Skip to main content

The FRED® Blog

Employment Data: The Story Continues As with unemployment, there's more to employment than meets the eye


A recent FRED Blog post looked beyond the headline unemployment numbers and revealed how much more goes on behind the scenes. But unemployment isn’t the only complex economic indicator; payroll employment also has some intricate layers to it.

Payroll employment is a broad term that encompasses many kinds of employment in the U.S., one of which is the number of wage and salary workers paid an hourly rate. These workers are at least 16 years old, working either full- or part-time, and paid an hourly rate for their principal form of employment but are not self-employed. They comprised 58.7% of all wage and salary workers in 2016, according to a BLS Report. Workers paid by the hour are typically younger and about 26% of them are part-time workers, compared with only about 18% for all employed U.S. adults.

The graph tracks the number of these wage and salary workers receiving hourly pay according to their level of educational attainment. The purple areas at the top show those who didn’t finish high school, the pink shows those with a high school diploma, the green shows those with some college or an associate’s degree, and the blue shows those with a bachelor’s degree and higher. The largest proportion of workers have completed high school but no other schooling; a close second is those who have finished some college but don’t have a degree. A part of this trend may be explained by the fact that those with college degrees typically go on to salaried positions, while many high school graduates remain in jobs that pay by the hour. The pink and green areas also include students working while attaining degrees.

For those seeking employment during high school or college, a position that pays an hourly wage is simply more practical than a salary job, which often requires a commitment of several years. Frequently, those with less education are more likely to be considering returning to school to complete a degree, so they may prefer a job paid at an hourly rate for the flexibility it offers.

How this graph was created: From the list of releases in FRED, select “Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers”; then select the first release table, “Number of Workers Paid Hourly Rates by Educational Attainment, Annual, Not Seasonally Adjusted.” Check the boxes next to the relevant series and click “Add to Graph.” In the “Edit Graph” section under the “Format” tab,  change the graph type to “Area” and stacking to “Normal.” Adjust the graph height to 800 and click “Apply.” Play with the colors.

Suggested by Maria Hyrc and Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: ACPRC1, ASDEC1, BADEC1, DCDEC1, HDNCC1, HS13C1, HS4NC1, L1HSC1, MADEC1, OCPRC1, PRDEC1, SCNDC1


Subscribe to the FRED newsletter


Follow us

Twitter logo Google Plus logo Facebook logo YouTube logo LinkedIn logo
Back to Top