Editor’s note: The Bureau of Labor Statistics is headed by commissioners who are appointed by the president and serve four-year terms. We asked the current commissioner to introduce herself in this post and share a little bit about the future of BLS.
It is a labor economist’s dream to head an agency like the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS produces information on important aspects of people’s lives — including their jobs and job changes, pay, working conditions, time use, prices paid, and so much more. As the BLS commissioner, I’m especially honored to lead the agency at this time of heightened interest in the labor market and in the statistics that help us understand it.
I became the 14th commissioner of BLS in January 2013. Prior to joining BLS, I was a vice president in the Research and Statistics Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I also served on advisory boards for BLS and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Before joining the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 1994, I was a visiting assistant professor of economics at Barnard College at Columbia University and an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. I was a visiting economist at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, from 1999 to 2000. I earned a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I look forward to helping guide BLS as it adapts to a changing economic environment, develops new products that answer questions relevant to our 21st-century economy, and delivers the highest quality data and analyses in the most effective way to the public and our diverse users.
Although we are currently operating in a challenging budgetary environment, it is imperative that we maintain and improve the quality of our data and continue to make our data relevant to our data users.
At BLS, we rely upon data collected from businesses and households. Technologies such as the phone, fax, and Internet have opened up new avenues for collecting data, giving survey respondents more flexibility. By lowering the burden for our respondents through technology, we can more easily maintain high response rates.
We are also investigating how BLS can use “big data” to supplement our existing data sources. For example, private business and academia have been analyzing large nonstatistical datasets to learn about customer behavior and preferences. BLS can learn from these efforts; big data may be one way to deepen our understanding of the labor market.
For economists, information on the labor market is always a source of interest, but the data that BLS produces are for everyone. Therefore, one of my goals is to keep BLS content relevant to everyone. Our flagship publication, the Monthly Labor Review, is getting redesigned to reflect its status as an online publication, taking advantage of the tools that the Web can offer, such as accessibility and interactivity. We are also planning on launching a new section of the website for students from kindergarten through high school, which perhaps may inspire a few budding economists.
Building on the work of my predecessors and BLS colleagues, I plan to continue the agency’s tradition of excellence in informing the nation on relevant and timely issues in labor statistics. You can keep up with the latest data by visiting http://www.bls.gov and by following @BLS_gov on Twitter.