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[Excerpt] Many congressional policymakers have an ongoing interest in whether the number of U.S. scientists and engineers is sufficient to meet the needs of U.S. employers, to spur economic growth and job creation through innovation, to maintain U.S. global technological leadership and industrial competitiveness, and to address other important national and societal needs.

To help ensure an adequate science and engineering (S&E) workforce, Congress has established and funded a variety of federal programs. These programs are intended to foster improved science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills among students; to incentivize students to pursue degrees in science and engineering through tools such as fellowships, assistantships, and traineeships; and to provide graduate and postgraduate research experiences at U.S. colleges and universities through the financing of university-based research. The 115th Congress is considering a wide variety of legislation to promote STEM education. In addition, Congress is considering changes to immigration policies, among them the number of visas and processes associated with F-1 visas, H-1B visas, L-1 visas, and legal permanent residency (“green cards”), to address U.S. S&E workforce needs.

As Congress develops policies and programs and makes appropriations to help address the nation’s needs for scientists and engineers, it may consider past, current, and projected S&E workforce trends. Among the key factors that labor economists examine for evidence of labor shortages are employment growth, wage growth, and unemployment rates relative to other occupations. This report provides employment, wage, and unemployment information for the computer occupations, mathematical occupations, engineers, life scientists, physical scientists, and S&E management occupations, as follows:

  • The section on “Current Employment, Wages, and Unemployment” provides a statistical snapshot of occupational employment, wage, and unemployment data for the S&E workforce in 2016 (the latest year for which data are available).

  • The section on “Recent Trends in Employment, Wages, and Unemployment” provides a perspective on how S&E employment, wages, and unemployment changed during the period 2012-2016.

  • The section on “Employment Projections, 2016-2026” provides an analysis of projections by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for how the number employed in S&E occupations is expected to change during the 2016-2026 period, as well as how many openings will be created by growth, labor force exits, and occupational transfers.

A final section, “Concluding Observations,” provides stakeholder perspectives that Congress may consider as it seeks to ensure that the United States has an adequate S&E workforce to meet the demands of the 21st century.


Suggested Citation
Sargent, Jr., J. F. (2017). The U.S. science and engineering workforce: Recent, current, and projected employment, wages, and unemployment (CRS Report R43061). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.

A previous version of this report can be found here: