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Commissioner’s Corner 2013 Archives

Commissioner's Corner Archive

Commissioner's Corner 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009



December 20, 2013

BLS published several new items this week that I think you will agree are especially interesting. On Wednesday we published a new edition of Spotlight on Statistics to commemorate 2013 as the International Year of Statistics. I have noted previously in the Commissioner's Corner that the International Year of Statistics is a worldwide celebration of the powerful and far-reaching effects of statistics on people's lives. The Spotlight on Statistics presents some interesting graphics on employment, unemployment, prices, spending, compensation, and productivity. The Spotlight also discusses how BLS produces the statistics and what they tell us about our economy.

On Thursday BLS published our latest set of long-term projections about the U.S. labor market. We update these projections every 2 years. The latest projections, which look at the changes we expect to see over the 2012–2022 period, are summarized in a news release. BLS projects that the labor force will grow 0.5 percent per year from 2012 to 2022, compared with an annual growth rate of 0.7 percent during the 2002–2012 decade. Projected declines in the labor force participation rates for both men and women are expected to slow labor force growth. As the baby-boom generation ages, workers age 55 and older are expected to make up over one-quarter of the labor force in 2022. Of the 30 occupations projected to have the largest percentage employment increase from 2012 to 2022, 14 are related to healthcare and 5 are related to construction. Nineteen of the 30 occupations projected to grow fastest from 2012 to 2022 typically require some form of postsecondary education for entry. Occupations that do not typically require postsecondary education are projected to add 8.8 million jobs between 2012 and 2022, accounting for more than half of all new jobs. The Monthly Labor Review features a series of articles that examine all the projections in more depth. Here is the list of the articles:

December 13, 2013

I was interviewed this week on Federal News Radio by Tom Temin. Tom and I discussed the mission of BLS and the other federal statistical agencies. We talked about the challenges the agencies face in providing useful, relevant information as technology, our economy and society, and the needs of our customers change rapidly. We also talked about efforts by BLS and the other statistical agencies to increase public understanding of the power and impact of statistics and to encourage more young people to choose statistics as a profession. I invite you to listen to the interview, which is available on the Federal Drive Show blog.


December 6, 2013

BLS released the November Employment Situation report the morning of Friday, December 6. Read my statement about the report.


November 14, 2013

At 8:30 A.M. next Wednesday, November 20, BLS will release October’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is one of our most widely followed economic indicators. Although I have a particular reason to talk about it this month, the CPI is always important. Its movements affect nearly every American in some way. The CPI is used to adjust benefit levels for Social Security, military and civilian retirement plans, and many other government programs. The CPI also is used to adjust income tax brackets and payments in many types of private contracts, such as lease agreements and labor contracts. Businesses, labor organizations, and individuals use the CPI to help them make economic decisions. The President, Congress, and Federal Reserve System examine trends in the CPI to aid them in formulating fiscal and monetary policy. With so many things affected by movements in the CPI, I think it’s important for people to understand how BLS collects the information used to calculate the overall CPI and all the other indexes for the goods and services that consumers purchase. I'm pleased to call your attention to an article published in The Washington Post this week about the professionalism and attention to detail of our staff members who carefully collect the detailed price information that goes into the CPI each month. I hope you enjoy the article and join me in being profoundly grateful that so many skilled and dedicated employees choose to work here at BLS.


November 8, 2013

As a reader of my Commissioner's Corner, you are probably aware that 2013 is the International Year of Statistics, a worldwide event to celebrate the powerful and far-reaching effects of statistics on people's lives. Statistics have so many practical uses to improve our lives. Statistics help us understand and solve problems in medicine and health, education, transportation, energy, crime, weather, the environment, the economy, and many other areas. Representatives from each of the federal government's 14 principal statistical agencies are hosting a symposium November 13–14 at the BLS office in Washington to highlight the variety of statistics and statistical careers available in the public sector. You are invited to attend. The symposium requires advance registration, but there is no cost. Attendees will learn about federal statistical agencies, the range of statistics each produces, and how to pursue a career as a government statistician.

BLS released the October Employment Situation report the morning of Friday, November 8. Read my statement about the report. This is an unusual report and statement because BLS needed to consider how the statistics were affected by the partial federal government shutdown that occurred October 1–16.


