Course Introduction: Overview, Format, and Objectives
Laying a Foundation for Economic Modeling
Methods for Researching the Competitive Strengths of a Region
Workforce and Growth: Using Data to Tell Your Region's Labor Market Story
Mapping Industry Clusters, Analyzing Interdependencies, and Identifying Targets
Tools for Evaluating and Communicating Economic and Fiscal Impacts

Researching and Analyzing Your Region’s Labor Market (VIDEO)

Telling the full workforce data story for your region requires a wide variety of data sources. In this module, Maurice Harris, Research Manager for the Greater MSP Partnership (Minnesota) will equip you to tap into many additional sources of public data to answer your research questions.

Knowing which data sources to rely on can help you answer the following questions:

  • What are the high and low paying jobs? What are the trends?
  • What are the demographics of the labor force?
  • What are the significant hiring trends?
  • Which programs and degrees are students completing?
  • What do the region’s commuting patterns look like?
  • Are there any potential gaps in job training and employer demand?
Review Note: Part 1 of this training program introduced you to the several essential online data repositories of labor market information. Here’s a brief summary of those:
  • The Occupational Information Network (O*NET): BLS’s O*NET program is the nation’s primary source of occupational information. Central to the project is the O*NET database, which contains information on hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors.
  • The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). This BLS program publishes a quarterly count of employment and wages reported by employers covering more than 95 percent of U.S. jobs available at the county, Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), state and national levels by detailed industry.
  • The American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a nationwide survey program conducted by the U.S. Census. It collects and produces information on social, economic, housing, and demographic characteristics about our nation’s population every year. This information helps communities see how they are changing.
Now, in Part 2, we examine five additional types of data that can help researchers answer a number of specific questions about their regional labor market.
  • The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS): A system of surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in the federal student financial aid programs. Using IPEDS data, policymakers and researchers can find answers to questions involving the following variables:
    • The types and numbers of postsecondary institutions;
    • The number of students, graduates, first-time students, and graduate and professional students by race/ethnicity and gender.
    • The status of postsecondary vocational education programs.
    • The number of individuals trained in specific occupational and vocational fields by race/ethnicity, gender, and level.
    • The resources generated by postsecondary institutions.
    • Patterns of expenditures and revenues of institutions.
    • Changes in tuition and fees charged and student financial aid received.
    • Completions by type of program, level of award, race/ethnicity, and gender; faculty composition, and salaries.


Refer to the IPEDS user manual for guidance in using IPEDS data to research any of the variables listed above.


  • The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) is a survey of non-farm workers and provides employment and wage estimates for more than 800 occupations. The survey, which does not include self-employed workers, is conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). OES data is useful for research involving:
    • Occupational employment
    • Occupational wages
    • Development of occupational projections


For the most recent OES data, bookmark the following links:


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Employment Projections: 10-year projections (developed annually) that are used to forecast occupational demand, industry employment, education and training requirements, and labor force size.
    • Labor force projections are “educated guesses,” based on expectations of the future size and composition of the population,
    • Projections are also based on trends in labor force participation rates of different age, gender, race, and ethnic groups.
    • Most states use national projections to create projections for their state. These are done at the 2-year and 10-year levels.


The Labor Market Information Institute (LMII) maintains a nationwide listing of contact information and website addresses for state LMI shops.


  • Unemployment Insurance (UI) Claims Data: The U.S. Department of Labor and state LMI offices have national claim and local/state data available, respectively, for UI. These data can provide researchers with the following important insights:
    • UI claims are a good predictor for real-time unemployment rates.
    • They can be used to forecast near-future unemployment for local areas, as well as industrial sectors.
    • They provide a quick “read” on labor markets.

To learn more about the collection and sources of unemployment statistics, check out this BLS publication, “How the Government Measures Unemployment.”


  • Real-time Job Postings Data: Having access to repositories of current job postings online allows researchers to analyze regional hiring demand at a given point in time. Unlike the other data sources addressed in this module, however, most real-time job postings data is available through commercial services for a fee. The following services provide this valuable real-time LMI.


In the exercise that follows, you’ll have a chance to practice selecting data sources for common labor market research questions.