US Should Release Occupational Data in COVID-19 Death Reports

May 14, 2020

Earlier this week, the Guardian reported that UK women working in care occupations are two times as likely to die from COVID-19 as women in professional and technical occupations. In addition, UK men in low-paid, manual jobs are four times as likely to die from the virus as men in professional and technical jobs. The Guardian was able to report these precise estimates because the UK’s Office of National Statistics releases data on COVID-19 deaths among working-age people by occupational groups. The Table from their report, shown below, provides age-standardized death rates (deaths per 100,000) for working-age English and Welsh men in nine major occupational groups.

Age standardised mortality rates of death involving COVID-19, men, among major occupational groups in England and Wales



Managers, directors and senior officials


Professional occupations


Associate professional and technical occupations


Administrative and secretarial occupations


Skilled trades occupations


Caring, leisure and other service occupations


Sales and customer service occupations


Process, plant and machine operatives


Low skilled elementary occupations




All men aged 20 to 64 years


Source: UK Office of National Statistics 


In the United States, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), regularly releases provisional death counts using information from death statistics. The information collected on death certificates in the United States varies somewhat by state. However, the U.S. Standard Certificate of Death collects both the decedent’s “usual occupation” and the related industry. 

NCHS includes age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin in its provisional death counts, but has yet to include occupational information or release an analysis like the recent UK one. NCHS should start including occupational information in its regular releases. We have some general sense from press reports and unions about the hardest hit occupations, like meatpacking, and the demographics of these occupations. The public, researchers, worker advocates and others should have access to the systematic data on deaths by occupational groups available from death certificates.

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