Data in Action: Real-Time Job Data Case Study

Missouri: Informing State Policy Decisions
Missouri map

The Client

Missouri Economic Research Information Center

The Challenge

Provide state agencies and job seekers with more timely labor market information

The Solution

Real-time data informs decisions statewide

Labor Insight

Burning Glass’s user-friendly Labor Insight™ tool provides real-time job market information that helps educators, policy makers, and others make timely decisions that result in better outcomes for job seekers and employers. This case study describes how one state has used our cutting-edge technology to inform workforce decisions statewide.

“Tools like Burning Glass help us tell the story. Everybody, at the highest level, comes to us for that data. It’s so baked into our system now that we don’t even question it. We will always have demand now that we can show what it can do.”

Alan Spell

MERIC Research Manager, Missouri Department of Economic Development

Tablet charts: MERIC uses real-time job data to produce labor market intelligence reports

The Client: Missouri Economic Research Information Center

The Missouri Economic Research Information Center (MERIC) is the research division of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, providing information and analyses that guide policy makers and the public about issues related to the workforce and the state economy. Each year, MERIC publishes dozens of economic impact assessments, labor market snapshots, industry analyses, and other specialized reports. Since its inception in 2001, MERIC has received 13 national awards for excellence in research.

The Challenge: Provide State Agencies and Job Seekers With More Timely Labor Market Data

For more than 15 years, MERIC has drawn from the best available data sources—including employer surveys, statistical projections, and the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics—to inform its research. Typical data sources lag behind current conditions, however – sometimes by as much as two years or more – thereby limiting their usefulness. MERIC was eager to find a high-quality data source that would allow Missourians to act more nimbly, making timely decisions that lead to faster re-employment and a stronger match between industry needs and the state’s workforce training capacity.

The Solution: Real-Time Labor Market Data Informs Decisions Statewide

In the mid-2000s, technology began to catch up with MERIC’s research needs as a small group of companies explored ways to aggregate online job postings as a source of real-time labor market data. MERIC found the quality of these datasets to be lacking. Nevertheless, MERIC believed that this emerging field had significant promise and the research team kept abreast of new developments. When the research team first reviewed the Burning Glass dataset, it was quickly impressed by its breadth and accuracy. The Labor Insight interface was another plus, allowing MERIC’s skilled analysts to provide quick answers to a range of questions about the current job market.

Custom Reports Feed Better Decisions

Over three years of working with Burning Glass data, the MERIC team has developed an array of innovative reports that get real-time labor market data into the hands of the people who need it most: job seekers, education providers, workforce development professionals, municipal leaders, policy makers, and other state leaders. Labor Insight data have been important in informing four types of research in particular.

  1. Regular labor market summaries: MERIC produces a widely-read series of reports produced every other month that offer a snapshot of labor market conditions over the past 60 days, including the total number of job postings, top employers, top occupations, and locations of the most in-demand jobs.
  2. Real-time career pathway reports: MERIC also produces periodic reports on specific industries in partnership with the Missouri Community College Association. The reports include the number of recent job postings in an occupational area, specific skills and credentials required, average wages for high-demand job titles, and a listing of top employers. Less costly than typical employer surveys, the state’s 13 community colleges use these data to inform employer outreach, curriculum development, and student recruitment.
  3. Supply and demand analyses: In 2014, MERIC produced a first-ever job market supply and demand analysis, comparing survey data from job seekers with recent job postings. The analysis identifies where the state has excess supply (e.g. a surplus of production workers seeking re-employment) and where there are significant talent gaps (e.g. the state’s fast-growing information technology and health care industries). A follow-up report takes a closer look at the skills and training required in the industries with excess demand, pointing state leaders toward opportunities for building education and training capacity.
  4. Rapid-response reports: MERIC also responds to major layoffs by creating targeted reports aimed at guiding displaced workers and the workforce staff who counsel them toward opportunities for rapid reemployment. Analysts use Labor Insight to identify job postings matching the skills of recently laid-off workers. It’s a hands-on process, with analysts looking at how far workers are likely to travel and thinking creatively about jobs that would leverage the existing skill sets of those displaced so as to require little or no short-term training.

MERIC is a pioneer in disseminating real-time job market data publicly, with user-friendly reports that inform decisions at many levels. The MERIC research team is exacting: they use their local knowledge to identify and address quirks in the data, check patterns in Labor Insight data against more traditional sources, and present findings in innovative formats that anticipate and answer stakeholders’ questions. One such innovation is MERIC’s grouping of jobs into “now,” “next,” and “later” tiers that denote the amount of training required for positions.

Demand for Quality, Real-Time Data Grows

MERIC’s real-time labor market reports have been enthusiastically embraced by decision-makers throughout the state, further solidifying the department’s reputation as the go-to source for labor market information. State policymakers, municipal planners, workforce development leaders, and higher education administrators are all turning to MERIC for the data they need to guide legislation, investments, and the direction of new education and training programs. Thanks to MERIC’s real-time reports, these leaders have a more up-to-date and nuanced understanding of labor market trends than they had in the past – information that is helping them make smarter decisions about all aspects of the state’s workforce infrastructure.

After three years of working with Burning Glass, MERIC and its partner agencies continue to innovate, constantly looking for new ways to use real-time data to help Missourians make the best possible decisions for themselves and for the state as a whole.

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