Collaborative Robots

Global Sales of Collaborative RobotsCollaborative robots, or co-bots, are robots that work alongside human workers. Many workers are wary of the increased use of robots in general, fearing the loss of their jobs. M.I.T. and Boston University estimated that up to six people lose their jobs for each robot per 1,000 workers a company adds. Employers, however, cite increased productivity, cost savings, and healthier work environments when robots are used in the workplace. Robots can work in hazardous jobs or do repetitive tasks thereby reducing worker injuries.

Today’s market size shows the total global sales of collaborative robots in 2015, 2020, and 2025. Figures for 2020 and 2025 are projections. According to the Robotic Industries Association, the United States is third behind Japan and China in the total number of industrial robots in use—250,000 in 2017. According to the Brookings Institution, metro Detroit has more than 15,000 industrial robots in place, almost five times the number of any other major city in the U.S.

Geographic reference: World
Year: 2015, 2020 and 2025
Market size: $120 million, $3.1 billion (projected) and $12 billion (projected).
Source: Dolan, Matthew, “Rise of the Robots,” Lansing State Journal, October 30, 2017, page 8A.
Original source: Barclays Equity Research analysts

Employment Websites for Freelancers

Man working with a laptop and notebookAccording to the survey, Freelancing in America: 2016, commissioned by UpWork in partnership with Freelancers Union, 35% of the workforce—55 million people—in the United States were freelancers in 2016. As of June 2017, there were at least 79 active employment websites for freelancers. Employers post jobs they would like to outsource and freelancers apply for or bid on the work. Many of these jobs are temporary, an employer wanting to outsource a particular project for example. Most of the jobs listed on these sites allow the worker to work remotely.

Pricing for these services vary. Some of the firms that run these websites charge employers, freelancers, or both a percentage of the agreed upon hourly wage or fixed-rate salary for the job when a freelancer is hired. Others charge the freelancer a monthly fee or charge employers for posting jobs on their sites. Today’s market size shows the total revenue freelance employment website firms earned in 2016 according to Staffing Industry Analysts, a market research company.

Geographic reference: World
Year: 2016
Market size: $6 billion
Sources: “The Human Cumulus,” The Economist, August 26, 2017-September 1, 2017, page 55; “New Study Finds Freelance Economy Grew to 55 Million Americans This Year, 35% of Total U.S. Workforce,” Marketwired Press Release, October 6, 2016 available online here; Muhammed, Abdullahi, “79 Websites to Get Freelance Jobs Fast,” Forbes, June 16, 2017 available online here.
Original source: Staffing Industry Analysts
Image source: StartupStockPhotos, “Office-startup-business-home-office-594132,” Pixabay, January 9, 2015 available online here.



Apprenticeship programs have been around for centuries. In the most basic sense, an apprentice is somebody learning the skills of a particular trade by working with a skilled worker. In industrialized countries, apprenticeship programs vary greatly from a regulated arrangement between private companies and schools and/or trade unions to less formal arrangements in which a person new to a field of endeavor works alongside somebody already skilled in that field. Most apprenticeship programs include classroom work as well as on-the-job training.

There are many things that play a role in the fluctuations of unemployment rates and these rates tend to be higher for younger people than for those more established in their work lives. Thus, having a youth population that is well trained for the jobs that are available seems a natural aid to keeping the youth unemployment rate down. From the data available on countries of the European Union—where the prevalence of apprenticeship programs is greater than in the United States, although it does vary from country to country—there seems to be a discernible connection between lower youth unemployment rates and the prevalence of robust apprenticeship programs. By way of comparison, we offer the graph that shows the youth unemployment rate for the first decade of the current century for the European Union, for Germany, and for the United States.

While the youth unemployment rate in the European Union as a whole, in 2012, was 23% it ranged widely from a low of 8.1% in Germany to a high of 55.3% in Greece. Interestingly, the two European countries with the lowest youth unemployment rate are also two of the countries in the Union with the most robust apprenticeship programs, Germany and Austria.

