Tag Archives: BLS staff

Why This Counts: How the Consumer Price Index Affects You

Editor’s note: The following has been cross-posted from the U.S. Department of Labor blog. The writer is Steve Reed, an economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Every month, Debi Bertram, an economic assistant in our Philadelphia region, checks the price of milk at a local grocery store. She also goes to several stores to check the prices of items such as toothpaste, sports equipment, and appliances. You may not know Debi—or any of the men and women who collect data for the Bureau of Labor Statistics—but their findings have a real impact on your life.

Among other things, the data are used for making changes in the federal income tax structure and providing cost-of-living wage adjustments for millions of American workers. Additionally, the president, Congress, and the Federal Reserve Board use trends in the data to inform fiscal and monetary policies.

How does it work? BLS data collectors visit or call thousands of locations across the country, from grocery stores to doctors’ offices, to get the prices of about 80,000 different items every month. The data help BLS compile the Consumer Price Index, which measures the average change over time in prices consumers pay for a market basket of goods and services. It is the key measure of consumer inflation in the U.S. economy.

Just got paid

Person's Hand Giving CheckIt’s very possible the CPI helps determine how big your paycheck is. Many employers use the CPI, formally or informally, to decide how much of a cost-of-living raise to give employees. Additionally, many states index their minimum wage by the overall CPI increase. The CPI helps determine how much comes out of your paycheck too, as the IRS uses it to adjust tax bracket thresholds. And many states use CPI data to calculate and adjust workers’ compensation payments.

 

The check’s in the mail

Woman inserting letter into a mailboxMailing a birthday card? The CPI helps determine how much it costs. The Postal Regulatory Commission uses CPI data in the decision about price increases for stamps and postal fees.

 

 

 

 

Back to school

Smiling student eating her lunch.The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Services uses CPI data to determine the annual payments and rate adjustments for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. The CPI is also consulted to adjust thresholds for eligibility to these programs.

 

 

 

 

Got to pay the rent

Hand holding money with a house in the background.The CPI may even affect where you live. Many landlords tie rent changes to CPI increases; in some cities rent increases for some properties cannot exceed the increase in the CPI. The CPI may also come into play if you want to rent government facilities; the CPI for rent is used to adjust fees for using federal facilities.

You can find out more about how the CPI affects your economic life from the CPI webpage.

BLS Staff Member Receives Prestigious Honor

Daniell Toth

ASA Fellow Daniell Toth

One of the things I love about leading BLS is working with so many dedicated and talented professionals, who care deeply about the quality of the statistics we publish. One of our colleagues recently was recognized for his good work. All of us at BLS congratulate Daniell Toth, a research mathematical statistician in the Office of Survey Methods Research, who was selected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.

Only one-third of one percent of the ASA’s membership receives this prestigious distinction. Daniell has been honored for outstanding contributions to survey methods. Among these contributions are better methods for designing survey samples and assessing and reducing the bias that can result from survey nonresponse. The honor also recognizes Daniell’s research on methods to protect the confidentiality of survey respondents. In addition to Daniell’s important research, the ASA recognized his long service to support junior statisticians and researchers, the broader statistical community, and the ASA itself. Congratulations, Daniell!

BLS Microdata Now More Easily Accessible to Researchers across the Country

I am pleased to announce that BLS is now part of the Federal Statistical Research Data Center Network.

Researchers at universities, nonprofits, and government agencies can now go to 24 secure research data centers across the United States to analyze microdata from our National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth and our Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Before, researchers had to visit our headquarters in Washington, D.C., to use these data.Image of researchers examining data.

Making our underlying data more accessible for researchers from coast to coast is a huge step forward, and I hope it will lead to a surge in research using BLS data. I believe that having more researchers use BLS data not only will showcase new uses of the data but improve our products by encouraging researchers from BLS and other organizations to collaborate. It also supports transparency because external researchers can analyze inputs to our published statistics.

Another key benefit to having BLS data alongside datasets from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics is that researchers can combine data from two or more agencies. Using multiple datasets allows researchers to match data to answer new questions with no more burden on our respondents. Put simply, more data = better research = better decisions that rely on research.

