Tag Archives: occupations

FAQ Friday – What is the difference between occupations and industries?

It’s not uncommon for people to confuse occupations and industries. Both are about fields of work, but they look at work in different ways.

  • Industries are about the type of activity at a place of work — classifying what business, government and nonprofit units do based on their major products or services.
  • Occupations are about what individual workers do — their tasks and responsibilities.

Some occupations are found only in one or two industries, while other occupations are found across many industries. For example, tree fallers and logging equipment operators are almost exclusively found in the logging industry. Stone masons and glaziers are almost exclusively found in some construction industries. Almost all industries have general managers, secretaries and office clerks.

It is particularly easy to confuse industry and occupation where specific occupations are strongly associated with a particular industry — such as doctors, nurses and orderlies being characteristic of the health care industry.

Classification Systems

Federal and state statistical agencies in the United States, Canada and Mexico use the North American Industrial Classification System – NAICS – to classify industries.

NAICS is a hierarchical numerical coding system that begins with broad economic sectors at the top and winnows them down to narrow industries at the bottom. In between there are either two or three intermediate levels. Each level is associated with a numerical code and a title.

Sectors, such as manufacturing, agriculture and construction, are designated by the first two digits in the code. Each establishment is assigned a six-digit code based on its primary products or services. There are 1,084 specific industries.

Industries that have the same first five digits in their code can be “rolled up” into industrial groups. For example, beef cattle ranching – 112111 – and cattle feedlots 112112 – can be rolled into a common cattle-raising group – 11211. In turn, these five-digit groups can be rolled into four-digit collections and the four-digit collections can be rolled into three-digit codes. The cattle-raising group can be combined with dairy cattle and milk product – 112120 – to get a four-digit code. Then, they can be rolled up with chicken and egg, hog, poultry and related. The resulting animal production major group can be combined with growers of grains, beans, fruit, vegetables, cotton, tobacco and peanuts to become a three-digit code – 113 (agriculture) – and then combined with logging, forestry, hunting, fishing and related industries to become 11 (agriculture, forestry, fishing & hunting).

There are 20 major groups:

Federal and state statistical agencies use the Standard Occupational Classification – SOC — to classify workers into 840 occupations. Those occupations then are rolled up into 23 major groups:

One of the best ways to understand occupations is to use O*NET, an online database containing information about occupations and associated skills, abilities, knowledge, work activities, tasks and interests. O*Net is used for career exploration, vocational counseling, finding job skills for résumés or position descriptions and for aligning training with current workplace needs.

— Kathryn.Tacke@labor.idaho.gov, regional economist
(208) 799-5000 ext. 3984

Some Idaho Industries Rebound During Recovery


While the recession is long over, its effects are lingering on some occupations. Economic Modeling Specialists Inc. reported in October that nationally some occupations were rebounding faster than others, specifically those in production. Using its data, Idaho turned out to be similar to the nation, showing that occupations in production rebounded the fastest.

Of the 760 occupations that EMSI estimates employment data on in Idaho, 246 fell by 10 percent or more between 2007 and 2009. Of those, 35 have shown at least a 10 percent growth in employment between 2010 and 2012. This is in contrast to what EMSI reported for the nation as a whole. Nationally, EMSI found only 181 occupations fell by 10 percent or greater and only 14 grew by that much.

Several of the occupations in Idaho had miniscule changes though. Only 15 occupations grew by at least 10 employees during the recovery. Just like the nation, the majority of these occupations in Idaho are in production.

The occupation with the fastest recovery was mining service unit operator, which grew over 30 percent – 11 workers – after the recession ended. Three rebounding occupations added over 100 during the recovery – electrical equipment assemblers, semiconductor processors and machinists. But all three occupations have more ground to cover to reach the highs recorded in 2007.

Almost all of the rebounding occupations required some duration of on-the-job training and paid between $12.18 and $22.57 per hour.

Notably missing from this list were construction occupations, which declined severely in Idaho during the recession but have yet to rebound in any great numbers.

Andrew Townsend, Regional Economist