Announcing new research data on jobs and pay in the nonprofit sector

Have you ever wondered how important the charitable nonprofit sector is to your regional economy or within some industry—and if it is adding jobs? BLS now has authoritative and detailed answers to your questions. I am delighted to announce a new research data series on employment and wages in the nonprofit sector of the U.S. economy. Annual data currently are available for 2007 through 2012. Here are a few facts about nonprofit organizations:

  • They employ a lot of people. Nonprofits accounted for 11.4 million jobs in 2012. That’s 10.3 percent of all private sector employment.
  • Nonprofit jobs are concentrated heavily in the healthcare and social assistance sector. This is the largest component of the nonprofit world, accounting for 68 percent of total nonprofit employment in 2012.
  • They’ve grown throughout the recession and recovery. Employment in nonprofit organizations increased steadily each year from 2007 through 2012.

What do we count as a nonprofit organization in these data? Under U.S. tax law, nonprofit organizations are exempt from paying federal income tax. Although there are several categories of nonprofits, the new BLS data are limited to the largest category, organizations covered under section 501(c)3 of the tax law. These nonprofits are commonly referred to as “charitable” organizations.

These new data are available at the national level for fairly detailed industries. Data for states are available for broad industry categories.

You may wonder how we did this. As with the hurricane maps that BLS published in June, the new research data on nonprofits required no new data collection or respondent burden. The data were created by merging existing BLS data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program with publicly available data from the Internal Revenue Service.

If policymakers, researchers, and the public find these data to be useful, BLS will consider updating them annually as resources permit.

So, please let us know what you think. I invite you to explore the nonprofit data and share your thoughts about the methods used to create the data, the published tables, and the overall usefulness of the information.

Learning about data needs from our customers and partners

With the current interest in labor market conditions, the end of September was a busy time for me—full of good opportunities to speak with some of our customers and partners. BLS serves many different types of customers in fulfilling our mission to bring you objective, relevant, high-quality statistics and analysis in a timely manner. The public—individuals, businesses, and policymakers—all need this information to make better decisions. Thus, we need to understand our customers’ needs. We have forged many partnerships over the years to learn about those needs and how best to conduct our work.

On September 18 I spoke at the meeting in Burlington, Vermont, of the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA). NASWA is an organization of state administrators of unemployment insurance laws, employment services, training programs, employment statistics, and labor market information. Many of our statistical programs at BLS are conducted through partnerships with the state workforce agencies that compose NASWA. I spoke to NASWA members about how we can strengthen our already strong partnerships to use new technologies and data sources to serve the ever-growing data needs of businesses, workers, jobseekers, households, and public policymakers at the national, state, and local levels.

A few days after the NASWA meeting, I spoke in Washington at a meeting cosponsored by the American Enterprise Institute and the International Monetary Fund. The topic of the meeting was “Policy implications of the new U.S. labor market normal.” I took the opportunity to speak to the audience not just about the economic statistics we see in headlines, such as the unemployment rate and job growth, but about other measures that may not be as well known. A few examples of these are the declining but still high levels of long-term unemployment, the still-low number of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs, and the decline since 1998 in job gains from new establishments. I also discussed the slow growth in wages and benefits in recent years. I noted that our nation’s output of goods and services in the business sector increased more than eightfold since 1947, while the total hours worked has not quite doubled. That difference between the growth in output and hours represents productivity growth. Measures of productivity growth are important because, as our economy becomes more efficient, workers and business owners can share the gains and improve living standards. While productivity growth is essential for compensation growth, the two don’t always move in lockstep. Of particular note, since 1973, productivity has expanded at an average rate of 1.8 percent annually, while real hourly compensation has grown at half that rate, 0.9 percent.

Two days later, BLS Associate Commissioner Michael Horrigan and I participated in a conference in Washington at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. The topic of the conference was “Labor Market Slack: Assessing and Addressing in Real Time.” I chaired a discussion session that examined the question, “Can we reconcile slow wage growth and demographic labor supply decline?” In a discussion session on measures of slack, Michael Horrigan described the important perspectives that several BLS programs provide on labor market slack.

