Chapter 4.2: Identification of Appropriate Job Opportunities

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As part of the data collection process, the "type of job" is often the first question the employment counselor and member of the target population address. The "location of the job" is secondary.

Target Population Issues - Entering the Workforce, Obtaining a Better Job and Job Retention

Entering the Workforce

Planners must not only identify the target population, but also must understand employment issues the target population faces. Planning efforts should address the following questions concerning the job opportunities in the community or region:

  • What are the job creation rates for high wage industries as compared to low-wage industries?
  • Should transportation options target only full-time jobs or should options also be designed for jobs that are part-time or seasonal?
  • Should transportation planning target relatively high wage industries, or are wages largely irrelevant?
  • Are entry-level or semi-skilled jobs being created in the same geographic areas as other jobs?

Issues that are more job specific, such as those considered by the job-seeker and the job counselor, also shape the planning efforts:

photo: Crane loading container on a flatbed truck
  • Does the open job have skill requirements commensurate with the skills of the target population member?
  • Is the job only seasonal or part-time employment?
  • Does the job offer potential over the short-term of providing a wage high enough to raise a family out of poverty?
  • Will the job require prior training?
  • How close is the job to where the individuals have a child at childcare or school?
  • What are the hours of employment and how do they relate to the school hours or childcare hours of children?
  • What are the opportunities for addressing increased income and benefits?

The difference between the number of job seekers in a given geographic area and the number of jobs available in the same area is often referred to as the "job gap." Most job gap analyses attempt to measure the qualifications and needs of the job seeker with the requirements of the available jobs. For the target population, entry-level jobs are the crucial job category. For workers in low-income households, the number of unskilled or semi-skilled positions is compared with the number of job seekers. Measuring the job gap requires identifying the number of job openings in the appropriate categories, and then measuring the total number of job seekers, including both the target population and all other job seekers regardless of participation in assistance programs.

Job Improvement and Job Retention

Successful welfare to work planning goes beyond identifying jobs for the target population; it should address both short-term and long-term employment and transportation needs. Some individuals may need pre-job readiness training, others are looking for a job, some are beginning a part-time job or a low paying full-time job, some may be going to a job and training for another one, while some might be struggling to retain their existing job. In each situation, the individual is faced with a completely different set of issues. Transportation needs associated with these issues may vary considerably as job destinations and time of travel change. Some examples include:

  • Temporary short-term transportation, such as transportation to a job interview.
  • Long/short-term transportation to work on a regular time schedule.
  • Transportation to a part-time temporary/seasonal job where work schedules vary by time of day and/or day of week.
  • Temporary/interim transportation while car repairs are being completed or until funds for a different car can be obtained.
  • Initial transportation to a full-time job until longer-term transportation arrangements can be made or the individual can purchase an automobile.

In addition to the needs mentioned above, many trips might also require a stop at childcare facilities, health care facilities or grocery stores.

One solution will not work for all situations. The target population's transportation needs change over time and as economic circumstances evolve. A range of alternatives will improve the transportation situation of the target population and enhance the planning options of case managers and job placement specialists. The process of developing these alternatives requires adequate information for analysis.

Program administrators, who are targeting limited resources to increasing demand for transportation services, must answer the following questions:

  • Where are concentrations of entry-level jobs that pay or offer the short-term potential of income to support a family?
  • Should transportation resources be targeted largely to full-time jobs or also be available to part-time or seasonal jobs that may be a first step to economic independence?

Confidentiality Issues & Resolutions Addresses of target population members should be used in the data collection and analysis. Names and other identifying information (outside of geographic location) need not be requested or used in job access planning. Confidentiality can be addressed in two ways:

  1. The agency or organization responsible for obtaining the information can enter into a confidentiality agreement with the agency providing the data, or the agency providing the data can provide the file of client addresses only.
  2. If home locations of the target population are mapped, it is important that the precise location of an individual not be publicly identified. This can be overcome in areas with few individuals by displaying locations on a map with a limited road network. The mapping of target population locations in areas that are predominantly rural should be addressed differently than in other areas. Large maps tend to show individual locations and their relationship to the local road network clear enough that their identity could be determined, producing smaller maps with a limited road network can eliminate this problem.

Type of Jobs

photo: Worker turning knobs in a factoryIn order to identify the location of appropriate job opportunities for the target population, planners must obtain data on jobs in their planning region. Many sources of economic data are readily available through state and federal agencies. Planners must understand the value and limitations of this data, and how to use the data for job access transportation planning purposes.