Researchers are enthusiastic about adding BLS data to the research data center network.

“We at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta are excited that more BLS microdata are available to researchers. Policy questions are usually complicated. Matched data from different sources can give researchers a much better understanding of economic relationships. That will help us provide more informed policy advice,” said John Robertson, senior policy adviser at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Over the next year, we will add more BLS data to the research data centers based on user demand.

Researchers can also still visit us at our D.C. headquarters to access our full suite of microdata. To learn more and to apply, see our BLS Restricted Data Access page.

Prestigious Award for BLS and U.S. Census Bureau Researchers

There are so many things I love about being Commissioner of Labor Statistics. The part of the job I enjoy the most is working every day with so many talented, dedicated, hard-working people. I am especially pleased when BLS staff members receive recognition for their good work. We recently celebrated one of those occasions.

Thesia Garner and Kathleen Short holding their Roger Herriot Award certificates.

Thesia Garner and Kathleen Short

Thesia Garner of the Office of Prices and Living Conditions and Kathleen Short of the U.S. Census Bureau received the 2016 Roger Herriot Award for Innovation in Federal Statistics at the 2016 Joint Statistical Meetings. The award recognizes the important and extensive research Thesia and Kathleen have done together over more than 20 years to develop better measures of poverty in the United States. Their most recent work focused on producing the Supplemental Poverty Measure. This measure provides insight about the effects of public policies and programs on reducing poverty. Herriot Award winners are chosen by a committee of the American Statistical Association and the Washington Statistical Society. Please join me in congratulating Thesia and Kathleen for this recognition and for their research into improving the ways we measure economic hardship.

Why This Counts: Working Together to Keep Workers Safe on the Road

As summer begins, many of us start thinking about vacation travel. Whenever my family and I go somewhere in a car, I usually don’t think of it as risky. Indeed, over the past couple of decades, traffic safety has improved markedly. Beginning in 2011, traffic incidents were no longer the leading cause of death from injury in the United States, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Despite this progress, BLS data show that transportation incidents continue to be the leading cause of fatal work-related injuries in the United States.

As with so many other risks, we need good data to reduce work-related traffic deaths. Today I’ll highlight a new multi-agency project that links existing datasets to produce rich new insights to help keep employees safer on the road.

fatal-work-injuries-2014

Safety professionals have long considered the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries to be the most complete, accurate, and well-documented count of all types of fatal work injuries. We use a broad range of documents to identify fatal injuries and verify they are work related. We can identify work-related cases that may not be obvious. One example is a person traveling for work but not in a work vehicle. Another example is a commute to work in which the person was also running a work-related errand along the way. For all of these cases, we also collect information on the nature of the injury and the demographic and employment characteristics of the person who died.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is another great source of traffic safety data. Their Fatality Analysis Recording System (FARS) has rich detail on crashes. FARS captures complete data for all vehicles involved in a crash and their occupants. The BLS data, by comparison, only include the vehicle of the person who died and the vehicle or other object it crashed into. The FARS data tell us more about the risks involved in the incident, including road conditions, use of safety equipment, and even driver behavior such as cell phone use.

While research with both datasets has helped to improve traffic safety, neither dataset has complete detail. Over the last several years, BLS has been collaborating with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to merge the data.

The combined dataset provides the accident detail of FARS with the BLS information on the people who died and their jobs. For 2010, researchers matched 91 percent of the 1,044 roadway death cases from the BLS data to a FARS case. BLS researchers will continue to work with their colleagues in the other agencies to analyze the data and gain new safety insights.

The research team published an article recently in Accident Analysis and Prevention to explain how they matched the data from the two sources. The team also has begun a second article to analyze 3 years of the combined data. This project has given us the most detailed and complete look at fatal work-related traffic crashes in the United States. We are excited to gain these new insights into traffic safety. It makes me proud to see top-notch researchers from different agencies work together to understand and solve some of our nation’s most challenging problems. It’s another example of how we strive to use your data dollars more effectively to produce gold-standard information.