South Coast Workforce and Commuting Patterns from OnTheMap

by Guy Tauer

September 24, 2019

The Census Bureau’s OnTheMap program is a web-based mapping and reporting application that shows where workers are employed and where they live. It also provides companion reports on age, earnings, industry distributions, race, ethnicity, educational attainment, and sex. In most cases data are published down to the Census tract level of detail if there are enough jobs or workers within those geographies.

Here are a couple examples of the data available. An analysis using a hand-drawn map of the Charleston Port area shows the most private-sector primary jobs are in manufacturing. The next largest sectors are accommodation and food services, and retail trade jobs.
OnTheMap can be used to evaluate local labor sheds as well. You can look at where a local area’s workforce lives, as well as where the workers living in an area travel to work. For instance, most Coos County workers also live in the county. The next largest source of the workforce is neighboring Douglas County, closely followed by Lane County to the north. The coastal sections of these counties are easily traversed, connected by scenic coastal Highway 101. For Curry County, looking at commuting pattern data with the county by “place” or city level might not be as informative, as there are only three incorporated areas – Brookings-Harbor, Port Orford, and Gold Beach.
OnTheMap offers a lot of data that isn’t readily available elsewhere. For example, using the “worker area comparison analysis by block group” tool, you can find the percentage of workers in each census tract and block group that earn $1,250 per month or less. Data covering characteristics of the workforce is available by county area, a hand-drawn polygon you can select, or a wide variety of user-defined geographies. Here is the Coos County worker profile by level of education for workers 30 years and older.
Find More Workforce Data at Census OnTheMap

Data on where workers live and are employed are available from the Census OnTheMap website. These data can be useful to transportation and other planners who want to look at commuting patterns such as distance and direction that workers commute, or where and how far workers commute from to reach their employment locations. Businesses might use this data to look at their labor sheds and how far workers might be commuting from to reach their business. Since data are often available down to the Census tract level, businesses and transportation planners can access specific data on where workers live and where residents are employed.

OnTheMap provides an easy-to-use interface for creating, viewing, printing and downloading workforce related maps, profiles, and underlying data. Based on 2002-2017 LEHD Origin Destination Employment Statistics (LODES), OnTheMap is a unique resource for mapping the travel patterns of workers and identifying small-area workforce characteristics: https://onthemap.ces.census.gov/. For more information on the inputs to the LODES dataset, please see the Data Sources page.

Confidentiality is protected through a variety of methods employed by the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau and its state partners are committed to protecting the confidentiality and integrity of the underlying workforce and employment data files. The Census Bureau employs statistical techniques to ensure that actual statistics are not shown if the numbers in a cell are small. Rather, the mapping displays and tabular reports show synthetic data that are statistically analogous to actual worker counts and locations but not exact.

Technically, the method used to protect the residential address information for each workplace address is called "synthetic data," which involves modeling the underlying data in a manner that protects confidentiality, then making random draws from that model. The method used to protect the workplace information is to combine the confidential data with noise in a manner that ensures that the published data, while not exact, become increasingly more accurate as the number of businesses in a workplace area gets larger. No business's actual data are used for any workplace reports. The employment data for private employers are controlled to state-level totals provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep this in mind when using this data at a detailed level.

There is a lot of information to explore on this interactive tool and website. Please feel free to contact me if you have any difficulty accessing or using this data from the Census Bureau.


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