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Bureau of labor statistics (BLS)

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Alternate/previous data source names: Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Service/portal name: http://www.bls.gov
Source description: According to its Web page, “The Bureau of Labor Staistics (BLS) is the principal fact-finding agency for the (United States) Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statiscs.

The BLS is an indepent national statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, the U.S. Congress, other Federal agencies, State and local governments business, and labor. The BLS also serves as a statistical resource to the Department of Labor.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics data satisfy a number of criteria including relevance to current social and economic issues, timeliness, accuracy, and impartiality in both subject matter and presentation.

The indicators provided by the BLS, including the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Product Price Index (PPI) are among the major measurements of inflation.

Pricing: No cost; free Web site.

Source content: As is usual with government Web sites, the BLS sie includes an almost overhwhelming amount of information.

This summary will deal with the main areas displayed and the information contained within these areas.

• Inflation and Consumer Spending. The main information sources in this area are the CPI, a CPI calculator, the consumer expenditure survey, the PPI, and Import/Export Price Indexes.

All data is available in table format, and customized tables can be formed. Large files can be transferred using file transfer protocol (FTP). But for most users the customized tables supply the needed information.

• Wages, Earnings, and Benefits. Includes information on wage by area and occupation, earnings by industry, employee benefits, and costs, state and country wages, national compensation data, and statistics on the collective bargaining area.

As in all areas of the site, users can customize tables by using the Detailed Statistics section.

• Productivity. Includes productivity and costs and international wage comparisons.

• International. Includes Import/Export Price Indexes and imports and exports searchable by Harmonized Classification systems and SITC (Standard Internatinal Trade Classifications) number.

• Employment and Unemployment. Lists occupational and demographic characteristics of the labor force as well as injury and fatalities data by national state, and local geography.

• At a Glance Tables. Includes data for the past six months, in table format, for the main indicators:

Unemployment Rate, Change in Payroll Employment, Average Hourly Earnings, Consumer Price Index, Producer Price Index, U.S. Import Price Index, Employment Cost Index, and the Productivity Index.

A link is provided to annual data for ten years in table or graph format. The data is also available at the region or state level.

• Publications and Research Papers. Includes occupation and career guides, but perhaps most useful, it links to the online full-text edition of the Monthly Labor Review.

• BLS Information Offices & Other Statistical Sites. These sections proide links to regional offices that provide contact information, as well as links to other federal statistical sites.

• Other Sections. Other sections include statistical information on Industries, Business Costs, Geography, Safety and Health, Occupations, and Demographics.

The latest index numbers are displayed in the center of the page, as are questions from users of the site.

Source evaluation: Although the sheer amount of information on this site can be overwhelming, the information is presented in a logical manner.

Some information, such as the CPI, is available in more than one section and so is easily found.

The At a Glance Tables section satisfies most information needs, and the ability to customize other tables is invaluable.

There is also a search box, an excellent A-Z index, and a glossary. Maneuverability within the sections is not impossible, but it is much easier to return to the BLS home page (a link is available on each screen) to begin a new search.

Source value rating: All of the data source reviewers were asked to rate each source on the basis of the following eight categories, using “10” as the highest rating and “1” as the lowest (“80” being a perfect score):

1. Relative cost-to-value:   10
2. Relative timeliness of data:   10
3. Relative comprehensiveness of data:  10
4. Ease of use:     6
5. Search options available:   8
6. Level of support services:   8
7. Level of training offered:   7
8. Amount/kinds of special services offered: 8
Total Rating:     67

Useful tips
• Spend time clicking on all the data and tools.
• Make use of the e-mail alerting service for new statistical releases.
• By clicking on the Detailed Statistics area in each section, one can easily customize tables.
 

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