National Center for Education Statistics

Leveraging Economic Data to Understand the Education Workforce

The Digest of Education Statistics recently debuted 13 new tables on K–12 employment and wages from a data source that is new to the Digest—the Occupational Employment Wage Statistics (OEWS) program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). NCES’s Annual Reports and Information Staff conducted an extensive review of existing and emerging data sources and found that BLS’s OEWS program provides high-quality, detailed, and timely data that are suitable to inform policymaking in education and workforce development.1 In this blog post, we share why we added this new data source, how we evaluated and prepared these data, and our future plans to expand on these efforts.


Need for Education Workforce Data

NCES recognized that education stakeholders need more granular and timely data on the condition of the education workforce to inform decisionmaking. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, school districts are looking to address critical staffing needs. According to NCES’s School Pulse Panel, entering the 2023–24 school year (SY), just under half of U.S. public schools reported feeling understaffed and had a need for special education teachers, transportation staff, and mental health professionals.

Since staffing needs and labor markets vary from district to district and state to state, it is important that we create national- and state-level tabulations for specific occupations, including those of special interest since the pandemic, like bus drivers, social workers, and special education teachers. Similarly, we want to be able to provide annual data updates so stakeholders can make the most up-to-date decisions possible.

Annual Digest table updates, coupled with detailed occupational and state-level data, will provide relevant and timely information on employment and wage trends that will be valuable in current and future efforts to address teacher and staff retention and recruitment. See below for a list of the new Digest tables.

  • National-level employment and annual wages
  • Selected teaching occupations (211.70)
  • Selected noninstructional occupations (213.70)
  • State-level employment and annual wages
  • Preschool teachers (211.70a)
  • Kindergarten teachers (211.70b)
  • Elementary school teachers (211.70c)
  • Middle school teachers (211.70d)
  • Secondary school teachers (211.70e)
  • Kindergarten and elementary special education teachers (211.70f)
  • Middle school special education teachers (211.70g)
  • Secondary school special education teachers (211.70h)
  • Substitute teachers (211.70i)
  • Teaching assistants (211.70j)
  • All occupations in the Elementary and Secondary Education industry (213.75)


Strengths of OEWS

OEWS and the Digest tables are aligned with the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology’s Data Quality Framework, specifically the principles of objectivity (standardization), utility (granularity and timeliness), and integrity (data quality).


OEWS produces employment and wage estimates using standardized industry and occupational classifications. Using the North American Industry Classification System, establishments are grouped into categories—called industries—based on their primary business activities. Like industries, occupations are organized into groups or categories based on common job duties (using the Standard Occupational Classification). Occupations that are common to K–12 schools can also be found in other industries, and the OEWS provides both cross-industry estimates and industry-specific estimates for just Elementary and Secondary Education industry. To provide the most relevant and comparable data for education stakeholders, NCES chose to focus on distinct occupational estimates for the Elementary and Secondary Education industry, since all establishments (e.g., school boards, school districts) provide the same services: instruction or coursework for basic preparatory education (typically K–12).2     

Another advantage of the OEWS data is the ability to examine specific detailed occupations, like elementary school teachers, secondary school teachers, and education administrators. Digest tables include estimates for specific instructional and noninstructional occupations, which allows users to make comparisons among teachers and staff with similar job responsibilities, providing opportunities for more targeted decisionmaking.


In addition to data on detailed occupations, OEWS data provide data at national and state and levels, allowing for comparisons across geographies. National-level Digest tables include estimates for public and private education employers.3 Publicly funded charter schools run by private establishments are included in private ownership estimates, as they can be managed by parents, community groups, or private organizations. Public ownership is limited to establishments that are run by federal, state, or local governments. State-level Digest tables provide more localized information covering labor markets for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Timeliness and Data Quality

OEWS data are updated annually from a sample of about 1.1 million establishments’ data collected over a 3-year period. The OEWS sample is drawn from an administrative list of public and private companies and organizations that is estimated to cover about 95 percent of jobs.4 When employers respond to OEWS, they report from payroll data that are maintained as a part of regular business operations and typically do not require any additional collections or calculations. Payroll data reflect wages paid by employers for a job, which has a commonly accepted definition across employers or industries. This allows for more accurate comparisons of annual wages for a particular job. In contrast, when wages are self-reported by a respondent in person-level or household surveys, the reported data may be difficult to accurately code to a specific industry or detailed occupation, and there is greater chance of recall error by the respondent. Additionally, OEWS provides specialized respondent instructions for elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary institutions that accommodate the uniqueness of what educators do and how they are paid. These instructions enable precise coding of the occupations commonly found in these industries and a more precise and consistent reporting of wages of workers with a variety of schedules (e.g., school year vs. annual, part time vs. full time).   

