High-Skilled Immigration

Create Your Own Data-Driven Update to Schedule A

Plan an update to the government's shortage occupation list in a new interactive app
January 25th 2024

Last month, we published a report that offered a new data-driven method to identify gaps in the labor market. Aggregating ten indicators of shortage conditions into the Help Wanted Index, we proposed that the Department of Labor update Schedule A to include 28 occupations. However, our proposal relied on some hard choices about how to weigh different indicators and where to set the cutoff. In a new interactive app, you can now see how different choices would affect the proposed Schedule A list.

Share what you find with the Department of Labor here. Their request for information is open until February 20th.

What are the ten shortage indicators?

  • Percentage change in the median wage over one year. Under shortage conditions, employers will raise pay to attract more workers. We estimate this using data on wage and salary from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual ACS.
  • Percentage change in the median wage over three years. Similar to the previous indicator, this measure tracks changes over a longer period of time, indicating persistent shortages. To construct this indicator we use data from the ACS.
  • Job-to-job transition rate over one year. Following the work of Autor, Dube, and McGrew (2023), job separations are a key measure of labor market tightness, due to the fact that workers are more likely to change jobs when labor markets are tight. We measure the number of job-to-job transitions (i.e., the number of workers who switch jobs) occurring over a period of time in an occupation using the longitudinal component of the Current Population Survey (CPS), which we then divide by total employment in that occupation.
  • Percentage change in employment over one year. Rising employment would be expected if there are shortage conditions caused by rapidly increasing demand for workers in a certain occupation (note that this indicator will not reflect shortages caused by a falling supply of workers). To construct this indicator, we use data from the ACS.
  • Job vacancy postings per worker. Unfilled job postings are a sign that employers want to hire but cannot find sufficient workers. Notably, this indicator is particularly useful as a gauge of structural shortages in addition to shortages caused by temporary changes in supply or demand. Unfortunately, job postings data from the BLS are not available at the occupation level. Instead, we use data from Lightcast, combined with occupational employment data from the ACS.
  • Percentage change in median paid hours worked over three years. If there is a shortage and employers cannot find sufficient workers, the paid hours worked for existing workers may rise. To construct this indicator we use data from the ACS.
  • Income premium. To construct this measure, we first estimate the additional income afforded to each worker after controlling for their age, region, sex, and industry. We then take the weighted average of that premium across workers within each occupation, where the weights are the hours worked of each individual.
  • Unemployment rate. Low unemployment is a good indicator of a structural shortage, in addition to shortages caused by rapid changes in supply and demand. We note that this measure is not used by the UK. To construct this indicator we use data from the ACS.
  • Three year lagged unemployment rate. We also consider occupational unemployment with a three year lag to capture the unemployment caused by persistent labor shortages. To construct this indicator we use data from the ACS.
  • Labor force non-participation. This is a stock of unemployed and inactive to employed, unemployed, and inactive workers. To construct this indicator we use data from the ACS.