October 31, 2013

Following the partial government shutdown that occurred from October 1 to October 16, many BLS customers have asked our staff how the shutdown affected survey operations and how workers affected by the shutdown are classified in the household and establishment surveys that are featured in the monthly Employment Situation news release. We have put together a fact sheet to address the most common questions. The Employment Situation for October will be published Friday, November 8, 2013, at 8:30 A.M. Eastern Time. We also have updated our full schedule of news releases planned for the remainder of 2013 from all BLS programs.

BLS recently published a couple items that examine interesting demographic topics in the United States. A Monthly Labor Review article explored patterns in marriage and divorce among the younger portion of the baby boom generation. Eighty-seven percent of these baby boomers had married at least once by the time they reached age 46. Of those who had married, 45 percent had experienced at least one divorce. There were some notable differences in marriage and divorce patterns between men and women and among educational attainment and race-ethnicity groups. For example, men with at least a bachelor’s degree were more likely to have married by age 46 than were men with less education. Among women, the likelihood to marry varied little by educational attainment. For both men and women who had married, those with a bachelor’s degree were much less likely to have divorced than were those with less education. The authors analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which consists of people who were born in the years 1957 to 1964 and lived in the United States when the survey began in 1979. Survey participants were interviewed annually from 1979 to 1994 and have been interviewed every 2 years since 1994. You may wonder why a BLS survey would include questions about marriage and divorce. The main focus of the survey is labor market activity, but the survey questions cover a broad range of topics to enable researchers at BLS and other organizations to understand the other aspects of people’s lives that affect, or are affected by, their labor market activity.

Another recent BLS publication examined women's earnings in 2012. In 2012, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median usual weekly earnings of $691. On average in 2012, women made about 81 percent of the median earnings of men who were full-time wage and salary workers. In 1979, the first year for which comparable earnings data are available, women earned 62 percent of what men earned. Between 1979 and 2012, women's-to-men's earnings ratios rose for most age groups. Among 25- to 34-year-olds, for example, the ratio increased from 68 percent in 1979 to 90 percent in 2012. The women's-to-men's earnings ratio for 45- to 54-year-olds increased from 57 percent to 75 percent.


October 25, 2013

As many people noticed, the Employment Situation report for September 2013 was delayed because of the partial government shutdown that occurred from October 1 to October 16. Only three of the approximately 2,400 BLS employees worked full time during the shutdown. BLS staff were back on the job October 17, and we released the September Employment Situation the morning of Tuesday, October 22. Read my statement about the report.

The government shutdown affected data collection, analysis, and dissemination activities for all the other BLS surveys and programs as well, so we recently updated the schedule for news releases planned for the remainder of 2013.

Just before the shutdown began, BLS released a new group of webpages for our younger customers and their teachers and parents. The new BLS K-12 pages provide classroom activities, games, quizzes, and more to make learning economics and statistics fun. The pages also provide information to help students learn more about career options. New material will be added to these pages regularly.


September 20, 2013

There are more than 43 million people age 65 or older in the United States in 2013. That number has grown by more than 40 percent in the last 20 years, and the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the population of older Americans will continue to grow rapidly. As the population of older Americans has grown, so too have concerns about providing care to people who need help because of a condition related to aging. On Wednesday, BLS published a news release on unpaid eldercare in the United States. Eldercare providers are defined as individuals who provide unpaid care to someone age 65 or older who needs help because of a condition related to aging. This care can be provided to household or nonhousehold members, as well as persons living in retirement homes or assisted care facilities. Eldercare can involve a range of care activities, such as assisting with grooming, preparing meals, and providing transportation. Eldercare also can involve providing companionship or being available to assist when help is needed, and thus it can be performed simultaneously with nearly any other activity. Sixteen percent of the U.S. population age 15 and over (39.6 million people) provided unpaid eldercare in 2011–2012. Nearly one-fourth of eldercare providers engaged in unpaid eldercare on a given day, spending an average of 3.2 hours providing this care. The feature The Editor's Desk includes a graphic on the characteristics of eldercare providers.


September 13, 2013

This has been an eventful week for the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey. On Tuesday, BLS published a news release on consumer expenditures in 2012. Average expenditures per consumer unit in 2012 were $51,442, an increase of 3.5 percent from 2011 levels. The 2012 increase in spending outpaced the 2.1-percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. Most of the major components of household spending increased in 2012. The 11.2-percent rise in cash contributions (including payments for support of college students, alimony and child support, and giving to charities and religious organizations) was the largest percentage increase among all major components. Spending on transportation and health care rose significantly, while spending on housing and entertainment increased modestly. The feature The Editor's Desk includes some graphics on trends in consumer spending over the last decade and on spending by category in 2012.