OEWS uses strict quality control and confidentiality measures and strong sampling and estimation methodologies.5 BLS also partners with state workforce agencies to facilitate the collection, coding, and quality review of OEWS data. States’ highly trained staff contribute local knowledge, establish strong respondent relationships, and provide detailed coding expertise to further ensure the quality of the data. 

After assessing the strengths of the OEWS data, the Digest team focused on the comparability of the data over time to ensure that the data would be best suited for stakeholder needs and have the most utility. First, we checked for changes to the industrial and occupational classifications. Although there were no industrial changes, the occupational classifications of some staff occupations—like librarians, school bus drivers, and school psychologists—did change. In those cases, we only included comparable estimates in the tables.

Second, all new Digest tables include nonoverlapping data years to account for the 3-year collection period. While users cannot compare wages in 2020 with 2021 and 2022, they can explore data from 2016, 2019, and 2022. Third, the Digest tables present estimates for earlier data years to ensure the same estimation method was used to produce estimates over time.6 Finally, we did not identify any geographical, scope, reference period, or wage estimation methodology changes that would impact the information presented in tables. These checks ensured we presented the most reliable and accurate data comparisons.


Next Steps  

The use of OEWS data in the Digest is a first step in harnessing the strength of BLS data to provide more relevant and timely data, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the education workforce. NCES is investigating ways we can partner with BLS to further expand these granular and timely economic data, meeting a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommendation to collaborate with other federal agencies and incorporate data from new sources to provide policy-relevant information. We plan to explore the relationship between BLS data and NCES data, such as the Common Core of Data, and increase opportunities for more detailed workforce analyses.

NCES is committed to exploring new data sources that can fill important knowledge gaps and expand the breadth of quality information available to education stakeholders. As we integrate new data sources and develop new tabulations, we will be transparent about our evaluation processes and the advantages and limitations of sources. We will provide specific examples of how information can be used to support evidence-based policymaking. Additionally, NCES will continue to investigate new data sources that inform economic issues related to education. For example, we plan to explore Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes to better understand education-to-employment pathways. We are investigating sources for building and land use data to assess the condition and utilization of school facilities. We are also looking for opportunities to integrate diverse data sources to expand to new areas of the education landscape and to support timelier and more locally informed decisionmaking.

How will you use the new Digest tables? Do you have suggestions for new data sources? Let us know at


By Josue DeLaRosa, Kristi Donaldson, and Marie Marcum, NCES

[1] See these frequently asked questions for a description of current uses, including economic development planning and to project future labor market needs.

[2] Although most of the K–12 instructional occupations are in the Elementary and Secondary Education industry, both instructional and noninstructional occupations can be found in others (e.g., Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools; Child Care Services). See Educational Instruction and Library Occupations for more details. For example, preschool teachers differ from some of the other occupations presented in the Digest tables, where most of the employment is in the Child Care Services industry. Preschool teachers included in Digest tables reflect the employment and average annual wage of those who are employed in the Elementary and Secondary Education industry, not all preschool teachers.

[3] Note that estimates do not consider differences that might exist between public and private employers, such as age and experience of workers, work schedules, or cost of living.

[4] This includes a database of businesses reporting to state unemployment insurance (UI) programs. For more information, see Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

[5] See Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics for more details on specific methods.

[6] Research estimates are used for years prior to 2021, and Digest tables will not present estimates prior to 2015, the first year of revised research estimates. See OEWS Research Estimates by State and Industry for more information.

NCES Centralizes State-Level Data in New Digest State Dashboard

With hundreds of tables to explore, the Digest of Education Statistics offers a wide array of education data. For the first time, NCES is visualizing Digest data in a new Digest State Dashboard. The Dashboard provides a centralized location for state-level Digest data, so users can easily find it all in one place. As the first-ever Digest data tool, the Dashboard helps you not only find and use NCES data but also better understand the education landscape of an individual state.

