Federal Partners Panel: An Update from Agency Leaders

Dr. Mary Bohman, Acting Director and Deputy Director of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Dr. William Beach, Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and Dr. Ron Jarmin, Acting Director of the U.S. Census Bureau, gathered at the 61st Annual C2ER Conference and LMI Institute Forum’s Federal Partners Panel event to discuss the current work of their respective agencies, new innovations in data collection and dissemination, and the future of work and data-driven economic and workforce development.

Dr. Bohman, Dr. Beach, and Dr. Jarmin recognize the need for granular and timely data. Dr. Bohman stated that BEA is prioritizing the expansion of state and local data, high-quality statistics and data, and meeting user needs by providing disaggregated data, and additional product, geographic, and industry data. BEA is also phasing out data collection by mail and instead focusing on text and email survey response data collection methods, as well as purchasing data from private companies.

Dr. Jarmin, with the U.S. Census Bureau, also spoke to a need for innovative data collection methods. “I think all three agencies (U.S. Census Bureau, BEA, and BLS) are involved in new ways to look at new sources of data… [including] additional administrative data and private data sources,” said Dr. Jarmin. Other priorities at the U.S. Census Bureau include adding new content relating to changes in labor market and productivity and creating products that meet the needs of non-traditional data users.

“I hope everyone knows the future of our work is more granular, more frequent, and [involving the use of] new data sources,” Dr. Beach stated during the event. To that end, BLS, according to Dr. Beach, is focusing on new and innovative data collection methods, such as utilizing Unemployment Insurance (UI) data from states. Dr. Beach speculated there would likely be UI reform efforts at the state policy level or in Congress and perhaps some future opportunities for utilizing UI data in a collaborative effort between BLS and state government agencies.

Changes in Data Products by U.S. Census, BLS, and BEA

Pulse Surveys by the U.S. Census Bureau might not be a permanent product, says Dr. Jarmin, as the data collection is burdensome to users. But while the Pulse Surveys may be impractical in the long term, Dr. Jarmin stated the U.S. Census Bureau is committed to quickly designing and implementing novel and helpful surveys during times of emergency—as the agency did with the Pulse Surveys during the COVID-19 crisis. In other news, the U.S. Census Bureau will also begin collecting data on state marijuana tax revenue collected by states where marijuana is legalized.

For BLS, new data product updates include the release of monthly data from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), where users can find experimental estimates for all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the total nonfarm level job openings, hires, and separations. The first round of JOLTS monthly data was released in June of 2021. And finally, Dr. Bohman announced that BEA, for the first time, will release official statistics of real personal consumption expenditures beginning on December 14, 2021.

Overall, leadership from the U.S. Census Bureau, BLS, and BEA emphasized their commitment to finding innovative data collection and infrastructure methods to provide fast, specific, and disaggregated data to assist local and state applied workforce and economic development researchers.