What is the Bureau of Labor Statistics? Definition, function and importance

The BLS is headquartered in the Postal Square Building (pictured here) in Washington, DC

What is the Bureau of Labor Statistics? What does it do?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, is a federal agency that collects and disseminates labor, wage, productivity, and price information on behalf of the US government. Its parent organization is the US Department of Labor.

The BLS bills itself as the “prime investigative agency of the federal government in the broad field of economics and labor statistics” and, according to USA.gov, its purpose is to measure “labor force activity , working conditions and price variations”. in the economy”.

It is responsible for publishing the monthly consumer and producer price indices – the two benchmarks most commonly used to measure inflation – as well as the monthly report on the employment situation, which includes the unemployment rate. widely followed, a major indicator of the economic health of the country.

The information that the BLS studies, compiles, and publishes is crucial to the decisions of investors, policymakers, and even the Federal Reserve. In fact, the Fed specifically looks at both price indexes and employment data released by the bureau when deciding whether to raise, lower, or hold the fed funds rate. This is the interest rate range for interbank lending, and it’s considered the “one rate to rule them all”, in that it informs on everything from bond prices to loan rates. consumer and business, and exchange rates.

Important reports published by the BLS

The BLS publishes a variety of reports on monthly, quarterly and annual bases. Some of these reports include data from one particular survey, while others include data from two or more surveys conducted by the office. The three most important reports published by the bureau are the consumer price index, the producer price index and the employment situation report.

Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The Consumer Price Index is essentially a weighted average aggregate of the prices of common consumer goods and services in the United States. Sample categories include food and beverages, housing, clothing, transportation, medical care, recreation, education and communication, and other goods and services.

Changes in the CPI over time are used by analysts, economists and the Fed to estimate the rate of inflation for consumer goods and services.

Producer Price Index (PPI)

The Producer Price Index is an estimate of the average value of all first-stage domestic goods and services for a given month. It is very similar to the CPI, but instead of sampling and averaging the prices of consumer-facing products and services, it samples and averaging the prices of first-stage products and services – those sold by producers (usually to other companies).

Changes in the CPI over time are used by analysts, economists and the Fed to estimate the rate of inflation for goods and services for businesses or on the supply side.

Report on the employment situation

The Employment Situation Report, also known as the Employment Report, includes information on employment, unemployment, hours worked and wages, both overall and broken down by region, race and other demographics.

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The data used to compile the report actually comes from two separate surveys that the BLS conducts on a monthly basis – the Current Employment Statistics Survey, which collects information on approximately 697,000 job sites, and the current population survey, which is conducted with the assistance of the US Census Bureau and samples approximately 60,000 households.

Along with the CPI, PPI and GDP, the Fed analyzes the unemployment rate, which is included in the jobs report, when making decisions on interest rates and reserve requirements. banks in order to maintain a healthy economy.

Other reports

  • US Import and Export Price Indices
  • Consumer Expenditure Survey
  • National Compensation Survey
  • Employment cost index
  • Statistics on injuries and fatalities at work
  • Labor productivity statistics

Where is the BLS headquarters? What is his size ?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is headquartered in the Postal Square Building in Washington, D.C. It shares the building with the National Postal Museum and the offices of the United States Senate.

The office also has six large regional offices spread across the country, reinforced by an array of smaller local offices in each region. In total, the office employs about 2,400 people nationwide.

How does the Bureau divide its statistics geographically?

The BLS divides much of the data it collects into geographic subcategories so that area-specific information can be gleaned from its reports. The data is divided into four general regions that cover the country, and each of these is further divided into specific divisions and states as follows:

North East Region

  • New England Division: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont
  • Middle Atlantic Division: New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania

South Region

  • South Atlantic Division: Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia
  • Center-Southeast Division: Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee
  • Central-Southwestern Division: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas

Midwest Region

  • Central-Northeast Division: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin
  • Central-Northwest Division: Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota

West Region

  • Mountain section: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming
  • Pacific Division: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington

When was the BLS created? Who’s in charge?

The BLS was created in 1884 through the Bureau of Labor Act, and at that time it was part of the Department of the Interior. In 1913 it was a branch of the Bureau of Labor, where it resides to this day.

During its existence, the office has been headed by a series of commissioners, each of whom serves a four-year term. The first Labor Commissioner was Carroll D. Wright, and the current Commissioner, as of August 2022, is William Beach.