WASHINGTON -- The number of workers who died on the job in the U.S. rose 2 percent last year, according to new data released by the Labor Department on Thursday.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 4,679 fatal work injuries last year, up from 4,585 the year before. The figures released were preliminary and will be finalized at a later date; the number of deaths is typically revised upward.
Despite the higher number of deaths, the rate at which workers died on the job was essentially unchanged from the previous year, at 3.3 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers. That's because U.S. workers are logging more hours in the improved economy.
In a statement, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said that the rate at which workers die is still much too high.
"Far too many people are still killed on the job -- 13 workers every day taken from their families tragically and unnecessarily," Perez said. "These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires."
Rebecca Reindel, a health and safety specialist at the AFL-CIO labor federation, told The Huffington Post it was disappointing that the death rate held steady and may be revised higher.
"We know the rate isn't decreasing, and that's a problem," Reindel said.
The preliminary data showed a sharp uptick in deaths in the oil and gas industry. In 2014, 142 workers died in that field, compared to 112 in 2013, marking a 27 percent jump. In April, a report from the AFL-CIO labor federation found that the state with the highest workplace death rate was North Dakota, home of the Bakken oil boom. The report pegged the death rate in North Dakota's mining and oil and gas operations at "an alarming 84.7 per 100,000," or seven times the national rate for the industry.
Reversing a trend of recent years, the number of Hispanic or Latino workers who died on the job last year apparently edged down, going from 817 in 2013 to 789 in 2014.
"While we were gratified by that drop," Perez said, "the number is still unacceptably high, and it is clear that there is still much more hard work to do."
Hispanic and Latino workers are still at greater risk of death on the job than other workers. That's likely because of the work they do -- many work in more dangerous fields like construction and oil and gas -- and, particularly in the case of those who are undocumented or don't speak English, because they may be less likely to speak out about dangers. Nearly two-thirds of the Hispanic and Latino workers who were killed last year were born outside the United States.
One group that did not fare well was older workers. The preliminary number of workers ages 55 and older who died on the job was "the highest total ever reported" by the bureau's census. The number jumped from 1,490 in 2013 to 1,621 in 2014, a 9 percent rise. One likely reason for that rise is the fact that retirement is coming later for many Americans than it used to.