In alignment with NCES’s goal to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in our products, the Dashboard provides data for all entities that are part of the United States: the 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Bureau of Indian Education, and outlying areas—i.e., American Samoa, Guam, Northern Marianas, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Digest Dashboard Topics

  • Public school enrollment
  • Public school student characteristics
  • Public school teachers
  • Public schools
  • Private school education
  • Reading and mathematics assessments
  • 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR)
  • Public school expenditures
  • Postsecondary enrollment
  • Postsecondary institution and student charges

For each of these entities, the Dashboard highlights the most recently published Digest data on topics of interest (see textbox). The selected topics represent key indicators of a state’s education landscape, and data are presented for each entity and topic whenever available.

To help make data interpretation easier, the Dashboard presents data in figures—like bar charts, line graphs, and brief tables—that allow you to interact with the data in ways not possible with the static tables. If you’ve ever explored the Condition of Education—which will be updated next month (May 2024)—the Dashboard’s figures should look very familiar, as they were designed to mirror the appearance and functionality of the Condition’s interactive figures. Similarly, in the Dashboard, you can

  1. modify the figure by selecting characteristics and years to include;
  2. share the figure on various platforms; and
  3. download the figure and the data used in the figure. 

The Dashboard also provides links to other NCES state-level data tools, centralizing these resources and providing a more detailed picture of each state’s educational landscape. You can find state-specific links to NAEP State Profiles, the NTPS State Dashboard, and the PIAAC Skills Map on each state’s page. Plus, you can find links to other NCES data tools, like the EDGE ACS Dashboard and the IPEDS Trend Generator, on the Dashboard’s homepage.

The Dashboard will be continuously updated throughout the year—as data become available in the Digest—making it a great source of up-to-date information for policymakers, researchers, practitioners, and parents/families. In May 2024, several figures will be updated, including two postsecondary figures on enrollment and institutions and student charges. Be sure to check back and follow NCES on XFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay informed when these and other updates are made. You can also continue to explore the Digest tables to find even more state-level data.

New Projected Data Through 2030 to Be Included in Digest of Education Statistics

NCES is excited to announce the inclusion of new projected data as part of the Digest of Education Statistics: 2021. These new data include projections of education statistics through 2030 and account for impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since 1964, NCES has produced the Projections of Education Statistics, which includes statistics ranging from elementary/secondary enrollment to teacher counts to postsecondary degrees earned. To produce these estimates, NCES uses models that apply historical trends in education to forecasted trends in demographics and the economy.

Each edition of the Projections provides revisions to estimates from the year before. These revisions can be the result of designed model improvements or incidental changes to the underlying data that feed the models. With the long-term impacts of the pandemic uncertain, NCES made minimal changes to the projection models in favor of consistency (for more information on how these forecasts have been produced historically, see the Technical Appendixes). However, due to the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, changes to underlying data were more pronounced than usual.

For example, enrollment levels—particularly during compulsory elementary and secondary grades—are strongly determined by the size of the school-aged population. NCES’s projections rely on population projections, which are licensed from IHS Markit. IHS Markit’s population projections reflect a decline in birth rates during the coronavirus pandemic.1 These population projections will impact projected enrollment levels as smaller birth cohorts mature to school age.

Specifically, Digest table 203.10 reports projected data for enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools by grade over time. Between fall 2019 and fall 2020, total public school enrollment dropped by 3 percent (figure 1). By 2030, total public school enrollment is projected to decrease another 4 percent. However, public school enrollments are projected to be higher in 2021 than they were in 2020. Although public school enrollment is not projected to return to 2019 levels, it is projected to remain higher than 2020 levels through 2024. In other words, the projected decrease in public school enrollments over the next decade is not a direct continuation of the pandemic-related drop observed between fall 2019 and fall 2020. Rather, it is primarily a reflection of changes in the school-age population.

Figure 1. Annual percentage change in enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools: Fall 2010 to fall 2030

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data include both traditional public schools and public charter schools. Data include imputations for nonreported prekindergarten enrollment in California for fall 2019 and 2020 and in Oregon for fall 2020. Data include imputations for nonreported enrollment for all grades in Illinois for fall 2020.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 2010–11 through 2020–21. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 203.10.

