Importance of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and critical issues it faces
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides essential, trustworthy, highly visible statistics that promote economic efficiency. However, its ability to do so is threatened by many challenges, chief among which is its funding situation. This article updates important stakeholders, such as those at NABE, on the situation at BLS. The paper reviews evidence on the vital role played by BLS products, how BLS maintains high data integrity, and evidence of users’ trust in the data. This is followed by discussion of the agency’s continuous efforts to improve efficiency. Despite the agency’s importance and efficiency, its funding has been flat in nominal terms since 2009, leading to a $90 million shortfall (15% below that needed) in real terms by FY2018. The BLS has needed to curtail spending in ways that are not sustainable, slowing modernization and raising the risk of data errors or delayed releases. With adequate funding, BLS could greatly speed modernization and better serve its customers in many ways. The paper concludes with a call to action: steps that NABE economists and other data users should take to help assure that BLS continues to provide the data that we all need in order to preserve our national vitality.