to view to the information here is to let the site do the driving. At the top of the introductory screen is a plug for the site’s built-in “slideshow” of the chartbook. Click its START HERE link to view it.

Other ways you can use government statistical sites in your writing and editing:

1. You also can get a printed copy of the report by e-mailing blsdata_staff@bis.gov. Include your U.S. postal mailing address in your e-mailed request. Or you can call the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington, D.C., at 202/691-5200.

2. For more online resources involving employment, scroll to the bottom of the site’s introductory screen and click the “For More Information” link. This takes you to a page of hyperlinks to the sites of specialized Labor Department divisions, suitable for saving in your “favorites.” The selections range from the Pension and Welfare Benefit Administration to other government number crunchers, such as the Federal Reserve System’s board of governors and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

3. While you’re in the neighborhood, you might want to check out some of the other Bureau of Labor Statistics publications (http://www.bls.gov/opub/). You find a treasury of facts and figures on import prices, Producer Price Indexes, job outlooks and much more. Make sure your government reporters know about this one.

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