Tag Archives: CPI

Labor Day 2019 Fast Facts

I have been Commissioner of Labor Statistics for 5 months now, and I continue to be amazed by the range and quality of data we publish about the U.S. labor market and the well-being of American workers. As we like to say at BLS, we really do have a stat for that! We won’t rest on what we have done, however. We continue to strive for more data and better data to help workers, jobseekers, students, businesses, and policymakers make informed decisions. Labor Day is a good time to reflect on where we are. This year is the 125th anniversary of celebrating Labor Day as a national holiday. Before you set out to enjoy the long holiday weekend, take a moment to look at some fast facts we’ve compiled on the current picture of our labor market.

Working

Working or Looking for Work

  • The civilian labor force participation rate—the share of the population working or looking for work—was 63.0 percent in July 2019. The rate had trended down from the 2000s through the early 2010s, but it has remained fairly steady since 2014.

Not Working

  • The unemployment rate was 3.7 percent in July. In April and May, the rate hit its lowest point, 3.6 percent, since 1969.
  • In July, there were 1.2 million long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more). This represented 19.2 percent of the unemployed, down from a peak of 45.5 percent in April 2010 but still above the 16-percent share in late 2006.
  • Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers was 12.8 percent in July 2019, while the rates were 3.4 percent for both adult women and adult men. The unemployment rate was 6.0 percent for Blacks or African Americans, 4.5 percent for Hispanics or Latinos, 2.8 percent for Asians, and 3.3 percent for Whites.

Job Openings

Pay and Benefits

  • Average weekly earnings rose by 2.6 percent from July 2018 to July 2019. After adjusting for inflation in consumer prices, real average weekly earnings were up 0.8 percent during this period.
  • Civilian compensation (wage and benefit) costs increased 2.7 percent in June 2019 from a year earlier. After adjusting for inflation, real compensation costs rose 1.1 percent over the year.
  • Paid leave benefits are available to most private industry workers. The access rates in March 2018 were 71 percent for sick leave, 77 percent for vacation, and 78 percent for holidays.
  • About 91 percent of civilian workers with access to paid holidays receive Labor Day as a paid holiday.
  • In March 2018, civilian workers with employer-provided medical plans paid 20 percent of the cost of medical care premiums for single coverage and 32 percent for family coverage.

Productivity

  • Labor productivity—output per hour worked—in the U.S. nonfarm business sector grew 1.8 percent from the second quarter of 2018 to the second quarter of 2019.
  • Some industries had much faster growth in 2018, including electronic shopping and mail-order houses (10.6 percent) and wireless telecommunications carriers (10.1 percent).
  • Multifactor productivity in the private nonfarm business sector rose 1.0 percent in 2018. That growth is 0.2 percentage point higher than the average annual rate of 0.8 percent from 1987 to 2018.

Safety and Health

Unionization

  • The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.5 percent in 2018, down by 0.2 percentage point from 2017. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.

Work Stoppages

  • In the first 7 months of 2019, there have been 307,500 workers involved in major work stoppages that began this year. (Major work stoppages are strikes or lockouts that involve 1,000 or more workers and last one full shift or longer.) For all of 2018, there were 485,200 workers involved in major work stoppages, the largest number since 1986, when about 533,100 workers were involved.
  • There have been 15 work stoppages beginning in 2019. For all of 2018, 20 work stoppages began during the year.

Education

  • Occupations that typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry made up 22 percent of employment in 2018. This educational category includes registered nurses, teachers at the kindergarten through secondary levels, and many management, business and financial operations, computer, and engineering occupations.
  • For 18 of the 30 occupations projected to grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026, some postsecondary education is typically required for entry. Be sure to check out our updated employment projections, covering 2018 to 2028, that we will publish September 4!

From an American worker’s first job to retirement and everything in between, BLS has a stat for that! Want to learn more? Follow us on Twitter @BLS_gov.

Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Statistics

Summer is in full swing, which means that when I’m not talking about BLS data, I’m talking about baseball, something I could do full time. Luckily these two topics have a lot in common; nothing quite says statistics in the summertime like baseball does. We fans have followed baseball statistics for nearly as long as the game has been played. Teams today increasingly use statistics—or “analytics”—to decide which players to add to their rosters, who to play in any game situation, and even where to position fielders for certain batters. That’s a lot like the innovations BLS and the other federal statistical agencies focus on to help people make informed decisions for their families, businesses, and the broader economy.

I grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan until the mid-1960s, when the lamentable Kansas City Athletics moved to Oakland and the American League expansion team, Kansas City Royals, brought winning baseball to Kansas. I had a second home, as it were, in the seats of Kauffman Stadium, or “The K” to us Kansas City Royals fans. Today I cheer for the Washington Nationals, having lived in the D.C. area for the past 25 years. Regardless of your favorite team, if you’re a baseball fan you know statistics are a huge part of how your team performs. While I could talk about George Brett’s batting average, home runs, or wins above replacement, let’s instead look at where America’s agency on labor data meets America’s favorite pastime.

Spectator sports employed over 144,000 workers in 2018. The map below shows the metropolitan areas with the most jobs in spectator sports. The New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA metro area, home of the Yankees and Mets, employs the most people at 8,674. Spectator sports include all professional and semi-professional sport teams.

Employment in spectator sports by metropolitan area, 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this map are available in the table below.

Also consider the Occupational Employment Statistics program. In 2018, there were 27,780 radio and television announcers and 7,480 public address announcers. There were also 236,970 coaches and scouts and 19,090 umpires and referees in 2018.

Here’s a look at some of the occupations within the spectator sports industry:

Employment in selected occupations in the spectator sports industry, May 2018

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

If you’re going to the game, the Consumer Price Index can tell you how prices have changed over time. For example, ticket prices for sporting events decreased 0.8 percent from June 2018 to June 2019. Over the same period, parking fees and tolls increased 3.2 percent and prices for food away from home increased 3.1 percent. At the low end of the increases is beer away from home—a modest 0.8 increase over the year.

Or maybe you just decide to enjoy the game in front of your new 80-inch flat screen TV. You aren’t alone. According to the American Time Use Survey, Americans spend, on average, 2.84 hours a day watching television in 2017. That’s almost enough time to watch your typical 9-inning baseball game.

Can we squeeze any more baseball out of BLS statistics? There’s wage data for ushers, occupational injuries for umpires, and productivity in certain recreation industries. But we’ll save that for another day. For now, sit back and enjoy the game. Play Ball!

Employment in spectator sports by metropolitan area, 2018
Metropolitan area Employment
Abilene, TX 14
Akron, OH 215
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 537
Albuquerque, NM 241
Anchorage, AK 204
Ann Arbor, MI 84
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 1,948
Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 314
Austin-Round Rock, TX 1,071
Bakersfield, CA 229
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 1,872
Bangor, ME 32
Barnstable Town, MA 9
Baton Rouge, LA 15
Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 5
Billings, MT 78
Birmingham-Hoover, AL 372
Bloomington, IL 54
Boulder, CO 22
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT 83
Burlington-South Burlington, VT 92
Canton-Massillon, OH 13
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL 718
Charleston, WV 118
Charleston-North Charleston, SC 256
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 6,081
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 4,763
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 1,473
Cleveland-Elyria, OH 2,019
Coeur d’Alene, ID 36
College Station-Bryan, TX 20
Colorado Springs, CO 214
Columbia, SC 383
Columbus, OH 813
Corpus Christi, TX 153
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 3,392
Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL 1,294
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 999
Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 375
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI 1,682
Dover, DE 222
Dubuque, IA 72
Duluth, MN-WI 75
El Paso, TX 269
Erie, PA 105
Eugene, OR 67
Evansville, IN-KY 209
Fairbanks, AK 29
Flint, MI 6
Florence, SC 43
Fort Collins, CO 4
Fresno, CA 542
Grand Junction, CO 67
Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI 234
Great Falls, MT 72
Greeley, CO 96
Greenville, NC 54
Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 234
Gulfport-Biloxi-Pascagoula, MS 121
Hagerstown-Martinsburg, MD-WV 21
Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA 316
Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT 233
Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC 111
Hot Springs, AR 665
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 2,968
Huntington-Ashland, WV-KY-OH 27
Huntsville, AL 47
Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN 2,786
Jacksonville, FL 1,397
Janesville-Beloit, WI 52
Joplin, MO 11
Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI 3
Kansas City, MO-KS 1,737
Kennewick-Richland, WA 84
Lake Charles, LA 11
Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL 387
Lancaster, PA 160
Las Cruces, NM 18
Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 835
Lebanon, PA 16
Lexington-Fayette, KY 1,556
Lincoln, NE 172
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, AR 148
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 7,100
Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN 1,337
Lubbock, TX 12
Manchester-Nashua, NH 144
Medford, OR 23
Memphis, TN-MS-AR 1,349
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 6,476
Midland, TX 99
Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI 2,218
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 3,337
Missoula, MT 20
Mobile, AL 79
Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC 171
Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL 23
Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN 721
New Orleans-Metairie, LA 1,522
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 8,674
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL 549
Norwich-New London, CT 85
Ocala, FL 490
Ogden-Clearfield, UT 120
Oklahoma City, OK 1,227
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 82
Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL 301
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ 4,398
Pittsburgh, PA 1,603
Pittsfield, MA 21
Portland-South Portland, ME 317
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA 1,042
Providence-Warwick, RI-MA 348
Raleigh, NC 1,339
Reading, PA 198
Richmond, VA 381
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 688
Roanoke, VA 98
Rochester, NY 676
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA 957
Salem, OR 56
Salisbury, MD-DE 138
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 757
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 1,720
Santa Rosa, CA 223
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,176
Sherman-Denison, TX 6
Sioux Falls, SD 138
Spartanburg, SC 15
Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 209
St. George, UT 20
St. Joseph, MO-KS 13
St. Louis, MO-IL 1,608
State College, PA 75
Stockton-Lodi, CA 130
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL 3,302
Trenton, NJ 159
Tucson, AZ 83
Tulsa, OK 281
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC 148
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 2,931
Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA 65
Watertown-Fort Drum, NY 15
Wausau, WI 34
Weirton-Steubenville, WV-OH 18
Wheeling, WV-OH 47
Winston-Salem, NC 414
Worcester, MA-CT 97
Yakima, WA 21
York-Hanover, PA 156
Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, OH-PA 84
Yuba City, CA 34
Employment in selected occupations in the spectator sports industry, May 2018
Occupation Employment
Security guards 8,490
Ushers 7,610
Food and beverage servers 6,980
Groundskeepers 2,350
Parking lot attendants 1,850