BLS also published a new Monthly Labor Review article this week about the ongoing research on the best ways to improve the Consumer Expenditure Survey. The survey collects information on spending, income, and household characteristics. This information is used by BLS in computing the Consumer Price Index. Information from the survey also is used by economic policymakers, businesses, academic researchers, and various federal agencies. The project to redesign the survey began in 2009 with the goal of reducing measurement error, particularly error associated with underreporting. Other goals of the redesign were to halt or reverse the decline in response rates while also managing operational costs. The article discusses the motivation, challenges, and accomplishments of the redesign initiative.


September 6, 2013

This week BLS published a new edition of Spotlight on Statistics that presents a series of graphics on tenure of American workers. Information on employee tenure—the length of time that workers have been with their current employer—can be useful for understanding long-term trends in the labor market. A number of factors can affect the median tenure of workers, including changes in the age profile among workers and changes in the number of hires and separations. The median employee tenure—the point at which half of all workers had more tenure and half had less tenure—was 4.6 years in 2012. Median tenure has trended up since 2000, when it was 3.5 years. The long-term rise in tenure reflects, in part, the aging of the workforce. In 2012, the median age of employed persons was 42.3 years, up from 39.4 years in 2000.

BLS also recently published a new Monthly Labor Review article that examines wage estimates by job characteristic from the BLS National Compensation Survey (NCS) and Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) programs. Both programs collect and report information about the hourly earnings of workers by occupation. This article describes a procedure that combines data from these programs to produce a consistent set of wage estimates by area, occupation, and job characteristic. The procedure takes advantage of the large sample size of the OES survey and the detailed information about job characteristics from the NCS to provide more extensive information about the wage rates of workers than either program can produce individually.

Finally, here is a link to my statement on the August employment situation news release:


August 23, 2013

As the U.S. labor market continues to recover following the 2007–2009 recession, many observers have expressed concern about the large number of people with long durations of unemployment. The long-term unemployed—those unemployed 27 weeks or longer—peaked at 45 percent of total unemployment in the spring of 2010, nearly a year after the recession ended in June 2009. The percentage has fallen since then, but the long-term unemployed still accounted for 37 percent of total unemployment in July 2013. This week BLS published a different perspective of long-term unemployment in a new edition of Beyond the Numbers. The report examines long-term unemployment over men's careers. The report looks at men who were born in the years 1957 to 1964, the latter years of the baby boom. The analysis covers the mid-1980s through 2009, focusing on men's employment histories from their mid-20s until their middle to late 40s and early 50s. The report examines the proportion of these men who had a long-term unemployment spell over their career, how long it took to find a job after their first long-term unemployment spell, and how the spell affected wages over time.

Also this week, BLS published a news release on employment and unemployment among youth in the summer of 2013. The youth labor force grows sharply between April and July each year. During these months, large numbers of high school and college students search for or take summer jobs, and many graduates enter the labor market to look for or begin permanent employment. This summer, the youth labor force ages 16 to 24 grew by 2.8 million, or 13.4 percent, to a total of 23.5 million in July. The labor force participation rate for all youth—the proportion of the population 16 to 24 years old working or looking for work—was 60.5 percent in July, the same as a year earlier. The feature The Editor's Desk includes some graphics on summer youth labor force participation.


August 16, 2013

This week BLS published Geographic Profile of Employment and Unemployment, 2012. This annual publication is a collection of tables that presents estimates for census regions and divisions, the 50 states and the District of Columbia, 54 large metropolitan areas, 22 metropolitan divisions, and 41 principal cities. Geographic Profile provides the most current source of information on the demographic and economic characteristics of the labor force in subnational areas, from the same survey as the official labor force estimates for the United States as a whole.

We also published two new editions of Beyond the Numbers this week. The first examines the reemergence of the United States as a global petroleum producer. In May 2013, domestic production of petroleum in the United States surpassed imports for the first time since January 1997. The fact that domestic production has outpaced imports is the culmination of trends that have been in motion for a number of years. Imports of petroleum have been declining over the last 7 years, while domestic production has undergone a significant revival. U.S. production has grown as a result of new technologies, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which have been used to extract petroleum and gas from shale deposits once viewed as unprofitable. Coinciding with the large increase in domestic petroleum production in the United States was a decline in the domestic consumption of petroleum. The amount of petroleum consumed in 2012 was the smallest since 1996.

