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May 1997, Vol. 120, No. 5
Donald Fisk and Darlene Forte
For more than two decades, the Bureau of Labor Statistics collected, analyzed, and published data on labor productivity in the Federal Government. The statistics that emanated from the Federal Productivity Measurement Program now cover 27 years (1967-94). As a result of recent budgetary constraints, BLS data collection has been trimmed, and several projects and programs, including the Federal Productivity Measurement Program, have been terminated. This article presents some of the statistics produced by the program during its operation. We begin with a brief summary of the history and conceptual underpinnings of the program.
Institutional background. The Federal Productivity Measurement Program evolved from several congressional concerns in the early 1970s, a period when there was great interest in the rate of inflation and the status of productivity in the United States in relation to the other industrialized countries of the world. While the discussion centered on private sector productivity, some members of Congress were interested in the productivity of the Federal Government, which was expanding very rapidly at that time.1 In response to these concerns and to a specific congressional request, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Civil Service Commission (now the Office of Personnel Management), and the General Accounting Office established a joint working group to examine the issue. One assignment of this group was to determine how to measure Federal productivity, which resulted in the inclusion of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the investigation. Following congressional testimony and a number of reports, a formal productivity improvement program was established by the OMB in July 1973. Under OMB guidance, the Bureau was assigned the responsibility of collecting data and constructing the associated productivity indexes. Measurement was only one part of the larger program, which also addressed employee training, management improvement, capital investment, and employee pay and incentives.
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1Measuring and Enhancing Productivity in the Federal Sector (U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee, 1972); and Federal Productivity, Hearings before the Subcommittee on Priorities and Economy in Government, Dec. 17 and 18, 1973 (U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee, 1974).
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