The Griswold Family Vacation through the Lens of BLS Data

We have a guest blogger for this edition of Commissioner’s Corner. Joy Langston is a budget analyst at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. She enjoys watching classic movies when she’s not working.

As summer wraps up, let’s slow the transition into cooler weather to explore the dream American summer vacation of the Griswold family. America first met the Griswolds in the cult classic National Lampoon’s Vacation. We’ll relive their vacation through the lens of our gold-standard data. Clark Griswold, the easygoing and optimistic patriarch of the family, wants a fun vacation with his wife, Ellen, and adolescent son and daughter, Rusty and Audrey, before the kids grow up. For the past 15 years, Clark has worked as a food scientist creating “new and better food additives.” Data from the 2017 Employee Benefits Survey show that after 10 years of service, full-time workers like Clark receive on average 18 days of vacation, or almost 4 weeks.

Since he has the time, Clark decides to lead the family on a cross-country expedition from the Chicago suburbs to Walley World — “America’s Favorite Family Fun Park” in Southern California. Ellen agrees to the destination but wants to fly, as it will be less of a hassle. However, data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys suggest driving may not be a bad idea. The average amount a household spent on vacations was $2,076 in 2017, with $684 for transportation costs, so flying from Chicago to Southern California was likely not in the Griswolds’ budget. To jumpstart this trip, Clark ordered the new “Antarctic Blue Super Sports Wagon with the Rally Fun Pack” from the local car dealership. He is scammed into buying the far less appealing, but now iconic, metallic pea, wood grained trimmed station wagon instead. Nevertheless, Clark is determined to make this the best family vacation ever.

Eventually, Ellen gives in to her husband’s enthusiasm and the Griswolds embark on their adventure, but not before stopping for their first tank of gas. You may remember that Clark struggled to find the gas tank, which was ridiculously located under the hood, by the engine, on the passenger’s side. The average household spent $109 in 2017 on gas for out-of-town trips and $1,797 for all uses. In July 2018, the national average price of gas was $2.93 per gallon, according to the Consumer Price Index. Although America has traded in station wagons for SUVs, neither are gas efficient and the Griswolds probably had to fuel up frequently on the 2,460-mile drive.

The family’s first misstep includes taking the wrong exit in St. Louis, Missouri, where they lose a couple of car parts while stopping to ask for directions in a questionable neighborhood. Despite this portrayal of St. Louis, the Occupational Employment Statistics data show this metro area had about 1.4 million jobs in 2017. About 16 percent of them were in office and administrative support occupations, with an average wage of $37,720 per year. Another 10 percent of jobs were in sales and related occupations, and 7 percent were in healthcare practitioners and technical occupations.

Driving through Kansas, they stop in Dodge City to experience life in the Wild West and order drinks in a saloon. According to the Current Employment Statistics survey, stops like these, including historical sites and other historical institutions, provide an average of 69,000 jobs from May to August nationwide.