The second edition of Beyond the Numbers published this week looks at the highlights of the 2013 Producer Price Index (PPI) user survey. Survey results reveal that PPI data users are satisfied with the quality of the data, the level of detail presented, and the customer service offered whenever they contact PPI staff. Although these results are very gratifying, we're not resting on our laurels. The user survey provides important insights into how we might improve the PPI and where we should focus our efforts to expand and improve our measures, as funds and other resources permit.


August 2, 2013

This week BLS unveiled the redesign of another of our publications, Spotlight on Statistics. Spotlight on Statistics features graphics, maps, and brief written analysis in a new and appealing slideshow format to illustrate information about the U.S. labor market and economy. New editions of Spotlight on Statistics are published several times a year. The newest edition of Spotlight on Statistics examines foreign-born workers in the U.S. labor force. In 2012, there were 25 million foreign-born persons age 16 years and older in the U.S. labor force, representing 16.1 percent of the total. About 38 percent of the foreign born were from Mexico and Central America, and 28 percent were from Asia (including the Middle East). In 2012, foreign-born men were more likely to be labor force participants (78.5 percent) than were native-born men (68.6 percent). In contrast, foreign-born women were less likely than native-born women to participate in the labor force, 54.8 percent versus 58.2 percent.

Also, here is a link to my statement on the July employment situation news release:


July 19, 2013

This week BLS unveiled the redesign of our flagship research publication, the Monthly Labor Review (MLR). Established in 1915, the MLR  is the principal journal of fact, analysis, and research from BLS. Over the years, the MLR has undergone various changes to both its content and appearance. This latest redesign incorporates modern web features to improve appearance, navigation, and search capabilities. The publication schedule also is changing. Rather than publishing articles at the end of each month, the MLR now will be published on a flow basis as articles become ready throughout the month. Each article will be dated with the month and the year of publication to make searching the MLR archives easier. This will provide fresh content to our readers throughout the month. There will be times when we will publish articles simultaneously, but we will reserve this for special compilation issues, such as the biennial issue on employment projections. This design journey has been 2 years in the making, and we hope you enjoy the new look. You can learn more about the history of the MLR and the redesign in the new article by Emily Lloyd Liddel, executive editor of the MLR.

We also recently published a new edition of Beyond the Numbers that examines the question, “Why are there revisions to the jobs numbers?” Estimates of jobs gained or lost each month are closely watched by policymakers and those who work in the financial markets and the news media. When the estimates are revised in subsequent months, however, data users sometimes perceive a very different picture of the job market than what was initially reported. The revised estimates include additional information that was not available at the time of the initial release—information that makes the revised estimates more accurate. This article explains the data collection process that BLS conducts every month to produce the estimate of U.S. employment change. The article also clarifies why BLS releases revisions to the initial release, so that users will better understand the change, if any, in the estimates.

Finally, the recent tragedy in which firefighters in Arizona lost their lives fighting a wildfire highlights the importance of BLS data on occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. We posted a new factsheet this week on the risks firefighters face on the job.


July 11, 2013

Would you like to encourage your children or students to become the next generation of data nerds—or just to understand the labor market and prices better? For many years, the BLS website has included pages targeted toward elementary, middle, and high school students and their teachers. We are developing a new and improved K-12 site, which will feature a section devoted to puzzles, games, and quizzes. Learning economics really can be fun! The student resources section will provide career information and help guide students to reading about careers based upon their interests. We are also introducing new resources for teachers, including classroom activities and tips for introducing BLS information in academic curricula.

Or have you ever wondered about the history of BLS? We will also have an interactive way to navigate through the various commissioners and events in our 129-year history.

We have posted some prototypes of the new K-12 homepage, the BLS History page, and a sample of one of the game pages. I encourage you to check out these changes and submit your comments about them.


July 5, 2013

Here is a link to my statement on the June employment situation news release:


June 28, 2013

John Wohlford, branch chief of the BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, appeared on the "America by the Numbers" segment of C-SPAN's Washington Journal program last Friday. Mr. Wohlford spoke about what drives employment growth in the United States, looking in particular at the latest measures of hires, job openings, and separations.

"America by the Numbers," broadcast often on Fridays, provides an opportunity for experts inside and outside the federal statistical system to participate in engaging interviews about the data that describe our nation. Audiences join the conversations through call-in questions and social media. BLS staff have appeared on show several times in the last year, as have staff from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, and many other statistical agencies.


