Identification Number:
Intended Audience:All RCs/ARCs/ADs/FOs/TSCs/PSCs/OCO/OCO-CSTs/OHO/OARO/ DDSs/DPBs/DPUs
Originating Office:ORDP ODP
Title:Isolated Occupations We Will Not Use to Support a “Not Disabled” Finding at Step Five of the Sequential Evaluation Process
Type:EM - Emergency Messages
Link To Reference:See References at the end of this EM.

Retention Date: 09/30/2024

A. Purpose

This emergency message (EM) identifies certain Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) occupations that are isolated. “Isolated” occupations are occupations with jobs that “exist only in very limited numbers in relatively few locations outside of the region where [the individual lives]”; 20 CFR 404.1566(b) and 416.966(b). This EM also explains that adjudicators may not cite work in those occupations to support a “not disabled” determination or decision that uses the medical-vocational guidelines (20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2) as a framework for decision making.

IMPORTANT: This guidance does not apply to determinations or decisions that are based on an individual’s ability to do past relevant work. Accordingly, adjudicators may continue to rely on isolated jobs at step four of the disability evaluation process.

B. Background

At step five in the sequential evaluation process for adult disability claims (and at the corresponding step in the medical improvement review standard used in continuing disability reviews), we must determine whether, considering their residual functional capacity (RFC), age, education, and work experience, an individual can adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. In determinations and decisions in which the medical-vocational guidelines do not direct an outcome under our rules, we use the medical-vocational guidelines as a framework for decision making. When we use the medical-vocational guidelines as a framework and make a finding of “not disabled,” we must support the finding with evidence that an individual can adjust to work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Under our rules, isolated jobs are jobs that “exist only in very limited numbers in relatively few locations outside of the region where [the individual lives].” 20 CFR 404.1566 and 416.966. Occupations with isolated jobs are therefore not considered “work which exists in the national economy.”

In the medical-vocational guidelines and our other rules, we take administrative notice of the DOT and its companion publication, the Selected Characteristics of Occupations Defined in the Revised Dictionary of Occupational Titles (SCO), as reliable sources of information. While these publications provide information about the requirements of work, they do not provide information about how much work exists within occupations or where such work exists within the national economy.

In developing this guidance, we used current federal employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program for the years 2020 to 2022. The OEWS program publishes data using the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. First, we summed the OEWS state level employment data for each year by U.S. Census Division. The Census Divisions divide the states into nine geographical areas, as is explained here. Then, we identified the SOC occupations with fewer than 1,000 employees in each of the nine U.S. Census Divisions in the 2020, 2021, and 2022 OEWS panels. There are 35 SOC occupations that meet these criteria. We then identified the corresponding DOT occupations, using the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) DOT crosswalk file (available here). Using this method, we identified 114 DOT occupations, each of which corresponds to one of the 35 SOC occupations with jobs that exist in very limited numbers in each U.S. Census Division. We will now consider these 114 DOT occupations isolated in all regions of the country.

C. Policy

Under 20 CFR 404.1566 and 416.966, when we make a determination or decision at step five of the sequential evaluation, we will not deny disability benefits based on the existence of isolated jobs which exist only in very limited numbers in relatively few locations outside of the region where the individual lives. We have determined that the DOT occupations listed below currently satisfy the regulatory definition of isolated jobs in all regions of the country.

Our adjudicators may not support a “not disabled” determination or decision under the framework of the medical-vocational guidelines by citing any of the following occupations as examples of other work an individual can perform. We will remove an occupation from this list if we later determine that occupational data demonstrate that it is no longer isolated.