The Griswolds make it to Coolidge, Kansas, where Ellen’s cousins live. The cousins pressure Clark and Ellen into dropping off cantankerous Aunt Edna — and her equally feisty dog — at her son’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. According to the American Time Use Survey Americans spend an average of 39 minutes a day — or about 237 hours a year — socializing and communicating in person. The survey also shows that Americans spend an average 4 minutes a day caring for and helping nonhousehold adults. The Griswold family gets a concentrated dose of this social activity by adding Aunt Edna to their road trip party.

For lunch, they stop off at rest stop to enjoy some homemade sandwiches. The average American household spent $56 in 2017 on food prepared for out-of-town trips, and $3,365 on food away from home (including fast food establishments and full service restaurants). The Griswolds’ enjoyment is cut short when they realize there is more to their soggy baloney cheese sandwiches than they bargained for. As it turns out, Aunt Edna’s spiteful dog used the picnic basket as a bathroom during the car ride. If you’re driving with a pet and want to avoid this mishap, Kansas has more than 4,600 restaurants and eating places to choose from, according to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

They spend the night in one of Colorado’s 98 campgrounds in three large, smelly tents. Despite their positive attitudes the next morning, the Griswolds meet with more misfortunes, including being pulled over by a state trooper, Ellen losing her bag with the credit cards, quarrels over their dwindling cash supply, and crashing in the Arizona desert while trying to find a shortcut to the Grand Canyon. After they are rescued and towed to a service station, Clark haggles with the local mechanic, who doubles as the local sheriff, and takes the rest of Clark’s cash. The average American household spent $954 on car maintenance and repairs in 2017, although costs usually are spread throughout the year and not on vacation misadventures.

By the time they drop off Aunt Edna in Phoenix, Ellen and the kids are begging Clark to buy plane tickets to go back home. However, Clark’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned, and he declares this road trip a pilgrimage.

When they finally arrive at Walley World, they discover it is closed for the next two weeks for repairs. Exasperated, Clark demands the security guard open the gates and let the family into the park. After a couple rollercoaster rides, the SWAT team and owner of the park, Roy Walley, arrive. As the police put handcuffs on Clark’s family, Clark begs Roy not to press charges. Clark persuades Roy not only to drop the charges but to allow the family to stay and enjoy all the rides! Americans do love their theme parks. There were nearly 1,000 theme parks in the United States in 2017, with 87 of them in California. These parks provided 185,000 jobs nationwide. This industry increased its labor productivity 13.7 percent in 2017, as theme parks reported higher output while hours worked by employees decreased.

Over the course of their trip, the Griswolds share a number of experiences, many of which either hit a little too close to home, or we hope to never experience for ourselves. After a long and tiresome trip, we hope Ellen finally has her way and Clark doesn’t force the Griswolds to spend another two weeks driving back to Chicago, which would deplete all his vacation days! This classic summer movie shows that BLS really does have a stat for that!

Why This Counts: What is the Producer Price Index and How Does It Impact Me?

The Producer Price Index (PPI) – sounds familiar, but what is it exactly? Didn’t it used to be called the Wholesale Price Index? It is related to the Consumer Price Index, but how? How does the PPI impact me?

Lots of questions! In this short primer we will provide brief answers and links for more information. Note, if you are an economist, this blog is NOT for you. It’s an introduction for everyone else!

Video: Introduction to the Producer Price Index

Before we go any further – what is an index? (You said this was a primer!)

An index is like a ruler. It is a way of measuring the change of just about anything. Producer price indexes measure the average change in prices for goods, services, or construction products sold as they leave the producer.

Here is an example of how an index works:

  • Suppose we created an index to track the price of a gallon of gasoline.
  • When we start tracking, gasoline costs $2.00 a gallon.
  • The starting index value is 100.0.
  • When gasoline rises to $2.50, our index goes to 125.0, which reflects a 25-percent increase in the price of gasoline.
  • If gasoline then drops to $2.25, the index goes to 112.5. The $0.25 decline in price reflects a 10-percent decrease in the price of gasoline from when the price was $2.50.

If you are a gasoline dealer, you might find a gasoline index useful. Instead of driving around every day to write down the prices of each competitor’s gasoline and averaging them together, the index can provide the data for you. (Question #5 in the PPI Frequently Asked Questions explains how to interpret an index.)

PPI is called a “family” of indexes. There are more than 10,000 indexes for individual products we release each month in over 500 industries. That is one big family!

OK, so PPI has lots of data – but what kind of data?

PPI produces three main types of price indexes: industry indexes, commodity indexes, and final demand-intermediate demand (FD-ID) indexes.

An industry refers to groups of companies that are related based on their primary business activities, such as the auto industry. The PPI measures the changes in prices received for the industry’s output sold outside the industry.

