Helping People With Disabilities Nationwide

Job Obsolescence

by | Jan 25, 2021 | SSD - Return To Work |

Proving a disability claim before Social Security Administration essentially involves showing an inability to perform past work or any other substantial work that exists in the national economy due to a diagnosable medical impairment(s). Social Security Administration will deem that work exists in the national economy when there is a significant number of jobs that meet a claimant’s physical, mental, and vocational limitations. While the job could exist outside the region you live, isolated jobs that exist in relatively few locations are not considered “work which exists in the national economy.” 20 C.F.R. 404.1560.

To determine the number of jobs that currently exist in the national economy, SSA relies upon vocational experts and job data published by the Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics. Notwithstanding, new technology and automation often replace human labor, and some entire occupations have been eliminated since the job data have been published. The job of elevator operator, for example, no longer exists in significant numbers.[1] A 2011 job study also found substantial jobs that might be obsolete, including addresser; tube operator; press clippings cutter-and-paster; head host/hostess; and magnetic tape winder.[2] The job numbers of sandwich board carrier have likewise been called into question.[3]

Although the term ‘significant number’ is not statutorily defined, courts have held that job numbers above 9,000 constituted a significant number, whereas 4,000 to 5,000 jobs nationwide are not a significant number.[4] A vocational expert who is up to date on recent job studies can readily testify as to the number of jobs currently in existence, but the finding of whether those numbers are statistically significant is reserved to the administrative law judge.

[1] Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20 (2003)
[3] Miracolo v. Berryhill, 286 F.Supp.3d 476 (2018)
[4] Hanson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 2016 WL 3960486, at *13 (N.D.N.Y. 2016); see also Leonard v. Heckler, 582 F. Supp. 389, 391 (M.D. Pa. 1983).



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