At the end of September I spoke in Chicago at the annual meeting of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE). NABE’s members include business economists and others who use economics in the workplace. My talk focused on the opportunities and challenges BLS faces in the years to come. I highlighted some of our recent improvements to data and services, such as the new aggregation system for the Producer Price Index, the BLS Application Programming Interface (API), and the maps and tables of hurricane flood zones on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. I also talked about some improvements that are coming soon, such as modernizing the Consumer Expenditure Survey, providing data on employment and wages in nonprofit organizations, and adding questions to the monthly Current Population Survey about professional certifications and licenses. Our goal at BLS is to be more flexible, modern, and responsive to the nation’s growing data needs. We need to expand our data offerings, but we can’t sacrifice quality, and we must provide the best value for taxpayer dollars.

I always enjoy speaking to groups like these because it helps me and other BLS leaders learn more about the needs of our data users. The more we know about those needs, the better we can provide the public with data that are most useful—that is, accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible.

Introducing the new Career Outlook for students, jobseekers, career counselors, and others

I am delighted to introduce the new BLS publication Career Outlook. Formerly known as Occupational Outlook Quarterly, Career Outlook has a new name, a new look, and new features for students, career counselors, jobseekers, researchers, and others. Career Outlook provides helpful information about choosing an occupation, changing careers, understanding education and training options, and more.

You will find several kinds of articles in Career Outlook.

  • Feature articles present in-depth studies of topics such as occupations and industries, employment projections, and career planning.
  • You’re a what?” articles profile unique or interesting occupations, such as ornithologist and golf ball diver.
  • Interview with a…” lets you follow a worker’s career path in a question-and-answer format.
  • Data on display” showcases data in graphs, along with accompanying analysis.
  • Quick Tips provide links to helpful websites for scholarships and other topics of interest.

Career Outlook articles are written in straightforward language and provide relevant BLS data, where appropriate. A list of related content accompanies each article so that readers can get more information on the topics they want to see. New articles are posted to Career Outlook frequently, so be sure to check back!

You also can sign up to receive email alerts when new Career Outlook articles are published. Just type your email address in the box on the lower right side of the Career Outlook homepage.

Visit the new Career Outlook today!

“Re-Evaluating Labor Market Dynamics” at the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium

Is the labor market recovering well, facing serious challenges, or both? I recently joined about 100 distinguished economists and central bankers from around the country and world to discuss this and other important questions at the 2014 Economic Policy Symposium at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City has hosted this symposium annually since 1978, and this may be the first time that a BLS Commissioner has attended. The topic of this year’s meeting was “Re-Evaluating Labor Market Dynamics.”

The program featured four papers that were presented and discussed, panel discussions on demographics and monetary policy, extensive question-and-answer sessions, and speeches from Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve System, and Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank.

Not surprisingly, BLS data were front and center during the conference. All the papers either used BLS data directly or investigated phenomena seen in BLS data by bringing other data to bear on the issues. Thus, the conference showcased how BLS serves as a trusted source of information essential for formulating good monetary policy and, more generally, for understanding labor market operations, conditions, and trends.

Janet Yellen noted in her opening remarks that the labor market is complex, so monetary policymakers must examine a range of indicators in order to assess the degree of slack in the labor market. I was very gratified to see that most of the expanded set of indicators mentioned by Yellen are produced by BLS.

Overall the discussions at Jackson Hole were stimulating, and I was very pleased to see so much BLS data being used to inform policy discussions.

You can vote for the BLS hurricane maps!

I recently wrote about the team of BLS staff members who created the new hurricane flood zone maps and tables on the BLS website. The team was selected as a finalist for the NextGov Bold Awards, which recognize public servants who conceive and implement bold ideas for using technology to improve the way government works and serves citizens. NextGov invites you to vote this week for your favorite among 20 Bold Award finalists for the People’s Choice Award. There are two ways you can vote. One is to make your selection on the NextGov website, which describes the excellent work of all the finalists. The other way to vote is through Twitter. Just tag @Nextgov, include the hashtag #BoldAwards, and name your favorite finalist.

I’ve read the descriptions of all the teams and projects that were selected as finalists, and they all deserve to be recognized for their innovation. I am especially proud of the work of the BLS team. They created more than 200 maps that show employment, wages, and establishment counts on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts by flood zone category. This is an important new resource that can aid in preparation and emergency response to storms and in understanding the economic effects of storms.

I urge you to take a few moments this week and see the innovative work that is being done by staff across the federal government—and vote for your favorite.