Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS)

DEFINITION of 'Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS)'

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is government agency that produces a range economic data which reflect the state of the U.S. economy. 

BREAKING DOWN 'Bureau Of Labor Statistics (BLS)'

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor whose primary purpose is to research, assemble and publish a wide range of statistical data on labor conditions, price, unemployment and productivity. The statistics produced by the BLS are frequently cited and used by all elements of the public and private sectors, and they represent some of the most influential economic indicators for the American economy. As such, the BLS goes to great lengths to ensure accuracy, impartiality and accessibility of their reports, such as scheduling their release dates far in advance, maintaining the secrecy of their reports until publication and making sure the data is equally disseminated and easily accessible. 

Some of the most important statistics published by the BLS include:

  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) – an aggregate of the prices of a relatively fixed "basket of goods" which reflects price changes associated with the cost of living
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) – a measure of the average prices American producers are receiving for their goods and services
  • Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) – a range of localized data about labor efficiency and unemployment
  • The National Compensation Survey (NCS) – comprehensive aggregates of workers earnings across a variety of sectors
  • The "Household" Survey – also known as a Current Population Survey (CPS), this monthly survey of the American population includes the national unemployment rate

The major price indices, like the CPI and the PPI are essential indicators of both the supply and the demand sides of the U.S. economy. The CPI uses a fairly fixed group of essential household goods (the content of which has been adjusted over time) to give an approximate, expected cost of living, and to differentiate between different living situations, the BLS releases many variations on these indices which are used for different purposes. It also categorizes data into groups of states known as the census regions; Northeast, South, Midwest and West. Because the various data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics – in particular the CPI and the unemployment rate – are widely relied-upon as economic indicators, the veracity of these statistics is always under intense scrutiny.

History of the BLS

The Bureau of Labor Statistics was established as a branch of the Department of the Interior in 1884 with the mandate to research and compile information about economics and labor. It was incorporated into the Department of Labor, where it resides today, in 1913. Throughout its history, the BLS has been relied upon to provide empirical evidence reflecting the degree to which the lifestyles of workers and consumers adequately reflected the demands of a rapidly changing marketplace. For example, research from the BLS often justifies raising the minimum wage.

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