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Tag Archives: BLS budget

Catching up on Recent BLS Activities

At BLS, we highly value feedback that can help us improve our economic statistics. Three groups regularly advise us on serving the needs of data users: the BLS Data Users Advisory Committee, the BLS Technical Advisory Committee, and the Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee.

I cannot overstate the value of these committees. They have given us truly wonderful ideas. If you want to join these meetings, they are open to the public. You can learn more about future meetings directly from the committee links provided above. I welcome and encourage you to attend.

As the Commissioner of BLS, my role at these meetings is to give an overview of all the new and exciting things happening at BLS. I want to share these updates directly with you, too.

Budgets for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023

Let’s start with the budgets for fiscal years (FY) 2022 and 2023. For full information on the FY 2022 budget, please see the Department of Labor FY 2022 budget page, which has information on the budget for BLS and other agencies within the Department. You also can see the FY 2023 proposed budget, released on March 28, 2022.

In addition to funding our existing programs, the President’s FY 2023 proposed budget requests additional funds for several BLS initiatives.

We are requesting $14.5 million to continue developing a new National Longitudinal Survey of Youth cohort. We are developing plans for a new cohort called the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 2026 (NLSY26). The NLSY26 will build upon our experience and analysis of two ongoing earlier cohorts:

  • NLSY79: A sample of 12,686 people who were born in the years 1957–64. The survey began in 1979, when sample members were ages 14–22. BLS has followed this cohort of late baby boomers for more than 40 years, recording their lives from their teens into their 50s and early 60s.
  • NLSY97: A sample of 8,984 people who were born in the years 1980–84. The survey began in 1997, when sample members were ages 12–17. BLS has followed this cohort for more than 20 years, and sample members are now in their mid-30s to early 40s.

As in previous National Longitudinal Surveys cohorts, BLS plans to ask NLSY26 cohort members a core set of questions on employment, training, education, income, assets, marital status, fertility, health, and occupational and geographic mobility. We also plan to administer cognitive and noncognitive assessments. We are considering other topics as we consult with stakeholders and subject matter experts in a range of fields.

The FY 2023 budget request for BLS also includes the following:

Expanding Our Data

Moving beyond the budget, one topic that’s getting a lot of attention lately is inflation. We’ve been measuring and reporting on inflation at BLS for over a century, and we are always looking for ways to improve our measurement. The National Academy of Sciences, Committee on National Statistics, recently completed a study that focuses on ways to improve the Consumer Price Index. The report provided 37 consensus recommendations on how BLS can adapt to the rapidly changing digital landscape to improve CPI methods. BLS staff are now reviewing the report and developing an action plan based on the committee’s recommendations. You can read my blog about the report and the full report itself.

BLS recently began publishing monthly and quarterly labor force measures for the American Indian and Alaska Native population on February 4, 2022. We have these data back to 2000. Previously, we published data for American Indians and Alaska Natives only annually. You can learn more about the new data in one of my February blog posts.

We now are evaluating whether we can begin publishing monthly and quarterly labor force data for the Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population and for detailed Asian groups. The populations of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and detailed Asian groups are relatively small, so we need to evaluate whether the Current Population Survey sample size is large enough to produce reliable monthly estimates for these groups. We currently publish annual data for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and detailed Asian groups in our report on Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity.

Updates for Other Programs

I mentioned the National Longitudinal Surveys already, but the program is also doing other great work! In November 2021 we released data for the NLSY97 COVID-19 Supplement. We collected these data from February to May 2021. The survey asked questions about how the pandemic affected employment, health, and childcare. See our brief analysis of some of the COVID-19 data.

We’re also exploring how to measure the value of household production. BLS contracted with a vendor to consider how to use data from the American Time Use Survey on home production and impute the data to consumer units in the Consumer Expenditure Surveys. We expect to receive the recommendations by the end of the fiscal year.

Also in our Consumer Expenditure Surveys, we conducted an online survey test from November 2021 through January 2022 that will help us analyze alternative methods of collecting data. Response rates for most surveys have been declining for years. The COVID-19 pandemic also has made in-person interviewing less feasible. We are currently analyzing the results of the test to learn how we might reverse the trend of declining response rates and be ready for future events that might disrupt data collection.

Finally, we revamped the BLS Productivity program’s web space in April 2022. Information on labor productivity and total factor productivity is now available in a single cohesive and intuitive space. The new web space eliminates redundant material, improves consistency, and includes new material to fill information gaps. It truly enhances the customer experience!

I hope you find these updates useful and that they improve your experience with BLS data. We are always looking for opportunities to improve your experience with our gold standard economic statistics. Be on the lookout for more updates and improvements as we continuously adapt to meet your needs!

Planning BLS Strategy for 2025 and Beyond

The start of the New Year seems like an appropriate time to share the new BLS Strategic Plan, which is designed to provide a roadmap for BLS over the next 5 years and beyond. Today, I want to tell you a little bit about how we developed this plan and then highlight some of its content.

We have a lot of resources to guide us in crafting the strategic plan. Consider:

  • As an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor, BLS provides statistical guidance and support to the department and its agencies. As noted in the Department of Labor’s Strategic Plan, BLS provides sound and impartial information about the economy for decision making.
  • As part of the decentralized U.S. statistical system, BLS works with its sister statistical agencies to share ideas, coordinate common activities, and improve operations.
  • We adhere to various laws, regulations, and policies to ensure that we provide accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible information. Of particular note is the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which reaffirms the confidentiality of statistical information and encourages cooperation and efficiencies across the statistical system.

Using all these inputs, BLS senior staff spent the last year looking both inward and outward to refine our mission and vision, and to identify broad strategies and individual goals and objectives for the coming years. We considered our strengths and weaknesses, looked for opportunities and identified threats, and refined a laundry list of ideas into a concise yet comprehensive plan.

It starts with our mission statement:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures labor market activity, working conditions, price changes, and productivity in the U.S. economy to support public and private decision making.

We then present the values and principles that guide us in fulfilling that mission, including:

  • Independence from partisan interests
  • Consideration of the needs of a diverse set of customers
  • Confidentiality of our data providers
  • Innovation
  • Stewardship of our staff and our resources

The plan includes five strategies, the first of which is to produce objective statistics and analysis, the core work of our agency. While always striving to improve, we must never lose focus on the hundreds of new data releases we produce each year.

The remaining strategies focus on how we do our work, and how we improve upon that work. Strategy 2 is about making improvements in the information we provide and what techniques we use to produce that information. Strategy 3 is about our source data, with special focus not only on traditional survey respondents but also on alternative data sources. Strategy 4 focuses on managing the resources that allow us to do our work, including our people, our funding, and our infrastructure. Finally, Strategy 5 is about you—our customers who come to us for information. We strive to let you have a seamless customer experience today, and we look for ways to make that experience even better tomorrow.

One of our many challenges in developing this strategic plan was to ensure all BLS staff see themselves in the strategies, goals, and objectives. We also want all BLS stakeholders—data providers, data users, researchers, policymakers, and more—to see their unique perspectives addressed. We hope you will take a few minutes to review the BLS Strategic Plan and let us know if we’ve met this challenge. Feel free to leave a comment below.

Why This Counts: Measuring “Gig” Work

With so much chatter about the emerging “gig” economy, you may wonder if BLS has a stat for that. While our regular measures of labor market activity probably reflect a lot of “gig” work, we can’t currently break this work out separately. To do that, we need to repeat a survey specially designed to measure contingent and alternative work arrangements. Fortunately, BLS has conducted such surveys in the past, and I am very happy to say that we will do it again in 2017.

If you follow our monthly and quarterly employment reports, you know we publish lots of information not just on the number of jobs gained or lost but on the characteristics of jobs and workers. What industries or occupations are growing or shrinking? What are the employment trends for states, counties, or metro areas? How many people work part time, either by choice or because they prefer a full-time job but can only find part-time work? How many people are self-employed? How many people have more than one job? These are just some of the questions we can answer regularly with our employment reports. Other questions are harder to answer.

Many people want to know about workers whose jobs are temporary or irregular or not expected to last. So what kinds of jobs are those? You may be familiar with services where drivers use their own cars to take people where they want to go. Customers who need a ride use a computer or mobile app to request a pickup. If a driver agrees to provide a ride, a third party electronically receives the payment from the rider and pays the driver. Other examples of workers we want to know more about are people who sign up online to perform tasks for pay when it is convenient for them.

While many of these short-term jobs are new, similar jobs have been around a long time in the U.S. economy: substitute teachers, truck drivers, freelance journalist, day laborers in agriculture or construction, on-call equipment movers, actors, and photographers. These jobs are often short term, and many people in these occupations now go online to match up with potential employers. Some people call jobs like these “gigs,” much like the Saturday night gigs your high school garage band played. At BLS we call these contingent or alternative employment arrangements. What do we mean by those terms? Contingent workers do not expect their jobs to last, or their jobs are temporary. Workers with alternative employment arrangements include independent contractors, on-call workers, or people who work through temporary help agencies or contract firms.

Not to brag about being ahead of the curve, but we first examined workers like these in a 1995 survey. We conducted similar surveys in 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2005. Sadly, we haven’t had funding to conduct the survey about contingent and alternative work arrangements since 2005. However, I am delighted the U.S. Department of Labor is funding a one-time update to the survey in May 2017.

BLS will conduct the survey on contingent and alternative employment as part of the May 2017 Current Population Survey. That’s the monthly survey from which we measure the unemployment rate and other important labor market indicators. The questions will identify workers with contingent or alternative work arrangements; measure workers’ satisfaction with their current arrangement; and measure earnings, health insurance coverage, and eligibility for employer-provided retirement plans. To be able to compare today’s economy with results from previous surveys, most of the questions will be the same as they were in earlier surveys. We also will explore whether we need to add questions to reflect changes in work arrangements since the 2005 survey.

To keep this information coming in the future, the 2017 President’s budget requests funds for BLS to permanently conduct one supplement to the Current Population Survey each year. If Congress approves this funding, we would ask the questions on contingent and alternative work arrangements every 2 years, with questions on other important topics in the alternating years.

We have a lot of work to get ready for the survey next year, but I’m very excited that all of us will soon have these measures again after so many years without them.

A History and Culture of Efficiency at BLS

We’re always looking for ways to improve our programs and surveys at BLS to provide what I call “gold standard” data. Good data help the American public make better decisions.

BLS has a strong history and culture of looking for ways to provide our data in the most timely, accurate, relevant, and cost-effective manner. I’m incredibly proud of what BLS has achieved through innovation and resourcefulness. Our focus on improving our programs and methods means we can produce better data and provide better service for you.

I am excited the President’s 2016 budget request contains several items to help us meet the needs of our data users. One innovative proposal is to improve the timeliness and detail of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. The new funding would allow us to release each month’s data much sooner, when we publish The Employment Situation. Data users then would be able to analyze net changes in jobs each month alongside information about job openings, hires, and separations for the same month. Having more information more quickly can give policymakers, employers, and workers an earlier warning about downturns or signal an improving economy.

The President’s 2016 budget also proposes funding to measure poverty more accurately. Other agencies use these measures to improve conditions for the poor. BLS would improve the Consumer Expenditure Survey to get more information about school breakfasts and lunches and programs that help pay for home heating and other household expenses. The improved data will help the U.S. Census Bureau develop alternative poverty measures.

At BLS, we work hard every day to improve efficiency. I want to highlight a few notable efficiencies we have made over the past few years.

  • In 2012 we began closing 36 Consumer Price Index data collection offices, allowing those data collectors to work from their homes using smart phones and tablets.
  • This year, we began applying a design change to the Consumer Expenditure Survey that will reduce the number of respondent interviews from five to four; we will use the savings from that change to support a small-scale redesign of the survey.
  • We have reduced mailing costs by redesigning survey mailings and increasing the use of our Internet Data Collection Facility.

Of course, saving money by improving efficiency cannot fund all the work we do, but it can make a big difference.

In sum, we are constantly working to improve the way we do business. We strive to make our work as efficient, relevant, timely, and cost-effective as possible, to deliver “gold standard” data to our customers.

Update on the 2016 President’s Budget for the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The links below provide an overview of the 2016 budget request for the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

While the 2016 budget process continues, the Office of Management and Budget has recently expressed concerns about the level of funding being considered by the Senate:

  • Office of Management and Budget Letter to Senate Appropriators (July 9, 2015)
    • Relevant BLS Text on Page 5: “The bill also includes numerous other problematic reductions that would undermine priorities ranging from generation of critical economic data to Medicare program administration. For example, the bill significantly underfunds the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS produces vital data that support U.S. economic growth, including valuable and highly visible sources of data on the Nation’s economy and workforce that are regularly used by the Federal Reserve; Federal, State, and local government programs; businesses; jobseekers; and many other decision-makers. Under the bill BLS would have difficulty continuing to operate its core programs and would need to permanently eliminate surveys as a result.”

The links below are to the most recent information available on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriation for 2016:

BLS will provide periodic updates on the 2016 budget as the process continues.