DOT CodeDOT Occupational TitleDOT Industry Designation(s)
013.061-010AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERprofessional and kindred occupations
013.061-014AGRICULTURAL-RESEARCH ENGINEERprofessional and kindred occupations
013.061-018DESIGN-ENGINEER, AGRICULTURAL EQUIPMENTprofessional and kindred occupations
013.061-022TEST ENGINEER, AGRICULTURAL EQUIPMENTprofessional and kindred occupations
021.067-010ASTRONOMERprofessional and kindred occupations
029.067-010GEOGRAPHERprofessional and kindred occupations
029.067-014GEOGRAPHER, PHYSICALprofessional and kindred occupations
045.061-014PSYCHOLOGIST, ENGINEERINGprofessional and kindred occupations
045.107-030PSYCHOLOGIST, INDUSTRIAL-ORGANIZATIONALprofessional and kindred occupations
052.067-014DIRECTOR, STATE-HISTORICAL SOCIETYprofessional and kindred occupations
052.067-018GENEALOGISTprofessional and kindred occupations
052.067-022HISTORIANprofessional and kindred occupations
052.067-026HISTORIAN, DRAMATIC ARTSprofessional and kindred occupations
052.167-010DIRECTOR, RESEARCHmotion picture; radio and television broadcasting
072.101-018ORAL AND MAXILLOFACIAL SURGEONmedical services
072.101-034PROSTHODONTISTmedical services
193.162-022AIRLINE-RADIO OPERATOR, CHIEFair transportation; business services
193.262-010AIRLINE-RADIO OPERATORair transportation; business services
193.262-014DISPATCHERgovernment services
193.262-022RADIO OFFICERwater transportation
193.262-026RADIO STATION OPERATORaircraft manufacturing
193.262-030RADIOTELEGRAPH OPERATORtelephone and telegraph
193.262-034RADIOTELEPHONE OPERATORany industry
193.362-010PHOTORADIO OPERATORprinting and publishing; telephone and telegraph
193.362-014RADIO-INTELLIGENCE OPERATORgovernment services
203.562-010WIRE-TRANSFER CLERKfinancial institutions
235.462-010CENTRAL-OFFICE OPERATORtelephone and telegraph
235.562-010CLERK, ROUTEtelephone and telegraph
235.662-018DIRECTORY-ASSISTANCE OPERATORtelephone and telegraph
236.562-010TELEGRAPHERrailroad transportation
236.562-014TELEGRAPHER AGENTrailroad transportation
237.367-034PAY-STATION ATTENDANTtelephone and telegraph
239.382-010WIRE-PHOTO OPERATOR, NEWSprinting and publishing
297.667-014MODELgarment; retail trade; wholesale trade
299.647-010IMPERSONATOR, CHARACTERany industry
305.281-010COOKdomestic service
338.371-010EMBALMER APPRENTICEpersonal service
338.371-014EMBALMERpersonal service
379.384-010SCUBA DIVERany industry
410.161-010ANIMAL BREEDERagriculture and agricultural service
410.161-014FUR FARMERagriculture and agricultural service
410.161-018LIVESTOCK RANCHERagriculture and agricultural service
410.161-022HOG-CONFINEMENT-SYSTEM MANAGERagriculture and agricultural service
411.161-010CANARY BREEDERagriculture and agricultural service
411.161-014POULTRY BREEDERagriculture and agricultural service
413.161-014REPTILE FARMERagriculture and agricultural service
452.167-010FIRE WARDENforestry
452.367-010FIRE LOOKOUTforestry
452.367-014FIRE RANGERforestry
455.367-010LOG GRADERlogging; sawmill and planing mill
455.487-010LOG SCALERlogging; millwork, veneer, plywood, and structural wood members; paper and pulp; sawmill and planing mill
519.684-010LADLE LINERfoundry; smelting and refining
519.684-022STOPPER MAKERblast furnace, steel work, and rolling and finishing mill
579.664-010CLAY-STRUCTURE BUILDER AND SERVICERglass manufacturing
661.281-010LOFT WORKERship and boat manufacturing and repairing
661.281-022PATTERNMAKER, WOODfoundry
661.380-010MODEL MAKER, WOODany industry
690.682-078STITCHER, SPECIAL MACHINEboot and shoe
690.682-082STITCHER, STANDARD MACHINEboot and shoe
693.261-018MODEL MAKERaircraft-aerospace manufacturing
714.281-010AIRCRAFT-PHOTOGRAPHIC-EQUIPMENT MECHANICphotographic apparatus and materials
714.281-014CAMERA REPAIRERphotographic apparatus and materials
