U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Fiscal Year 2016

Senator Thad Cochran
Chair, Senate Committee on Appropriations
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Senator Barbara Mikulski
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Appropriations
503 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC 20510

Dear Senators Cochran and Mikulski,

As your subcommittee considers final appropriation levels for Fiscal Year 2016 we strongly encourage you to restore support of the core programs and essential initiatives of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS is the nation’s principal fact-finding agency in the broad fields of labor, employment, consumer and producer price, and American productivity statistics. It is not able to sustain its programs at the level of funding it received in FY 2015.

BLS produces essential economic information for public and private decision making. It is vital to our nation’s business community, labor and workforce communities, and the research community that studies and evaluates labor and related economic policies and programs. If the U.S. hopes to compete in complex, increasingly data-driven global markets, it needs BLS survey data and economic indicators. Specifically, BLS provides data, programs, and products that serve our economy and workforce by:

  • measuring labor market activity that supplies the critical gauge of our nation’s
    employment/unemployment status;
  • tracking consumer and producer price changes and developing price indicators, such as the
    principal inflation-measuring Consumer Price Index;
  • calculating the productivity of business endeavors in a manner that can be compared across
    sectors and countries;
  • monitoring working conditions; and
  • informing state and local labor markets

The real (inflation adjusted) value of appropriations to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) fell between 2004 and 2008, and has been falling again since 2009 (See Figure 1). Its current purchasing power is less than it was in 2001. The agency has increasingly become unable to fulfill its basic responsibilities, despite its having made a series of cost-saving program changes since 2011, eliminating in 2013 its Mass Layoffs Statistics, Measuring Green Jobs, and International Labor Comparisons programs, and curtailing, in 2014, some collection under its Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. In 2015, it has had to rely on a one-time contribution from the Department of Commerce in order to continue its Export Price Program. We users of BLS statistics are especially fearful that the agency’s current cuts in hiring and investments in staff training and development could affect the quality of its statistical information. These cuts are not sustainable, even over the short run.

Without adequate funding in FY 2016, the BLS will be obligated to eliminate surveys and/or data programs. There is no other option.

Every existing BLS program has a large, varied, and vocal army of government agencies, businesses, community interests and others who rely on its output. Indeed, there are legislated limits on the programs that could be subject to elimination. The potentially continued cost squeeze suggests that some of the millions of BLS customers will no longer have timely, objective, high quality data on which to make important decisions.

Accordingly, we prevail upon the Subcommittee to restore lost funding for all core BLS programs and for renewed investment in its technical staff. A level of $633 million would accomplish this restoration and also permit the agency to expand and enhance its Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey for better, faster, and more disaggregated regional information on employment dynamics.

Thank you for your understanding of the gravity of the BLS funding situation and our hope to see it
resolved in FY 2016 – to the benefit of evidence-based employment and workforce policies, U.S. firms’
informed decision making, and our basic understanding of how U.S. prosperity is linked with wages,
employment, consumer prices, and trade.


Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
American Statistical Association
APB Associates
Association of Public Data Users
Beer Institute
Robert Bednarzik, Professor, Georgetown University Public Policy Institute
Consortium of Social Science Associations
Council for Community and Economic Research
Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics
Maurine Haver, President, Haver Analytics
International Council of Shopping Centers
Alan B. Krueger, Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University
National Apartment Association
National Association for Business Economics
National Association of Forensic Economists
National Association of Home Builders
National Association of Workforce Boards
National Multifamily Housing Council
North American Regional Science Council
Randall Olsen, Director, Center for Human Resource Research, and Professor, The Ohio State University
Population Association of America
The Prison Policy Initiative
Andrew Reamer, Professor, George Washington University Institute of Public Policy
RTI International
Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Contact: Katherine Smith, Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, 703-836-0404

Direct Appropriations to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1996-2014