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Reflecting on Our Recent Price Data User Conference

Monday, August 16, 2021

I have repeatedly seen during my time as Commissioner of Labor Statistics how driven and conscientious BLS employees are. This is especially true of how they relate to our customers.

At the core of our agency’s mission is a responsibility to our customers. BLS strives to meet the needs of a diverse set of customers for accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible information. At the same time, we need to keep pace with a rapidly changing economy. Our data must reflect world events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do we meet this responsibility to our customers and keep them informed? How do we stay informed about what our customers face and what they need? For years, BLS Regional Offices have sponsored data user conferences to address these questions. These conferences have always been successful forums with broad representation from our data users.

I have participated in many such conferences virtually and in person. I recently had the pleasure of a different kind of virtual BLS data user conference, the price index users conference.

How did it come about? The staff of our Office of Prices and Living Conditions saw the success of our regional events and wanted to interact directly with our customers. What better way to communicate with price index users and get their feedback!

Especially now, with so much attention focused on inflation, customers want to know the pandemic’s effects on not only our survey results, but also on our survey methods, participation, and data quality.

This conference featured presentations by program experts from the Consumer Price Index, Producer Price Index, and U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes. There was plenty of technical detail that researchers, financial journalists, finance professionals, and other participants welcomed. The conference covered alternative data collection methods, medical care, quality adjustment, the impact of COVID-19, and other topics.

Beyond the technical detail, this event featured a listening session. This session went beyond the usual questions and answers to provide a forum for a robust exchange between our sophisticated data users and our experts. Everyone was in the same “room” and could participate in this discussion about methods, customer needs, COVID-19 effects, and future plans.

We at BLS benefit from this type of open exchange, and we thank all who attended for enhancing the 2-day event. We also owe a big thank you to all of our respondents for their survey participation throughout a very challenging time. When you agree to share your company’s information with BLS, you help ensure that we can continue to provide quality data. Survey participants are our bedrock, the foundation for good information about our economy. We cannot succeed in our mission for the American people, let alone our customers, without your help.

We look forward to your participation at our next event!