  • PPI publishes about 535 industry price indexes and another 500 indexes for groupings of industries.
  • By using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) index codes, data users can compare PPI industry-based information with other economic programs, including productivity, production, employment, wages, and earnings.

The commodity classification of the PPI organizes products by type of product, regardless of the industry of production. For example, the commodity index for steel wire uses pricing information from the industries for iron and steel mills and for steel wire drawing.

  • PPI publishes more than 3,700 commodity price indexes for goods and about 800 for services.
  • This classification system is unique to the PPI and does not match any other standard coding structure.

We also have more information on the differences between the industry and commodity classification systems.

The FD-ID classification of the PPI organizes groupings of commodities by the type of buyer. For example, the PPI for final demand measures price change in all goods, services, and construction products sold as personal consumption, capital investment, export, or to government. As a second example, the PPI for services for intermediate demand measures price change for services sold to business as inputs to production.

  • PPI publishes more than 300 FD-ID indexes.
  • This FD-ID classification system is unique to the PPI and does not match any other standard coding structure.

Now let’s go back to the beginning

  • 1902: Wholesale Price Index program begins, which makes it one of the oldest continuous set of federal statistics. The Wholesale Price Index captures the prices producers receive for their output. In contrast, the Consumer Price Index captures the prices consumers pay for their purchases.
  • 1978: BLS renames the program as the Producer Price Index to more accurately reflect that prices are collected from producers, rather than wholesalers.
  • PPI also shifts emphasis from a commodity index framework to a stage of processing index framework. This minimized the multiple counting that can occur when the price for a specific commodity and the inputs to produce that commodity are included in the same total index. For example, think of gasoline and crude petroleum both included in an all-commodities index.
  • 1985: PPI starts expanding its coverage of the economy to include services and nonresidential construction. As of January 2018, about 71 percent of services and 31 percent of construction are covered.
  • 2014: PPI introduces the Final Demand-Intermediate Demand system.
  • The “headline” number for PPI is called the PPI for Final Demand. It measures price changes for goods, services, and construction sold for personal consumption, capital investment, government purchases, and exports. We also produce a series of PPIs for Intermediate Demand, which measure price change for business purchases, excluding capital investment.
  • Let me give you an example: Within the PPI category for loan services, we have separate indexes for consumer loans and business loans. The commodity index for consumer loans is included in the final demand index and the commodity index for business loans is mostly in an intermediate demand index.
  • The Frequently Asked Question on the PPI for Final Demand provides even more information on this new way of measuring the PPI. The blog, Understanding What the PPI Measures, may also be helpful.
  • We also have an article that explains how the PPI for final demand compares with other government prices indexes, such as the CPI.

Why is the PPI important?

To me?

  • Inflation is the higher costs of goods and services. Low inflation may be good for the economy as it increases consumer spending while boosting corporate profits and stocks.
  • A change in producer prices may be a leading indicator of consumers paying more or less. Higher producer prices may mean consumers will pay more when they buy, whereas lower producer prices may mean consumers will pay less to retailers. For example, if the PPI gasoline index increases, you may see an increase soon at the pump!

To others (which may impact me!)?

  • Policymakers, such as the Federal Reserve, Congress, and federal agencies regularly watch the PPI when making fiscal and monetary policies, such as setting interest rates for consumers and businesses.
  • Business people use the PPI in deciding price strategies, as they measure price changes in inputs for their goods and services. For example, a company considering a price increase can use PPI data to compare the growth rate of their own prices with those in their industry.
  • Business people adjust purchase and sales contracts worth trillions of dollars by using the PPI family of indexes. These contracts typically specify dollar amounts to be paid at some point in the future. For example, a long-term contract for bread may be escalated for changes in wheat prices by applying the percent change in the PPI for wheat to the contracted price for bread.

Video: How the Producer Price Index is Used for Contract Adjustment

PPI is a voluntary survey completed by thousands of businesses nationwide every month. BLS carefully constructs survey samples to keep the number of contacts to a minimum, making every business, large and small, critical to the accuracy of the data. We thank you, our faithful respondents! Without you, BLS could not produce gold-standard PPI data.

Finally, check out the most recent monthly PPI release to get all the latest numbers. Head to the PPI Frequently Asked Questions to learn more. Or contact the PPI information folks at (202) 691-7705 or ppi-info@bls.gov.

Want to learn more about BLS price programs? See these blogs:

 

Reaching out to Stakeholders—and Steakholders—in Philadelphia

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

Image of a Philadelphia cheesesteak

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.