The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), within the Department of Labor, provides regular reports on the nation's unemployment, inflation, consumer prices and other economic activity. Erica L. Groshen, the commissioner of labor statistics since January and a former vice president of the Research and Statistics Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, spoke about the agency and her goals for the future. She was interviewed by Tom Fox, a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service. He also heads the Partnership's Center for Government Leadership.
Why is the work of the BLS so important?
Data are a public good like roads and the police force. Data improves our daily lives all the time. Policymakers, businesses and households depend on data to make informed decisions and discourse. Without this information that we all rely on--almost without knowing it--we'd be operating and arguing in the dark. BLS is a world-class statistical agency because of the talented and dedicated staff that comes to work every day. You'll never meet another group of more professional and talented data nerds in your life. They do great work.
Is sequestration affecting BLS?
Big time. My first day on the job, I had to review the agency sequester plan. BLS is a production operation and the public depends on our data. We can't just say that we won't put out June's unemployment rate, for example. We produce many long-term data series with very short turnaround, but the main thing we have done according to our sequestration plan is eliminate three programs: Measuring Green Jobs, International Labor Comparisons and Mass Layoff Statistics. We are also delaying maintenance, postponing training and slowing down needed improvements.