The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor that has been in operation since 1884. According to its official website, the vision of the BLS is to "meet the information needs of a rapidly changing U.S, and global economy by continuously improving its products and services, investing in its work force, and modernizing its business processes." The nearly 2,500 employees of the Bureau of Labor Statistics are responsible for collecting, analyzing and distributing statistical data to other government officials and the public at large.

History of the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The original "Bureau of Labor" was part of the U.S. Department of Interior. The agency became an independent operation in 1888, a status it maintained for nearly 15 years before being absorbed into the Department of Commerce and Labor in 1903. In 1913, the agency was transferred to the new Department of Labor and renamed the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was the same year the first Consumer Price Index, or CPI, was introduced.

Following Word War II, the BLS started training economists and statisticians in the United States and internationally. These international relationships paid dividends in the coming decades, as major international comparative studies on employment, productivity and import/export information were all Bureau undertakings in the 1960s.

In 1972, officials from the Bureau of Labor Statistics began reporting on economic conditions and employment data from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. By 1995, the BLS had an official website and technology played a larger role in the collection and release of economic data.

Impact of Bureau of Labor Statistics Data

The economic data and analysis produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics have become highly significant stock market indicators. Data on inflation, wages, productivity, consumer spending and employment costs are widely reported as soon as they are released. This is especially true with the agency's monthly "Jobs Report." This report estimates how many jobs have been created and in which sectors jobs have seen growth or loss. Many economists believe the reports on manufacturing labor are particularly useful since manufacturers are likely to feel a softening of the consumer demand before other sectors.

The Bureau's monthly unemployment report is a similarly important lagging indicator. Since economists believe the last thing employers do following a recession is hire more employees, improving employment data tends to follow improving economic conditions. The U.S. unemployment rate is one of the most well-known and widely tracked metrics produced by the BLS.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Impartiality

The BLS advertises itself as an impartial entity, and officials schedule the release of critical information well in advance to avoid the perception that data is being used to influence markets; however, the methodology of many reports and surveys has been periodically called into question, particularly with changes to the CPI and inflation tracking. Even with these concerns, the Bureau of Labor Statistics remains one of the best resources for comprehensive economic data available to both economists and investors.

  1. Who runs the Bureau of Labor Statistics?

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks the nation's working conditions and provides critical data to the public, government ... Read Answer >>
  2. How does the Bureau of Labor Statistics determine the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

    Changes in the average price level of more than 200 goods and services across the U.S. economy are used to determine the ... Read Answer >>
  3. How does the Federal Government track the business cycle?

    Learn more about the agencies used by the federal government to research business cycle changes and inform decisions about ... Read Answer >>
  4. What are key economic growth rates that can be used to determine the economic health ...

    Discover the indicators that correlate with real economic health, and learn why many traditional metrics do not function ... Read Answer >>
  5. How does the Bureau of Labor Statistics define contingent workers?

    Discover how contingent workers are a significant part of the labor force and are defined as persons who do not expect their ... Read Answer >>
  6. What is the key difference between the participation rate and the unemployment rate?

    Learn the key differences between the participation rate and unemployment rate, and how they can provide a clearer picture ... Read Answer >>
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