The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has staff around the country who serve several critical roles:
- Contacting employers and households to collect the vital economic information published by BLS
- Working with partners in the states who also collect and review economic data
- Analyzing and publishing regional, state, and local data and providing information to a wide variety of stakeholders
To expand the network of local stakeholders who are familiar with and use BLS data to help make good decisions, the BLS regional offices sponsor periodic Data User Conferences. The BLS office in Philadelphia recently held such an event, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
These Data User Conferences typically bring together experts from several broad topic areas. In Philadelphia, participants heard about trends in productivity measures; a mash-up of information on a single occupation—truck drivers—that shows the range of data available (pay and benefits, occupational requirements, and workplace safety); and an analysis of declines in labor force participation.
Typically, these events provide a mix of national and local data and try to include some timely local information. The Philadelphia conference included references to the recent Super Bowl victory by the Philadelphia Eagles and showed how to use the Consumer Price Index inflation calculator to compare buying power between 1960 (the last time the Eagles won the NFL Championship) and today.
We also tried to develop a cheesesteak index, a Philadelphia staple. Using data from the February 2018 Consumer Price Index, we can find the change in the price of cheesesteak ingredients over the past year.
|Ingredient||Change in Consumer Price Index, February 2017 to February 2018|
|White bread||2.5 percent decrease|
|Beef and veal||2.1 percent increase|
|Fresh vegetables||2.1 percent increase|
|Cheese and related products||0.8 percent decrease|
These data are for the nation as a whole and are available monthly. Consumer price data are also available for many metropolitan areas, including Philadelphia. These local data are typically available every other month and do not provide as much detail as the national data.
While the Data User Conferences focus on providing information, we also remind attendees the information is only available thanks to the voluntary cooperation of employers and households. The people who attend the conferences can help us produce gold standard data by cooperating with our data-collection efforts. In return we remind them we always have “live” economists available in their local BLS information office to answer questions by phone or email or help them find data quickly.
Although yet another Nor’easter storm was approaching, the recent Philadelphia Data User Conference included an enthusiastic audience who asked good questions and left with a greater understanding of BLS statistics. The next stop on the Data User Conference tour is Atlanta, later this year. Keep an eye on the BLS Southeast Regional Office webpage for more information.