People often interchange the terms labor market information and career information. Both are valuable and essential for planning and decision-making in our rapidly changing world. They are, however, quite different and used for different purposes by different groups of people. Federal and State Departments of Labor produce labor market information (or LMI). LMI consists mostly of data about workers, jobs, industries and businesses, and it includes employment, demographic, and economic data. We produce career information, and we believe it’s important for you to understand the difference between these two types of information.
While LMI often contains narrative explanations, most LMI consists of statistics displayed in columns and tables . Primarily, people who are researching something related to the economy, use it–often for a very specific purpose. They might be business people trying to decide on relocation or economists looking at future economic growth. Planners and policy makers rely on LMI to assist them in making public policy decisions. Educational administrators need LMI to know what programs to offer, so graduates will fulfill labor market needs. Unemployed people occasionally use LMI to identify a retraining path. Mostly professionals use LMI to answer labor market questions.
Career information users are different. They include those who are exploring career opportunities, making career decisions and developing educational plans; along with the people who help them like counselors, teachers and career development specialists. While some of these people are in the labor force, many more are not. The largest single group of people who use career information in CIS are secondary students who are not in the labor force. Moreover, we do not want them in the labor force, because they are not career ready–we want them in school.
People who use career information generally are not labor market experts, able to access and analyze technical labor market data on their own. They want information about the world of work that is linked to information about related educational programs and then to the schools that offer degrees or certificates in these programs. Unlike LMI users, career information users have general questions in mind, like “What kinds of careers match my interests?” and “What should I study in school?”
Many career information users do not know what to look for or where to start. For them, exposure to career information often occurs after completing a career assessment or computerized sort to discover occupations, schools and scholarships that may match them.
Career information looks different than LMI. Instead of numbers and statistics, it consists primarily of words, graphs and pictures. In other words, career information has been synthesized by analysts who write narratives that tell us what the LMI numbers mean. There is also another significant difference; LMI is about the labor market, and career information is about occupations and employers. In addition to information about the world of work, career information includes educational topics like educational programs, schools and financial aid.
Neither LMI nor career information are superior to the other. They are simply different, with different uses and different intended audiences. Without labor market information, those of us who develop career information would never be able to describe occupations accurately. Without career information, most people in the general population would never receive the benefits of the valuable labor market information that exists.
Adapted and included with permission of the author:
Retired Idaho Career Information System Director