The relationship between population and enrollment in elementary and secondary grades can be seen even more clearly by comparing projected enrollments for different grade levels. Children conceived during the pandemic will begin to age into first grade in large numbers beginning in 2027. In contrast, no children conceived during the pandemic will have aged into grade 9 by the end of the projection period in 2030. Figure 2 shows a pronounced dip in public school enrollment in grade 1 in 2027 and 2028, which is not present at grade 9. Specifically, public school enrollment in grade 1 is projected to be 8 percent lower in both 2027 and 2028 than in 2026. Meanwhile, the difference in these years for grade 9 is less than 1 percent (rounds to 0 percent). This is a direct reflection of projected declines in birth rates during the pandemic and the relationship between the school-age population and enrollment levels.

Figure 2. Enrollment in public schools, by selected grade: Fall 2010 through fall 2030

NOTE: Data are for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data include both traditional public schools and public charter schools. The total ungraded counts of students were prorated to prekindergarten through grade 8 and grades 9 through 12 based on the known grade-level distribution of a state. Data include imputations for nonreported prekindergarten enrollment in California for fall 2019 and 2020 and in Oregon for fall 2020. Data include imputations for nonreported enrollment for all grades in Illinois for fall 2020. Some data have been revised from previously published figures.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 2010–11 through 2020–21. See Digest of Education Statistics 2021, table 203.10.

All of NCES’s projections are heavily impacted by population forecasts. In addition, certain statistics—such as public school expenditures and postsecondary enrollments—are also shaped by economic forecasts. Like their population projections, IHS Markit’s economic forecasts have also factored in effects of the pandemic. This is another way in which forthcoming projections of education statistics account for pandemic-related impacts.

Digest tables featuring additional projections will be released on a rolling basis throughout the year. Be sure to bookmark this page for the most up-to-date tables.

Explore the first batch of tables from Digest 2021 with projected data:

  • Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by level and grade: Selected years, fall 1980 through fall 2030 (table 203.10)
  • Enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by region, state, and jurisdiction: Selected years, fall 1990 through fall 2030 (table 203.20)
  • Public school enrollment in prekindergarten through grade 8, by region, state, and jurisdiction: Selected years, fall 1990 through fall 2030 (table 203.25)
  • Public school enrollment in grades 9 through 12, by region, state, and jurisdiction: Selected years, fall 1990 through fall 2030 (table 203.30)
  • Enrollment and percentage distribution of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity and region: Selected years, fall 1995 through fall 2030 (table 203.50)
  • Enrollment and percentage distribution of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity and level of education: Fall 1999 through fall 2030 (table 203.60)
  • Public and private elementary and secondary teachers, enrollment, pupil/teacher ratios, and new teacher hires: Selected years, fall 1955 through fall 2030 (table 208.20)
  • Current expenditures and current expenditures per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools: 1989–90 through 2030–31 (table 236.15)

Explore previous editions of the Projections of Education Statistics.


By Véronique Irwin, NCES

[1] Declines in birth rates during the coronavirus pandemic have also been shown by government agencies including Census and the National Center for Health Statistics (as cited by Census).

NCES Releases New Edition of the Digest of Education Statistics

NCES recently released the 2020 edition of the Digest of Education Statistics, the 56th in a series of publications initiated in 1962. The Digest—which provides a centralized location for a wide range of statistical information covering early childhood through adult education—tells the story of American education through data. Digest tables are the foundation of many NCES reports, including the congressionally mandated Condition of Education, which contains key indicators that describe and visualize important developments and trends.

The Digest includes data tables from many sources, both government and private, and draws especially on the results of surveys and activities carried out by NCES. In addition, the Digest serves as one of the only NCES reports where data from across nearly 200 sources—including other statistical agencies like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau—are compiled. The publication contains data on a variety of subjects in the field of education statistics, including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates, in addition to data on educational attainment, finances, federal funds for education, libraries, and international comparisons. A helpful feature of the Digest is its ability to provide long-term trend data. Several tables include data that were collected more than 50—or even 100—years ago:

  • Poverty status of all persons, persons in families, and related children under age 18, by race/ethnicity: Selected years, 1960 through 2019 (table 102.50)
  • Percentage of the population 3 to 34 years old enrolled in school, by age group: Selected years, 1940 through 2019 (table 103.20)
  • Rates of high school completion and bachelor's degree attainment among persons age 25 and over, by race/ethnicity and sex: Selected years, 1910 through 2020 (table 104.10)
  • Historical summary of faculty, enrollment, degrees conferred, and finances in degree-granting postsecondary institutions: Selected years, 1869-70 through 2018-19 (table 301.20)
  • Federal support and estimated federal tax expenditures for education, by category: Selected fiscal years, 1965 through 2019 (table 401.10)

