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May 2005, Vol. 128, No. 5
Improving estimation and benchmarking of State labor force statistics
Sharon P. Brown
Among the important economic data developed by the
Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS, the Bureau), unemployment estimates for States and local areas are viewed as key indicators of local economic conditions. These estimates are produced by State workforce agencies under the Federal-State cooperative Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) program. Currently, monthly estimates of employment, unemployment, and the unemployment rate are prepared for more than 7,000 areas—regions; divisions; all States and the District of Columbia; metropolitan areas and areas with small labor markets; counties; cities with a population of 25,000 or more; and all cities and towns in New England, regardless of population.1 The LAUS estimates are used by a number of agencies in the United States to allocate more than $40 billion in Federal funds to States and areas for a variety of socioeconomic programs. State and local governments use the estimates for planning and budgetary purposes and as determinants of the need for local services and programs. With the State labor force estimates released by the Bureau 5 weeks after the reference week and just 2 weeks after the national estimates, the LAUS estimates are one of the timeliest sub-national economic measures issued by the U.S. Government. In operating the LAUS program, the Bureau is responsible for concepts and definitions, technical procedures, and review, analysis, and publication of the estimates. The State agencies are responsible for producing the estimates and for analyzing and disseminating the data to their own customers.
As the principal fact-finding agency for the Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics, the Bureau strives to ensure that its programs satisfy a number of criteria: relevance to social and economic issues, timeliness in reflecting today’s rapidly changing economic conditions, accuracy and consistently high statistical quality, and impartiality. With its estimates for January 2005, the LAUS program has completed a redesign that includes the introduction of real-time benchmarking in current estimation, an approach that is on the frontier of benchmarking methods and applications to official statistics. These improvements to LAUS methodology further the BLS mission of providing the best data possible on a timely basis.
This excerpt is from an article published in the May 2005 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Information on the technical procedures used in the Local Area Unemployment Statistics program can be obtained from the BLS Handbook of Methods, Bulletin 2490 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, August 1997); on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/lau/.
Related BLS programs
Labor Force Statistics from the Current
Local Area Unemployment Statistics
offices and the Federal-State statistics program.—Dec.
Developing statistics to meet society's needs.—Oct. 1989.
Implementing recommendations to improve labor statistics.—Feb. 1985.
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