In the United States, apprenticeship programs are not as heavily used as they are in Europe. Trade unions used to be primarily a source of such programs in the United States but with the decline in union membership over the last decades these programs have also been in decline. That is until recently. European companies are starting to establish apprenticeship programs in the United States to train the workforce they need for their U.S. facilities.

Today’s market size is the number of people in the United States participating in apprenticeship programs that are registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. The approximate number participating in such programs in Germany is also provided.

Geographic reference: United States and Germany
Year: 2012
Market size: United States: 358,000 (with an additional, approximately 450,000 involved in programs not registered with the Department of Labor)
Market size: Germany: 1.6 million
Sources: (1) “Registered Apprenticeship National Results,” U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, June 7, 2013, available online here. (2) Unemployment Rate by Age Group,” Eurostat, October 31, 2013, available online here. (3) “Apprenticeships: Earn while you learn,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, Summer 2013, available online here.
Original source: U.S. Department of Labor and Eurostat
Posted on December 2, 2013

U.S. Military Personnel

Today’s market size is one of those that we do from time to time that takes liberty with the term “market.” It is the number of people employed by the U.S. Department of Defense, as active duty personnel as well as civilian employees.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: U.S. Budgetary Fiscal Year 2013
Market size: 1,478,000 active duty and 791,000 civilians
Source: “Table 7-5 Department of Defense Manpower,” National Defense Budget Estimates for FY 2013, March 2012, page 259-260. This publication is often referred to as the “Greenbook.” It is available online here.
Original source: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense
Posted on September 11, 2013

Apparel Exports from Bangladesh

The enormous loss of life resulting from the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh a few weeks ago has brought the media spotlight onto that country, as well as the global network of low-end apparel manufacturing. Bangladesh, with a population of approximately 164 million, is the world’s second-largest exporter of apparel. The first largest is China with 1.35 billion people.

Today’s market size is the value of all apparel exports from Bangladesh last year. Of that total, a quarter came as general imports to the United States ($4.47 billion).

Geographic reference: Bangladesh
Year: 2012
Market size: $18 billion
Source: Adam Davidson, “Clotheslined,” The New York Times Magazine, May 19, 2013, pages 16-17.
Original source: A&M University, Texas, Prof. Munir Quddus
Posted on May 20, 2013

Librarian Corp

In an era which defines itself as the “Information Age,” it should come as no surprise that libraries have seen their usage numbers increasing annually for a decade. Today’s market size looks at the Librarian Corp—number of librarians working as librarians in the United States in 2008 and forecasted to be working in 2018 based on projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2008 and 2018
Market size: 159,900 and 172,400 respectively
Source: “Librarians,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, December 3, 2010, available on the BLS web site here.
Original source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

Size of the Labor Force

Employment by sector

Today—in honor of International Labor Day, celebrated on May 1st around the world—we provide a market size for the U.S. labor force in both 2008 and 2018. The projected size of the labor force is just one of many interesting projections published in a work titled Occupational Outlook Handbook, published periodically by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Areas that are projected to see the greatest number of new jobs are the Healthcare and Social Assistance Sector (slightly more than 4 million jobs), the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services Sector (2.66 million jobs), and the Educational Services Sector (1.69 million jobs). The white segments of the bars on the graph show the number of jobs expected to be added between 2008 and 2018 for each major industry. When it looks as if there is no white segment for a particular industry’s bar, well, that means the number of new jobs projected is tiny, invisible at this range.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 2008 and 2018
Market size: 136,800,000 and 166,900,000 respectively, an increase of 22%
Source: “Overview of the 2008-18 Projections,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition, December 3, 2010, available on the BLS website here.
Original source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics

U.S. Postal Service

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employed 656,000 people in 2010 making it one of the largest single employers in the United States. It handles billions of pieces of mail annually and has been in service since before we were even a nation (1775). In fact, the constitution itself calls for the establishment and maintenance of a postal service. While the rise of electronic means of exchanging data has had an impact on the USPS by reducing the number of items it is charged with carrying annually, the USPS continues to provide an important function in our society. Do not be fooled, no for-profit entity would charge the same amount for daily mail pick-up and delivery to those in distant and hard to reach rural areas as it would charge residents of a densely packed city.

