In 2021, the BLS public website welcomed nearly 29 million users, who viewed just over 158 million pages. Wow, that’s a lot of data! It shows the extensive and growing interest in information about our economy. Let’s take a quick look back over the past year. What are the topics of interest? We see clear trends and a few surprises.
From its humble beginnings more than a quarter century ago, www.bls.gov has become the primary way we make the latest BLS data and analysis available to the public.
Today, thousands of users get their first glimpse of the latest economic data through the website or through email alerts and tweets that link to the website. National economic news on employment, inflation, productivity, and other topics is first available on the website, with about 150 national releases each year. Not to be outdone, BLS regional office staff around the country last year posted nearly 1,000 regional and local news releases on the website.
And you came to check out those data—all 29 million of you.
Here’s a look at the five subject homepages that saw the greatest increase in page views from 2020 to 2021. You’ll note that all are timely topics.
The Business Response Survey to the Coronavirus Pandemic was a special data collection effort. Information from this survey was first available late in 2020, so the 166-percent increase in page views in 2021 is not surprising, especially given the great interest in all COVID-19 information. Results from a second round of this survey, with updated questions, will be available February 9, 2022.
Information from the Consumer Price Index also had more than a 100-percent increase in page views from 2020 to 2021, 106 percent increase to be exact. This is not a surprise, given the significant rise in prices recently.
Interest in inflation throughout the supply chain also led to a 60-percent increase in page views for Producer Price Indexes data.
BLS has been collecting data on Work Stoppages (strikes and lockouts) for many years, but interest in these data grew in 2021, perhaps because of several high-profile stoppages. There was a 25-percent increase in page views for these data.
Rounding out the top five was an 18-percent increase in page views for Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey data. With record numbers of job openings and heightened interest in churn in the labor force, these data have garnered much attention recently. We also began publishing a news release on state data in 2021 to meet the growing need for geographic information on job openings and labor turnover.
Turning to analytical data, some of the most viewed pages were those focusing on fast growing industries, inflation at both the consumer and producer level, and the impact of COVID-19 on many aspects of the economy, such as unemployment and food prices. But viewers were also attracted to some unique topics:
The most read Commissioner’s Corner blog was about the 17-year cycle of cicadas, with a look at economic trends during past cicada invasions.
We welcome our 29 million website visitors and encourage you to check back regularly. Your interests drive our commitment to provide timely research on relevant topics. There’s new content every business day, so you never know what new research may be right around the corner in 2022. It will all be at www.bls.gov. See you there!
Soon after I became Commissioner, the top-notch BLS staff shared with me their vision to expand the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). The JOLTS program publishes data each month on the number and rate of job openings, hires, and separations (broken out by quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations). These data are available at the national level and for the four large geographic regions—Northeast, Midwest, South, and West.
That left a major data gap on labor demand, hires, and separations for states and metropolitan areas. BLS provides data on labor supply for states and metro areas each month from the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program. We also provide data on employment change in states and metro areas each month from the Current Employment Statistics survey. Employment change is the net effect of hires and separations, but it doesn’t show the underlying flow of job creation and destruction. Having better, timelier state and metro JOLTS data would provide a quicker signal about whether labor demand is accelerating or weakening in local economies.
About 2 months after the staff briefed me, the JOLTS program published experimental state estimates for the first time on May 24, 2019. We have been updating those estimates on a quarterly basis since then. We use a statistical model to help us produce the most current state estimates. We then improve those estimates during an annual benchmark process by taking advantage of data available from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. The JOLTS program is well on its way to moving these state estimates into its official, monthly data stream. Look for that to happen in the second half of 2021!
Expand the sample to support direct sample-based estimates for each state.
Accelerate the review and publication of the estimates.
Add questions to provide more information about job openings, hires, and separations.
If funded, this proposal would allow BLS to improve the data quality available from the current JOLTS state estimates. It also would let us add very broad industry detail for each state and more industry detail at the national level.
The proposed larger sample size may also let us produce model-assisted JOLTS estimates for many metro areas. To demonstrate this potential, the JOLTS team produced a one-time set of research estimates for the 18 largest metropolitan statistical areas, those with 1.5 million or more employees. These research estimates show the potential for data that would be available regularly with a larger JOLTS sample. I encourage you to explore this exciting new research series and let us know what you think.
Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.
This is just one example of the excellent work I see at BLS every day. The BLS staff are consummate professionals who continue to do outstanding work even in the most trying of times. The entire BLS staff has been teleworking now for several months due to COVID-19, and every program continues to produce high quality data on schedule! Even in these extraordinary circumstances, BLS professionals continue to innovate and find ways to improve quality and develop new gold standard data products to help the policymakers, businesses, and the public make better-informed decisions.
Number of unemployed per job opening in the United States and four large metropolitan areas