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BLS History


Geoffrey H. Moore

March 1969–January 1973

Geoffrey H. MooreAppointed by: Richard Nixon

Geoffrey Moore came to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the National Bureau of Economic Research, where he had been the Vice President for Research. Throughout his term, Moore worked closely with Arthur Burns and Julius Shiskin. Burns had been Moore's teacher at Rutgers. Shiskin and Moore had been classmates at Rutgers and, afterwards, professional collaborators in the development of the Index of Leading Indicators.

Early in his tenure, Moore stated his aims for the Bureau of Labor Statistics: BLS data should be relevant, timely, accurate, and impartial. In keeping with these guidelines, Moore listed specific programs needing improvement, including local area data, public sector labor relations, the Wholesale Price Index, occupational safety and health statistics, and the construction industry series. He also called for the development of a general wage index. Moore was able to make progress on many of these objectives during his term and, in addition, to integrate into BLS four programs on employment statistics that were transferred from the Manpower Administration in a governmentwide reorganization of statistical activities.

Shortly after assuming office in January 1969, President Nixon directed BLS to develop plans for a national system of job vacancy statistics. Building on the Bureau's earlier efforts, Commissioner Moore developed a Federal-State cooperative program of statistics on job openings and labor turnover. The first data on job openings was published in 1970.

Although plans for a revision of the Consumer Price Index had been made prior to his tenure, actual implementation began under Moore. In 1970, OMB directed that the Census Bureau, rather than BLS as before, conduct the prerequisite consumer expenditure survey, hoping that this would increase efficiency, because the Census Bureau was the agency specializing in the collection of data from households.

The need for preserving the credibility of Government statistics, primarily through debates about data release procedures, was a theme during Moore's term. Just at the time Moore became Commissioner in 1969, Arthur Burns, as President Nixon's adviser, commented on this issue in a memorandum, stating, "The prompt release on a regular schedule of official statistics is a matter of vital importance to the proper management of both private and public affairs." In addition, the memorandum stipulated that "as a rule, new figures should be released through the statistical officer in charge." Julius Shiskin, the head of the Office of Statistical Policy of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and a future BLS Commissioner, called for a rule to be followed in all agencies, "that the written press release must come out at least 1 hour before any policy commentary. Moore, Burns, and Shiskin decided to discontinue BLS press briefings because they invited questions on economic policy and outlook-matters beyond the responsibility of career service statistical offices. Press officers at the White House and the Department of Labor argued against discontinuing the briefings during a period of inflation, because it would be construed as politically motivated. Moore outlined the new procedures: the statistics would be issued in written releases, reporters could phone technicians to ask questions, and the Secretary would wait at least 1 hour to make his statement. Moore and Shiskin, along with the Secretary, explained that these arrangements would preserve the neutrality and objectivity of the statistics and put the Bureau in conformity with the practices of other statistical agencies. However, the most appropriate process for releasing data continued to be a controversial subject, and there was a subsequent round of congressional hearings, reports, and investigations by the Joint American Statistical Association/Federal Statistics User's Conference Committee and the Industrial Relations Research Committee.

Besides the discontinuance of press briefings, several other events also underscored the sensitivity of data release practices, particularly in regard to analysis and commentary. In July 1971, the Bureau issued the unemployment data for June. The release warned that the published figures possibly overstated the decline in unemployment because of technical problems with the seasonal adjustment factors. The warning, according to a later report of the Industrial Relations Research Association, "evoked dismay and anger within the Administration. These reactions were duly reported in the press, and the Department of Labor was privately told of President Nixon's anger concerning the incident." In the fall of 1971, in response to OMB's direction, Moore announced several changes in the Bureau's organization and personnel. Moore characterized the reorganization as an effort to improve the management of the Bureau's programs and a refinement of earlier organizational changes made by Ross. However, coming on the heels of the termination of the press briefings, the changes were attacked as politically inspired. Lawrence F. O'Brien, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, alleged that the White House was attempting to stack BLS with "political appointees." The Washington Post editorialized, "The Nixon Administration is bringing hand-picked political appointees into the Bureau of Labor Statistics."

Shortly thereafter, Moore was involved in a political issue which was unprecedented for a BLS Commissioner. In November 1972, following his landslide re-election victory, President Nixon called on all Presidential appointees to submit their resignations. Although his term extended to March 1973, Moore, believing he had no option, submitted. Contrary to his expectations, it was accepted, becoming effective in January. Moore's removal caused an immediate outcry because of the traditionally nonpolitical nature of the commissionership. The Industrial Relations Research Association viewed the acceptance of Moore's resignation "with particular concern, because this termination under these circumstances represents a sharp break with the long-established tradition that this position has not been regarded as a political appointment."

After leaving the Bureau, Moore founded the Economic Cycle Research Institute, an independent institute dedicated to economic cycle research. In the tradition established by its founder, whom The Wall Street Journal called "the father of leading indicators," its goal is to advance the tradition of business cycle research established at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Center for International Business Cycle Research. When Moore died in 2000, his former student, Alan Greenspan, called him "a major force in economic statistics and business cycle research for more than a half-century."

Back to BLS Commissioners' History.


Last Modified Date: June 13, 2012