June 21, 2013

I testified this week before a U.S. House of Representatives committee about the extensive occupational wage data available from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey. I invite you to read my statement to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

The National Public Radio program "All Things Considered" featured an interesting segment this week about using OES data to examine the differences in pay between the highest and lowest paid workers in each occupation. The journalist calls the recent OES release "fascinating" and links the growing wage gap within so many professions to overall trends in income inequality.


June 14, 2013

This week BLS published a news release examining the labor force characteristics in 2012 of people with a disability. This topic is of increasing interest to people in many communities, including persons with a disability and their families, job counselors, therapists, and policymakers. Here are a few of the key facts mentioned in the release. In 2012, 17.8 percent of people with a disability were employed. That compares with an employment-population ratio of 63.9 percent for people without a disability. The lower ratio among those with a disability results, in part, from the fact that a large share of people with a disability are age 65 and older, and older persons are less likely to be employed. Across all age groups, however, people with a disability were much less likely to be employed than those with no disability. Among the employed, 33 percent of workers with a disability were employed part time, compared with 19 percent of those with no disability. Employed persons with a disability also were more likely to be self-employed than those with no disability.


June 7, 2013

Here is a link to my statement on the May employment situation news release.

I also want to call your attention to the improvements that are coming this summer to the Monthly Labor Review, our flagship research publication at BLS. These changes will enhance the availability, accessibility, and presentation of content in the Review. I encourage you to read more about these changes and submit your comments about them.


May 31, 2013

This week, I'm proud to call your attention to The Washington Post's recently published profile of the longest-serving employee at BLS. Ed Pratt started at BLS in 1956. Counting his 4 years in the military, Ed has 61 years of federal service. Serving as a supervisory information technology specialist, he is a key member of the team that produces the Consumer Price Index each month. As the article notes, "Pratt's importance as a civil servant goes beyond the product he helps produce each month. His personal impact, the encouragement he gives co-workers, means more than he probably knows." I am very grateful that Ed and so many other dedicated employees work here at BLS.

We also published the May issue of the Monthly Labor Review this week. It features an article examining how the job characteristics of workers who participate in defined contribution retirement plans are associated with changes over time in the workers' contribution levels, especially whether they reduced their contributions during the 2007–2009 recession. The issue also includes an article examining trends in job openings, hires, and employment separations in 2012. Another article examines significant collective bargaining disputes in 2012. Finally, the May MLR includes an article about implementing the 2010 revisions to the Standard Occupational Classification system into the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics program.


May 24, 2013

I was interviewed recently for the “On Leadership” blog of The Washington Post. Tom Fox of the Partnership for Public Service asked me about the importance of our work at BLS and the value of the data we produce for policymakers, businesses, and households to make better-informed decisions. Tom and I also discussed the great importance I place on exchanging ideas with different audiences, both inside and outside BLS. Tom asked about my goals for BLS and the opportunities and challenges we face, such as collecting and understanding data in an increasingly complex global economy and providing high-quality data and services with fewer budgetary resources.

This week BLS published a news release on the labor force characteristics of the foreign born in 2012. There were 25.0 million foreign-born persons in the U.S. labor force in 2012, comprising 16.1 percent of the total labor force. In 2012, the labor force participation rate of the foreign born was 66.3 percent, compared with 63.2 percent for the native born.


May 17, 2013

This has been a busy week for BLS publications, with five new editions of Beyond the Numbers. The first edition looks at how steadily growing global demand for grain crops has generated higher crop prices and increased demand for fertilizers, particularly imported fertilizers. This article looks at the complex and interesting interactions among grain production and prices, natural gas production and prices, and the production of fertilizers and their domestic and import prices.

Trends in natural gas prices were the focus of the second edition of Beyond the Numbers this week. Specifically the article examines how the application of horizontal hydraulic fracturing—commonly called fracking—in shale rock formations has boosted U.S. production of natural gas and has contributed to a 57-percent decline in producer prices for natural gas from 2007 to 2012.

The third edition of Beyond the Numbers this week examines the methods used in the Consumer Price Index to estimate the cost of shelter services for owner-occupied housing. Estimating the cost of housing is complex because a house is a capital asset that provides a flow of services over a substantial period of time, not just a one-time consumption item. Starting in January 1983 the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers began using a "rental equivalence" approach to estimate housing costs. This method measures the rate of change in the amount a homeowner would need to pay to rent a similar house on the open market. It is based on actual market rents collected from a sample of renter-occupied housing units that are identified to represent owner-occupied housing. The article discusses this and other changes in the methods used to estimate housing costs over the past 30 years.