It is true that the USPS is operating at a bit of a loss these days but that could be remedied with a few cent increase in the price of a stamp. While the USPS has been downsizing to adjust to the new realities of the Internet age it is also true that from November 1981 to 2010 the price of a standard stamp increased by less than the cost of inflation. The United States has one of the least expensive postal services anywhere. If you’re interested in how the USPS compares with postal rates in other countries, there is a nice chart on that subject available here.

Geographic reference: United States
Year: 1960 and 2010
Market size: Pieces of Mail Handled: 63.7 and 170.6 billion respectively
Market size: Number of Post Offices: 35,238 and 27,077 respectively
Source: Pieces of Mail Handled, Number of Post Offices, Income, and Expenses, 1789 to 2010, available online here.
Original source: United States Postal Service

Will Women Outnumber Men?


The chart above shows the percent distribution of the workforce by gender. Also shown is the labor force participation rates by gender for 1950 to 2025. Until 2015, the participation rates and, consequently, the share of the workforce has increased for women.  In the same time period, the participation rates and share of the workforce for men have dipped. After 2015, the men’s participation rate is expected to continue to decrease. The women’s participation rate is also expected to decrease, but at a slightly faster rate than the men’s.  As a result, the men’s share of the workforce is projected to increase and the women’s share is projected to decrease, thereby reversing the trend of the past 65 years. 

The decrease in men’s participation rates can be partially attributed to the aging of the population. The availability of Social Security benefits made it possible for more men to retire after age 65.  During the 1970s, Social Security payments were relatively high due to over-adjusting for inflation. As a result, even more men over age 65 retired during this period than in the 1960s. When those aged 62 and older became eligible for Social Security, more men retired from the workforce. By 1994, only half the men 62 years and older were in the workforce; in 1970 the ratio was 75 percent.

The change in the Social Security Act of 1960 made those under age 50 eligible for disability payments.  This has been attributed to the decrease by 4.3% in the labor force participation rate of men aged 25 to 34 during the years 1960 to 1998.  A greater availability of pensions also contributed to the reduction of men’s participation in the workforce.

The increase in women’s participation rates coincided with the modern Women’s Rights Movement. More women entered the workforce at younger ages and stayed in the workforce after their children were born. From 1980 to 2000, the participation rate for those women with children under 18 increased by 16.3%.  Those with children under age 6 increased their participation rate by 18.5%.

More women are now heads of household and sole support of their families. In 1995, nearly 28% of all households were headed by women, 16.3% of which were headed by single women — a striking difference from 1950. In that year, the total percentage of households headed by singles was 9.3%, with only a fraction of that headed by women. 

After 2015, the participation rate for women is expected to decline.  This has to do with the increasing diversity of the workforce and the different participation rates of each race and ethnic group.  Hispanics are expected to have the highest growth rate in the working-age population, but the participation rates for Hispanic women are the lowest among the top ethnic groups.  Meanwhile, the white, non-Hispanic working-age population is expected to have the biggest decrease, but this group has the highest female participation rate.  Therefore, the aggregate labor force participation rate for women is projected to decrease.

During this time period, the men’s aggregate participation rate is also expected to decrease, but at a slower rate than the women’s: Hispanic men have a high rate. This helps to offset the decrease in the participation rates of white, non-Hispanic men. As a result, the men’s share of the workforce starts trending upward, while the women’s share starts trending downward.

The next panel discusses gender differences in employment during the past 25 years.

Sources: Fullerton, Jr., Howard N., “Labor force participation: 75 years of change, 1950-98 and 1998-2025”, Monthly Labor Review, December 1999. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Department of Labor. “Table 6. Labor force participation rates of women by presence and age of children, March 1980-2000”, Report on the American Workforce 2001. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001. U.S. Census Bureau.  “Table 1. Projections of Households by Type: 1995 to 2010, Series 1, 2, and 3” Retrieved December 5, 2001 from U.S. Census Bureau. “Historical Census of Housing Tables – Living Alone.” Retrieved December 5, 2001 from: