BLS published several new items this week that I think you will agree are especially interesting. On Wednesday we published a new edition of Spotlight on Statistics to commemorate 2013 as the International Year of Statistics. I have noted previously in the Commissioner’s Corner that the International Year of Statistics is a worldwide celebration of the powerful and far-reaching effects of statistics on people’s lives. The Spotlight on Statistics presents some interesting graphics on employment, unemployment, prices, spending, compensation, and productivity. The Spotlight also discusses how BLS produces the statistics and what they tell us about our economy.
On Thursday BLS published our latest set of long-term projections about the U.S. labor market. We update these projections every 2 years. The latest projections, which look at the changes we expect to see over the 2012–2022 period, are summarized in a news release. BLS projects that the labor force will grow 0.5 percent per year from 2012 to 2022, compared with an annual growth rate of 0.7 percent during the 2002–2012 decade. Projected declines in the labor force participation rates for both men and women are expected to slow labor force growth. As the baby-boom generation ages, workers age 55 and older are expected to make up over one-quarter of the labor force in 2022. Of the 30 occupations projected to have the largest percentage employment increase from 2012 to 2022, 14 are related to healthcare and 5 are related to construction. Nineteen of the 30 occupations projected to grow fastest from 2012 to 2022 typically require some form of postsecondary education for entry. Occupations that do not typically require postsecondary education are projected to add 8.8 million jobs between 2012 and 2022, accounting for more than half of all new jobs. The Monthly Labor Review features a series of articles that examine all the projections in more depth. Here is the list of the articles:
Following the partial government shutdown that occurred from October 1 to October 16, many BLS customers have asked our staff how the shutdown affected survey operations and how workers affected by the shutdown are classified in the household and establishment surveys that are featured in the monthly Employment Situation news release. We have put together a fact sheet to address the most common questions. The Employment Situation for October will be published Friday, November 8, 2013, at 8:30 A.M. Eastern Time. We also have updated our full schedule of news releases planned for the remainder of 2013 from all BLS programs.
BLS recently published a couple items that examine interesting demographic topics in the United States. A Monthly Labor Review article explored patterns in marriage and divorce among the younger portion of the baby boom generation. Eighty-seven percent of these baby boomers had married at least once by the time they reached age 46. Of those who had married, 45 percent had experienced at least one divorce. There were some notable differences in marriage and divorce patterns between men and women and among educational attainment and race-ethnicity groups. For example, men with at least a bachelor’s degree were more likely to have married by age 46 than were men with less education. Among women, the likelihood to marry varied little by educational attainment. For both men and women who had married, those with a bachelor’s degree were much less likely to have divorced than were those with less education. The authors analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which consists of people who were born in the years 1957 to 1964 and lived in the United States when the survey began in 1979. Survey participants were interviewed annually from 1979 to 1994 and have been interviewed every 2 years since 1994. You may wonder why a BLS survey would include questions about marriage and divorce. The main focus of the survey is labor market activity, but the survey questions cover a broad range of topics to enable researchers at BLS and other organizations to understand the other aspects of people’s lives that affect, or are affected by, their labor market activity.
Another recent BLS publication examined women’s earnings in 2012. In 2012, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings of $691. On average in 2012, women made about 81 percent of the median earnings of men who were full-time wage and salary workers. In 1979, the first year for which comparable earnings data are available, women earned 62 percent of what men earned. Between 1979 and 2012, women’s-to-men’s earnings ratios rose for most age groups. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, for example, the ratio increased from 68 percent in 1979 to 90 percent in 2012. The women’s-to-men’s earnings ratio for 45- to 54-year-olds increased from 57 percent to 75 percent.
There are more than 43 million people age 65 or older in the United States in 2013. That number has grown by more than 40 percent in the last 20 years, and the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population of older Americans will continue to grow rapidly. As the population of older Americans has grown, so too have concerns about providing care to people who need help because of a condition related to aging. On Wednesday, BLS published a news release on unpaid eldercare in the United States. Eldercare providers are defined as individuals who provide unpaid care to someone age 65 or older who needs help because of a condition related to aging. This care can be provided to household or nonhousehold members, as well as persons living in retirement homes or assisted care facilities. Eldercare can involve a range of care activities, such as assisting with grooming, preparing meals, and providing transportation. Eldercare also can involve providing companionship or being available to assist when help is needed, and thus it can be performed simultaneously with nearly any other activity. Sixteen percent of the U.S. population age 15 and over (39.6 million people) provided unpaid eldercare in 2011–2012. Nearly one-fourth of eldercare providers engaged in unpaid eldercare on a given day, spending an average of 3.2 hours providing this care. The feature The Economics Daily includes a graphic on the characteristics of eldercare providers.
This has been an eventful week for the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey. On Tuesday, BLS published a news release on consumer expenditures in 2012. Average expenditures per consumer unit in 2012 were $51,442, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2011 levels. The 2012 increase in spending outpaced the 2.1-percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. Most of the major components of household spending increased in 2012. The 11.2-percent rise in cash contributions (including payments for support of college students, alimony and child support, and giving to charities and religious organizations) was the largest percentage increase among all major components. Spending on transportation and health care rose significantly, while spending on housing and entertainment increased modestly. The feature The Economics Daily includes some graphics on trends in consumer spending over the last decade and on spending by category in 2012.
BLS also published a new Monthly Labor Review article this week about the ongoing research on the best ways to improve the Consumer Expenditure Survey. The survey collects information on spending, income, and household characteristics. This information is used by BLS in computing the Consumer Price Index. Information from the survey also is used by economic policymakers, businesses, academic researchers, and various federal agencies. The project to redesign the survey began in 2009 with the goal of reducing measurement error, particularly error associated with underreporting. Other goals of the redesign were to halt or reverse the decline in response rates while also managing operational costs. The article discusses the motivation, challenges, and accomplishments of the redesign initiative.
This week BLS published Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment, 2012. This annual publication is a collection of tables that presents estimates for census regions and divisions, the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 54 large metropolitan areas, 22 metropolitan divisions, and 41 principal cities. Geographic Profile provides the most current source of information on the demographic and economic characteristics of the labor force in subnational areas, from the same survey as the official labor force estimates for the United States as a whole.
We also published two new editions of Beyond the Numbers this week. The first examines the reemergence of the United States as a global petroleum producer. In May 2013, domestic production of petroleum in the United States surpassed imports for the first time since January 1997. The fact that domestic production has outpaced imports is the culmination of trends that have been in motion for a number of years. Imports of petroleum have been declining over the last 7 years, while domestic production has undergone a significant revival. U.S. production has grown as a result of new technologies, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which have been used to extract petroleum and gas from shale deposits once viewed as unprofitable. Coinciding with the large increase in domestic petroleum production in the United States was a decline in the domestic consumption of petroleum. The amount of petroleum consumed in 2012 was the smallest since 1996.
The second edition of Beyond the Numbers published this week looks at the highlights of the 2013 Producer Price Index (PPI) user survey. Survey results reveal that PPI data users are satisfied with the quality of the data, the level of detail presented, and the customer service offered whenever they contact PPI staff. Although these results are very gratifying, we’re not resting on our laurels. The user survey provides important insights into how we might improve the PPI and where we should focus our efforts to expand and improve our measures, as funds and other resources permit.