The compensation of workers in the trade, transportation, and utilities industries was the focus of another edition of Beyond the Numbers. These industries employed 25.6 million workers in 2012: 14.9 million in retail trade, 5.6 million in wholesale trade, 4.4 million in transportation and warehousing, and 0.6 million in the utilities industries. The article looks at wages and employee benefits in these industries. Private industry compensation costs for trade, transportation, and utilities workers averaged $24.31 per hour worked in December 2012. Wages and salaries averaged $17.12 per hour and benefits averaged $7.19. Employer compensation costs for trade, transportation, and utilities workers vary quite a bit by industry. Costs fluctuate for a number of reasons such as part-time and full-time status, job skills, and union representation. In December 2012, total compensation costs per employee hour worked ranged from $17.64 for workers in retail trade to $59.26 for workers in utilities.

Finally, for pet lovers we have an article that examines how much you spend on your pets. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. households own pets. There are about 218 million pets in the United States, not counting several million fish. Pet ownership crosses many demographic boundaries, with Americans of different ages and levels of wealth reporting spending on pets. Americans spent approximately $61.4 billion in total for the care and feeding of their pets in 2011. On average, each U.S. household spent just over $500 on pets. This amounts to about 1 percent of total spending per year for the average household.


May 10, 2013

This week at BLS we held one of our twice-yearly meetings with our Data Users Advisory Committee. The Committee advises BLS from the points of view of data users from various sectors of the U.S. economy, including the labor, business, research, academic, and government communities. Committee members provide important feedback about the analysis, dissemination, and uses of BLS data and published reports and on the need for new statistics. Before I became BLS Commissioner, I was a member of this Committee, and I was very glad that BLS solicits advice from data users. Now that I am Commissioner, I have an even greater appreciation for the Committee’s advice. This week’s meeting featured discussions about the new Occupational Requirements Survey, the presentation of geographic data, BLS outreach activities to various customer groups, and a new approach to developing and presenting occupational replacement needs in BLS employment projections.

Also this week, BLS published a new edition of Spotlight on Statistics on international comparisons of economic measures. These measures include gross domestic product, unemployment rates, compensation costs, labor productivity rates, and consumer prices. This Spotlight on Statistics compares these and other measures across countries in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific to get a glimpse of how individual economies have performed in recent years and historically.

All of us at BLS are very proud that BLS Research Statistician Polly Phipps was recently elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association. This very high honor recognizes Polly's service to the statistics profession and her outstanding research contributions to BLS in the study of survey error and corresponding improvements to the accuracy of survey and administrative data. This is a rare honor awarded by the association to no more than one-third of one percent of its members in a given year.

Finally this week, the career website The Muse included profiles of three Department of Labor employees, including Jay McDaniel of BLS.


May 3, 2013

Here is a link to my statement on the April employment situation news release.

BLS also recently published a new edition of Beyond the Numbers. The article examined employment and wage changes over the 2007–2011 period in oil-producing counties in the Bakken Formation. The Bakken Formation is an oil-producing shale formation underneath North Dakota, Montana, and parts of Canada. In recent years, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques, combined with higher prices for crude oil, have led to rapid increases in oil extraction from shale formations like the Bakken Formation. The large increase in oil production has led to growth in employment and wages and has changed the industry profile of employment in the region.

The April issue of the Monthly Labor Review also was published this week. It features a “visual essay” of graphics about people with a disability in 2012. The issue also includes an article on differences in union and nonunion compensation from 2001 to 2011. Another article examined trends in consumer spending over the 3 decades from 1980 to 2009, with a focus on the asset boom of 1997–2007. Finally, the April MLR includes a report about the annual Consumer Expenditure Survey Microdata Users’ Workshop that was held at BLS in July 2012.


April 26, 2013

This week BLS published a news release examining barriers to employment, types of assistance, and other issues for people with a disability. Our monthly Employment Situation report provides information on the employment status of people with and without disabilities. This week's release provides more detailed information gathered in May 2012 about several specific topics related to employment of people with disabilities. In May 2012, about 28.3 million men and women in the civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over had a disability. Persons with a disability tend to be older than those with no disability, reflecting the increased incidence of disability with age. Half of all persons with a disability who were not working in May 2012 reported some type of barrier to employment. When asked to identify barriers they had encountered, most reported that their own disability was a barrier to employment (80.5 percent). Other barriers cited included lack of education or training (14.1 percent), lack of transportation (11.7 percent), and the need for special features at the job (10.3 percent).

Among employed people with a disability, over half had some difficulty completing their work duties because of their disability. About 27.8 percent reported a little difficulty in completing work duties, 21.1 percent reported moderate difficulty, and 7.0 percent reported severe difficulty. About 44.1 percent of employed persons with a disability had no difficulty completing their current work duties. The news release also provides information on career-assistance and financial-assistance programs in which disabled people have participated, requested changes in the workplace to accommodate disabilities, and commuting to work, working at home, and flexible work hours among employed people with disabilities.


April 19, 2013

In response to increased interest in the measures used for cost of living adjustments, I testified about the methods BLS uses to calculate our family of Consumer Price Indexes on Thursday, April 18, before the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means, Subcommittee on Social Security. We will post video of the hearing when it becomes available, but you can read my statement (PDF).

Update, April 23: The video of the hearing can be seen here, on the Library of Congress THOMAS website. (We suggest starting the video at about the 16-minute mark.)


April 12, 2013

On April 6, I participated in a panel discussion at the 50th Annual Conference of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. I discussed the challenges for a statistical agency to produce high-quality, relevant data in a fast-paced, data-rich environment. I noted some of these challenges are leveraging administrative or "big" data to supplement current survey efforts, maintaining response rates in BLS surveys, and meeting customers' demands for new and improved products. I also discussed some of the efforts that BLS is making to stay relevant to our customers, such as the BLS Twitter feed.

In the past week BLS published two new editions of Beyond the Numbers. The first examined employment-based health benefits in small and large private establishments. Over 95 percent of private sector business establishments in the United States employed fewer than 50 workers in the first quarter of 2011. Establishments that employed 500 workers or more accounted for less than half of 1 percent of all private workplaces. The smaller establishments employed 47.3 million workers (45 percent of all private industry employment), while the largest establishments employed about 17.5 million workers (16.5 percent of private industry employment). Thirty-eight percent of workers in establishments with fewer than 50 workers were covered by medical care benefits in March 2012, compared with 68 percent of workers in establishments with 500 workers or more. The report further examined variations by establishment size in employers' cost for medical coverage, the types of medical services covered by plans, and coverage for dental and vision benefits.

The second edition of Beyond the Numbers published this week is about careers in the growing field of information technology services. The report summarized historical employment trends in the industry and projections for the future. The report also examined the different types of jobs available in the industry, how much they pay, and what type of education or training is needed for such jobs.


April 5, 2013

Here is a link to my statement on the March employment situation news release.


March 29, 2013

Back in June 2012, BLS published a news release with information on establishments that used Green Technologies and Practices. These technologies and practices include those that improve the establishment's energy efficiency, reduce or eliminate the creation of waste materials that result from operations, conserve natural resources, or reduce pollutants. The June 2012 release found that about three-quarters of business establishments reported the use of at least one green technology or practice during August 2011. This week BLS published a new edition of Beyond the Numbers that delved further into the data to examine the extent to which establishments used combinations of green technologies or practices. The report found that about two-thirds of businesses that used any green technologies and practices used more than one type. The report also examined the combinations of green technologies and practices that were most prevalent.

Also this week, BLS published a midyear update of consumer expenditures. This news release found that average expenditures per consumer unit for July 2011 through June 2012 were 1.9 percent higher than the 2011 annual average. All major components of household spending except apparel increased over the 12 months ending in June 2012 compared to the 2011 annual average. BLS previously published only an annual news release on consumer expenditures. This week's release contains the first midyear update of information on consumer expenditures and covers the last 6 months of 2011 and the first 6 months of 2012.

The March issue of the Monthly Labor Review also was published this week. It features two articles that summarize 2012 trends in employment and unemployment in the United States from the monthly surveys of nonfarm establishments and households. The issue also includes articles on changes in state unemployment insurance legislation in 2012, restricted work following a workplace injury, and seasonal adjustment in the Employment Cost Index.


March 22, 2013

There were 2.6 million Americans in the civilian population in 2012 who had served in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001.  We refer to this group as Gulf War-era II veterans. It is essential to understand how these veterans and veterans from earlier periods are faring in the civilian labor market. This week, BLS published a news release on the employment situation of U.S. military veterans in 2012. This release adds to the normal information about veterans and nonveterans that we report each month in the Employment Situation.  In particular, the release provides more detailed information about the employment status of veterans with service-connected disabilities, those who were members of the Reserves or National Guard, and those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The release also features more detail about the demographic characteristics, educational attainment, occupations, and industries of veterans. The feature The Editor's Desk includes an interactive chart showing unemployment rates for veterans and nonveterans from 2008 to 2012.

Also this week, BLS published a news release on employment associated with the production of Green Goods and Services in 2011. Green Goods and Services jobs are found in businesses or government entities that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources. In 2011 there were 3.4 million Green Goods and Services jobs, or 2.6 percent of total employment. Both the number and percent of jobs were up slightly from 2010. The release provides additional detail on the industries and states where Green Goods and Services jobs are found.


March 15, 2013

Have you been wondering how recent productivity growth has varied by industry and how these trends relate to recent changes in hours worked, employment, prices, or compensation in the industries?  Wonder no more, because this week BLS published a new edition of Spotlight on Statistics that examines industry labor productivity trends from 2000 to 2010. The Spotlight features charts and analysis of trends in how efficiently labor is used in the production of goods and services. Labor productivity rose for most industries during the first decade of the millennium. From 2000 to 2007, productivity growth averaged between 0 and 4 percent per year in most of the industries studied. During the recessionary period from 2007 to 2009, productivity declined in over half of the industries studied. Subsequently, many industries recorded very large increases in productivity from 2009 to 2010, the first year of the recovery.

The productivity growth over the decade was fueled by the expansion of information technology. Productivity grew most rapidly in the information sector, while the manufacturing, retail trade, and wholesale trade sectors also had notable productivity increases. Productivity declined slightly in other services and more rapidly in the mining sector.


March 8, 2013

Here is a link to my statement on the February employment situation news release.

In addition, you may be interested in the announced steps BLS is taking in response to the sequestration.


March 1, 2013

This week BLS published two new editions of Beyond the Numbers. The first examined expenditures of urban and rural households in 2011. The report compared the demographic characteristics, income, and spending patterns of people who live in urban and rural areas. Urban households spent 28 percent more on food away from home but 5 percent less on food at home than rural households. Rural households spent only slightly more on health care than urban households, but rural households spent a larger portion of their total expenditures on health care.

The second edition of Beyond the Numbers compared average food prices in 2013 with those in 1913. The article examined prices for bread, eggs, milk, meats, sugar, and other food items. The feature The Editor's Desk includes a chart showing how much prices for different food items advanced over the century. Potatoes were among the cheapest food items in 1913 and still are today, but potato prices have increased 39-fold over the century, the sharpest rate of increase among the items tracked. Egg prices have increased the least, up about 5-fold in the last century, as advances in production, delivery, and storage techniques have outpaced those seen for most other food items.

The February issue of the Monthly Labor Review also was published this week. It features articles on recent college graduates in the U.S. labor force, fatal occupational injuries among Hispanics and Latinos, and state labor legislation enacted in 2012.


February 19, 2013

My first day as Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics was Tuesday, January 29. It is an honor to lead BLS at this time of renewed interest in the labor market and in the statistics that help us understand it. Personally, I will say it is a labor economist's dream to head an agency that produces the information on this important aspect of people's lives—including their jobs and job changes, pay, working conditions, time use, prices paid and so much more.

Building on my predecessors' and BLS colleagues' work, I plan to continue the BLS tradition of excellence in informing the country on relevant and timely issues in labor statistics. I look forward to helping guide BLS as it adapts to a changing environment, develops new products that answer questions relevant to our 21st century economy, and delivers the highest quality data and analysis in the most effective way to the public and our diverse users.

Please stay tuned to the Commissioner's Corner for updates from me on some of the most recent BLS products and activities.



John M. Galvin was Acting Commissioner from January 2012 to January 2013.


January 25, 2013

This week BLS published a news release on union membership in 2012. The release presents information on the number of union members and membership rates by demographic group, occupation, industry, and U.S. state. The release also presents information on the weekly earnings of union members and nonmembers who work full time. The feature The Editor's Desk includes charts showing trends in union membership.

The BLS Occupational Employment Statistics program recently posted a series of new interactive charts and maps on occupational employment and wages in the United States.

Finally this week BLS published a new article that examines careers in biofuels.


January 4, 2013

Here is a link to Acting Commissioner Galvin's statement on the December employment situation news release.



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