The Digest is organized into seven chapters: All Levels of Education, Elementary and Secondary Education, Postsecondary Education, Federal Funds for Education and Related Activities, Outcomes of Education, International Comparisons of Education, and Libraries and Use of Technology. Each chapter is divided into a number of topical subsections. The Digest also includes a Guide to Sources and a Definitions section to provide supplemental information to readers. To learn more about how the Digest is structured and how best to navigate it—including how to access the most current tables or tables from a specific year and how to search for key terms—check out the blog post “Tips for Navigating the Digest of Education Statistics.”

In addition to providing updated versions of many statistics that have appeared in previous years, this edition also includes several new tables, many of which highlight data related to the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Percentage of adults with children in the household who reported their child’s classes were moved to a distance learning format using online resources in selected periods during April through December 2020, by selected adult and household characteristics (table 218.80)
  • Percentage of adults with children in the household who reported that computers and internet access were always or usually available for educational purposes in their household in selected periods during April through December 2020, by selected adult and household characteristics (table 218.85)
  • Percentage of adults with children in the household who reported that computers or digital devices and internet access were provided by their child’s schools or districts in selected periods during April through December 2020, by selected adult and household characteristics (table 218.90)
  • Number of school shootings at public and private elementary and secondary schools between 2000-01 and 2019-20, by location and time period (table 228.14)
  • Percentage of adults who reported changes to household members’ fall postsecondary plans in August 2020, by level of postsecondary education planned and selected respondent characteristics (table 302.80)
  • Percentage of adults with at least one household member’s fall attendance plans cancelled who reported on reasons for changes in plans in August 2020, by level of postsecondary education planned and selected respondent characteristics (table 302.85)

Also new this year is the release of more than 200 machine-readable Digest tables, with more to come at a later date. These tables allow the data to be read in a standard format, making them easier for developers and researchers to use. To learn more about machine-readable tables, check out the blog post “Machine-Readable Tables for the Digest of Education Statistics.

Learn more about the Digest in the Foreword to the publication and explore the tables in this edition.


By Megan Barnett, AIR

NCES's Top Hits of 2021

As 2021—another unprecedented year—comes to a close and you reflect on your year, be sure to check out NCES’s annual list of top web hits. From reports and Condition of Education indicators to Fast Facts, APIs, blog posts, and tweets, NCES releases an array of content to help you stay informed about the latest findings and trends in education. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay up-to-date in 2022!

Top five reports, by number of PDF downloads

1. Condition of Education 2020 (8,376)

2Digest of Education Statistics 2019 (4,427)

3. Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018 (3,282)

4. Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2019 (2,906)

5. Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2019 (2,590)


Top five indicators from the Condition of Education, by number of web sessions

1. Students With Disabilities (100,074)

2. Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Public Schools (64,556)

3. Characteristics of Public School Teachers (57,188)

4. Public High School Graduation Rates (54,504)

5. Education Expenditures by Country (50,20)


Top five Fast Facts, by number of web sessions

1. Back-to-School Statistics (162,126)

2. Tuition Costs of Colleges and Universities (128,236)

3. Dropout Rates (74,399)

4. Graduation Rates (73,855)

5. Degrees Conferred by Race and Sex (63,178)


Top five NCES/EDGE API requested categories of social and spatial context GIS data, by number of requests

1. K–12 Schools (including district offices) (4,822,590)

2. School Districts (1,616,374)

3. Social/Economic (882,984)

4. Locales (442,715)

5. Postsecondary (263,047)


Top five blog posts, by number of web sessions

1. Understanding School Lunch Eligibility in the Common Core of Data (8,242)

2. New Report Shows Increased Diversity in U.S. Schools, Disparities in Outcomes (3,463)

3. Free or Reduced Price Lunch: A Proxy for Poverty? (3,457)

4. Back to School by the Numbers: 2019–20 School Year (2,694)

5. Educational Attainment Differences by Students’ Socioeconomic Status (2,587)


Top five tweets, by number of impressions

1. CCD blog (22,557)

2. NAEP dashboard (21,551)

3. IPEDS data tools (21,323)

4. ACGR web table (19,638)

5. Kids’ Zone (19,390)


By Megan Barnett, AIR