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Bureau of Labor Statistics Seeks More Specific Job Descriptions

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics wants to make sure employees are performing duties they're capable of doing.

In an effort to help the Social Security Administration's clients with disability claims, the bureau is testing an hour-long telephone survey that questions employers about the employee job descriptions.

The new Occupational Requirements Survey will include questions about physical demands and environmental conditions of jobs.

Bureau labor economist Wayne Shelly said it's not that employers are lying about what their employees do, it's that the job descriptions the Social Security Administration relies on are outdated.

"It's collected directly from employers, the H.R. people that know the jobs," Shelly said. "It's just more specific as to asking questions as to: Does this occupation require the employee to lift heavy objects or lightweight objects? Are they subjected to loud noises? Do they have to work in adverse conditions such as extreme cold or extreme heat?"

The Social Security Administration currently uses information from the U.S. Dept. of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles, which was last updated more than a decade ago. Shelly said the new survey could help when reviewing disability applications and determining if employees are capable of doing their job, or if there is another occupation they're better qualified for.

"Right now we're testing the survey to see if it's feasible for us to actually collect the data on a broad scale," Shelly said. "Once we finish this test then that determination (to implement it) will be made by us and social security."

Shelly said the survey isn't being extended to any additional industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics already surveys all private industry as well as state and local government establishments on wages and benefits. The bureau excludes the federal government and the agricultural industry.  

Shelly noted the testing is going well and he thinks the survey will be a valuable tool for the Social Security Administration and people with disability claims.

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