Jobs are generally classified in one of two ways. First, jobs can be classified by industry type using Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes (or the newly revised North American Industry Classification System, NAICS).3

Information on employers will usually be grouped using SIC or NAICS codes. The classification by industry is valuable for identifying industries that tend to pay higher wages, offer full-time rather than seasonal work, and are more likely to offer benefits. SIC code data is also often geographically coded (see discussion on location of jobs below).

SIC codes are not helpful in distinguishing between job characteristics within an industry. Janitorial jobs, for example, are grouped with managerial jobs, and seasonal jobs are frequently counted with full-time. Consequently, SIC code data needs to be coupled with other data sources to distinguish job characteristics important to welfare to work planning, including skill-level, full-time or part-time status, and opportunities for advancement.

A summary showing the most generalized industry classifications is shown below:

01-09 Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries
10-14 Mineral Industries
15-18 Construction Industries
20-39 Manufacturing
40-49 Transportation, Communications, and Utilities
50-51 Wholesale Trade
52-59 Retail Trade
60-69 Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate
70-89 Service Industries
90 Public Administration

A second approach to job analysis is to examine job types used by the Census Bureau in the population census. Job type analysis allows more selective views on jobs by skill requirements or other job characteristics. Wage surveys, conducted by the Department of Labor (or by the State DOL equivalent) group jobs by type rather than by industry. The data is rarely categorized by employer or employer location and therefore has only slight value in transportation location analysis. To identify job locations or to get an accurate count of jobs by job types, cross-referencing with other data is often required.

The greater the planning and research capabilities of the local or regional planning entity, the higher the level of sensitivity and detail that can be incorporated in the planning effort. Initial planning efforts may focus only on geographic locations of jobs by SIC code. Later efforts can develop techniques to cross-reference disparate sources of information, more clearly identifying areas of need for transportation services or infrastructure.

Location of Jobs

photo: the outside of an office complexInformation on job locations is often available from the state agency that administers unemployment insurance. Jobs covered by unemployment (covered employment) are reported by location and generally constitute 98% of all jobs. Transportation planners can obtain aggregate data on the number and type of jobs for small geographic areas. If confidentiality safeguards are in place, the specific addresses of most employers and the number employed at each location can be mapped. It may be possible to identify the type of industry and apply a further analysis of entry-level jobs to the type of industry.

Decennial Census information is used as the basis for Journey to Work studies completed on a regional and local level. Journey-to-work data, often available from local transit agencies or the MPO, can help substantiate anecdotal information on the location of entry-level and semi-skilled jobs by cross-referencing origins and destinations with geographic areas of low-income households.

Additional Sources for Information

Other information sources for job information include surveying the classified ads, using the state job postings associated with welfare-to-work agencies, commercial business directories, and compiling data from business associations. Relying on a single source of information will rarely result in capturing a representative sample of job locations, numbers, or characteristics. Using these sources to complement other information can, however, enrich the understanding of the availability of jobs and the job characteristics. Listed below are additional data sources. The utility of these sources will vary depending on the planning effort's level of detail, the level of existing research by local agencies, universities, and private institutions, and the participating stakeholders.

Potential sources include the following:

  • National Personal Transportation Survey
  • Traffic Demand Management Plans developed by large employers
  • State agencies administering the TANF block grants
  • Surveys of or interviews with representative employers for a geographic area
  • Employer databases of employee addresses or zip codes
  • 1992 and 1997 Economic Census (1997 results may not be readily available)
  • U. S. Department of Labor wage surveys
  • Local Economic Development Agency job surveys
  • Local university studies or surveys
  • State agency responsible for unemployment insurance
  • Employer surveys conducted as part of the access-to-jobs planning effort
  • America's Talent Bank (www.atb.org)

Year 2000 Census data will also serve as a useful resource once it is made available. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, data will be released on a flow basis from June 2001, through September 2003. Census 2000 data will be disseminated mainly using a new data retrieval system called the American FactFinder (AFF). The American FactFinder will be accessible to the widest possible array of users through the Internet, libraries, universities, and other organizations. Printed reports and electronic files are two forms in which data will be available to the end-user.


3The SIC codes are the historic method of classifying industries. Over time, however, industries have evolved in form and function, and new industries (such as information technologies) do not fit easily into historic groupings. The NAICS codes which can be translated into SIC, were devised to regroup industry sub-classifications to ensure that like industries are classified under meaningful headings. Timber logging, for instance, is classified as manufacturing under the SIC codes, but is classified with agriculture under NAICS codes.


Final Report
May 2001

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