Many U.S. Workers in Critical Occupations in the Fight Against COVID-19 (Revised)


Over 100 million U.S. workers are employed in the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce battling COVID-19 based on a new research resource from the LMI Institute and C2ER

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the United States, many states and communities have enacted “Stay-at-Home” orders with exemptions for essential businesses and workers. The list of businesses and occupations deemed “essential” is not uniform, nor clearly defined in most cases using the government-established classification scheme for industries and occupations. This can create difficulties for the ongoing monitoring and longer-term analysis of impacts from these mitigation efforts.

In an effort to help workforce and labor market information (LMI) professionals, as well as other state, community and economic researchers provide the best possible information to inform policymakers, the LMI Institute and C2ER has produced the following list of Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) codes connected to critical infrastructure (e.g., essential) industries. The list is based on the Department of Homeland Security’s guidance for identifying the critical infrastructure workforce during COVID-19 response.

See: DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce

Download SOC Codes for CISA Critical Infrastructure Workers Rev. 1 (XLS)

According to the federal standard, more than 104 million U.S. workers, or 71 percent of the total U.S. workforce, are employed in the “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce” battling COVID-19. Critical worker numbers vary by state, with around 75 percent employed in these essential occupations in Mississippi, Indiana, and Kentucky, to a low of 48 percent in the District of Columbia.

The LMI Institute and C2ER used the DHS memo to identify the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) definitions connected to medical and healthcare, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement, and public works industries. The SOC system is a federal statistical standard used by federal agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. All workers are classified into one of 867 detailed occupations according to their occupational definition. Additional occupations codes were identified using job titles and descriptions to search O*NET On-Line and then to identify the appropriate SOC equivalent. Total numbers of workers by SOC, nationally and for states and territories, and the O*Net system are public resources maintained by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Employment and Training Administration (ETA), working in cooperation with state agency researchers to maintain consistency in data collection.

The file and post were revised April 3, 2020 based on newly available 2019 OES data.  Additional revisions were made to the methodology to correct for inconsistencies between OES SOC coding and the 2018 SOC definitions.

Please note: While instructive, the list of SOC codes provided, similar to the disclaimer attached to the Department of Homeland Security guidance, is advisory in nature. It is not intended to be the exclusive list of critical infrastructure sectors, workers, and functions that should continue during the COVID-19 response across all jurisdictions. Individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion.    

For more information, contact Marty Romitti at the LMI Institute.