714.281-018MACHINIST, MOTION-PICTURE EQUIPMENTmotion picture; photographic apparatus and materials
714.281-022PHOTOGRAPHIC EQUIPMENT TECHNICIANphotographic apparatus and materials
714.281-026PHOTOGRAPHIC-EQUIPMENT-MAINTENANCE TECHNICIANphotographic apparatus and materials
715.281-010WATCH REPAIRERclocks watches, and allied products
715.281-014WATCH REPAIRER APPRENTICEclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-010ASSEMBLERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-014ASSEMBLER, WATCH TRAINclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-018BANKING PIN ADJUSTERclocks watches, and allied products
715.381-022BARREL ASSEMBLERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-026BARREL-BRIDGE ASSEMBLERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-030BARREL-ENDSHAKE ADJUSTERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-038CHRONOMETER ASSEMBLER AND ADJUSTERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-042CHRONOMETER-BALANCE-AND-HAIRSPRING ASSEMBLERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-054HAIRSPRING ASSEMBLERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-062HAIRSPRING VIBRATORclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-082PALLET-STONE INSERTERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-086PALLET-STONE POSITIONERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.381-094WATCH ASSEMBLERclocks, watches, and allied products
715.584-014REPAIRER, AUTO CLOCKSclocks, watches, and allied products
715.681-010TIMING ADJUSTERclocks, watches, and allied products
761.381-014JIG BUILDERwooden container
788.684-114THREAD LASTERboot and shoe
826.261-010FIELD-SERVICE ENGINEERphotographic apparatus and materials
841.684-010BILLPOSTERbusiness services
850.663-010DREDGE OPERATORconstruction; coal, metal, and nonmetal mining and quarrying
861.381-046TERRAZZO WORKERconstruction
861.381-050TERRAZZO-WORKER APPRENTICEconstruction
861.664-014TERRAZZO FINISHERconstruction
899.261-010DIVERany industry
910.362-010TOWER OPERATORrailroad transportation
910.363-018YARD ENGINEERrailroad transportation
910.382-010CAR-RETARDER OPERATORrailroad transportation
910.583-010LABORER, CAR BARNrailroad transportation
910.683-010HOSTLERrailroad transportation
910.683-022TRANSFER-TABLE OPERATORrailroad equipment building and repairing; railroad transportation
911.663-010MOTORBOAT OPERATORany industry
919.663-014DINKEY OPERATORany industry
919.683-010DOCK HANDair transportation
919.683-026TRACKMOBILE OPERATORany industry
930.683-026ROOF BOLTERcoal, metal, and nonmetal mining and quarrying
952.362-022POWER-REACTOR OPERATORutilities
960.362-010MOTION-PICTURE PROJECTIONISTamusement and recreation; motion picture
960.382-010AUDIOVISUAL TECHNICIANany industry
961.367-010MODEL, PHOTOGRAPHERS'any industry
961.667-010MODEL, ARTISTS'any industry

D. Questions

Disability Determination Services (DDS) personnel should direct all other program-related and technical questions to their Regional Office (RO) support staff using vHelp or Program Service Center (PSC) Operations Analysis (OA) staff. RO support staff or PSC OA staff may refer questions, concerns, or problems to their Central Office contacts.

Office of Hearings Operations personnel should direct questions through their office’s management chain. Regional staff may direct questions about this matter to the Division of Field Procedures in the Office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge.

Office of Appellate Operations personnel should direct questions through their management chain. Managers may direct further questions to the Executive Director’s Office.


EM-24026 - Isolated Occupations We Will Not Use to Support a “Not Disabled” Finding at Step Five of the Sequential Evaluation Process - 06/22/2024