History of BLS
Carroll D. Wright
Jan 1885–Jan 1905
Served under: Grover Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt
Carroll Wright was born in New Hampshire in 1840, the son of a Universalist minister and farmer. During the Civil War, he enlisted in the 14th New Hampshire Volunteers and rose to the rank of colonel. After the war, he opened up a furniture store, but it quickly went out of business. He then became a patent attorney and went into politics, serving two terms in the Massachusetts Senate.
In the early years after the war, attempts to create a national labor agency were unsuccessful, but organized labor's efforts were rewarded with the establishment of the first state Bureau of Labor Statistics in Massachusetts in 1869. However, the first Chief and other high officials in the agency were too closely tied to the activist labor movement, which caused considerable controversy and almost destroyed the Bureau. Hoping to establish the Bureau's credibility, in 1873 Governor William Washburn replaced the first Chief with Wright, someone who was not associated with the labor reformers. Wright proved to be the right man; his dearth of knowledge of both statistics and labor problems was overcome by his determination to be impartial. The Bureau soon was effective enough that 12 other states followed Massachusetts' lead and established their own labor bureaus in the next 10 years.
By 1884, congressional support for a national Bureau of Labor was overwhelming, and, on June 27th, it was established as part of the Department of the Interior. The bill gave the President the power to appoint a Commissioner of Labor to a 4-year term. President Chester Arthur passed over several candidates from various labor organizations and, in January 1885, chose Wright to be the first person to occupy this office. Once again, Wright's objective judgments and impartiality were important factors in the Bureau's instant success. Reviews of the Bureau's early work were overwhelmingly positive. It is interesting to note that during the first 3 years of his time as Commissioner, Wright continued to serve as Chief of the Massachusetts Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Carroll Wright, as the first Commissioner of Labor, further defined the role future occupants of the office would play. "When first appointed United States Commissioner of Labor, Wright spelled out carefully the policy that this new factfinding agency should limit itself to factual investigation and eschew propaganda."
During Wright's tenure, the Bureau published numerous reports, including 19 annual and 12 special reports, which covered a wide variety of labor, industrial, and related problems. "The choice of survey subjects and the scope of inquiries undertaken by the Bureau were largely decided by Wright, although, in some instances, the problems to be studied were prescribed by Congress."
In 1886, the Bureau published its first annual report; the subject, industrial depressions, was motivated by the poor economic conditions of the mid-1880s, particularly in the railroad industry. Depressions from as far back as 1830 in the United States and several European countries were analyzed. Wright concluded that major causes of depressions were overproduction/underconsumption and speculative investment.
In 1890, Congress enacted a tariff sponsored by Representative William McKinley of Ohio, who became U.S. President 7 years later. The following year, the Senate Committee on Finance wanted to determine the tariff’s effects and asked the Bureau to collect data on prices, wages, and hours of work. The result was two Bureau reports that were hailed as landmark sources of data on prices and wages. In 1892, "Retail Prices and Wages" was published, and this was followed by "Wholesale Prices, Wages, and Transportation" the next year. In 1902, using a survey based on the years 1890-1901 and an entirely new concept, the Bureau began publication of the Wholesale Price Index. This was followed in 1903 by the Bureau's first weighted retail price index, which covered the category of food.
In 1893, Wright was appointed Superintendent of the Census, despite his statements that he did not want the position. He held this office concurrently with his Labor Commissioner position until 1897. Despite a lack of available time to devote to his Census duties, he played a significant role, as several of the reforms he advocated for the Census were eventually put into effect, either during his term or shortly thereafter.
Studies on strikes and lockouts were published in 1887, 1894, and 1901. The former two reports provided estimates of the losses to both management and labor because of lost worktime. Wright participated in the settlement of several disputes between labor and management that had resulted in strikes, most notably the 1894 Pullman strike, where he was chairman of the Presidential investigative commission, and the 1902 anthracite coal strike.
Wright's early and continuing concern about the impact of changing industrial developments on the family, and particularly on the employment of women and children, was reflected in a series of landmark studies. One study provided information on wages, expenditures, health, moral standards, work environment, family backgrounds, and marital status of working women in 22 large cities. A later survey compared employment and wages of women and children with that of men in like occupations. Another significant Wright achievement was ethnic studies conducted on the condition of Negroes and of recently arrived immigrant groups. The Bureau also issued a report on the effects on labor of the introduction of machinery, whether it had depressed wages or increased unemployment.
Wright's last major contribution as Commissioner came in 1904 when the Bureau published its first annual report on wages and hours of labor. The study covered 519 different occupations; data were provided by 3,475 establishments in 67 industries.
On his 20th anniversary as Commissioner in January 1905, Wright retired from Government service. He had been the major figure in laying the Bureau's foundation. The studies conducted, reports published, and statistical concepts and techniques developed during his tenure were important, but perhaps his greatest accomplishment was the establishment of the principle that the Bureau would be devoted to "the fearless publication of the facts without regard to the influence those facts may have upon any party's position or any partisan's views." Carroll Wright died in February 1909.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Charles P. Neill
Feb 1905–May 1913
Appointed by: Theodore Roosevelt
Also served under: William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson
Charles Patrick Neill was born in Illinois in 1865 and grew up in Austin, Texas. He studied at numerous colleges, including the University of Notre Dame, The University of Texas, Georgetown University, and Johns Hopkins, and taught at Notre Dame and then Catholic University in Washington, D.C. While a professor of political economy at Catholic University, he was introduced to a fellow teacher, Commissioner of Labor Carroll Wright.
After serving as vice-president of the Board of Charities for the District of Columbia and actively participating in the District's Civic Center, Neill was recommended by Wright to serve on a commission to mediate the anthracite coal strike. President Roosevelt followed Wright's suggestion and appointed Neill to the Board of Conciliation and Arbitration for the anthracite industry in 1903. In 1904, the President chose Neill as Wright's successor to be Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor.
Neill tackled several large issues during his 8 years as Commissioner. In 1906, when Upton Sinclair exposed the unsanitary conditions in Chicago packinghouses in his novel The Jungle, President Roosevelt called upon Neill to investigate. Neill and James Bronson Reynolds, a reformer from New York City, submitted the Neill-Reynolds report, and by June, the President signed Congress' meat inspection bill and the Pure Food Law.
When the American Federation of Labor accused Government contractors of violating the law limiting their laborers and mechanics to an 8-hour workday, President Roosevelt assigned Neill the task of investigating the alleged abuses. Neill was also called upon to study the immigration situation after unions argued that current immigration laws provided cheap, nonunion labor to businesses. In 1907, Roosevelt appointed Neill to a committee studying immigration to the South and also to a commission charged with reviewing immigration as a whole.
Labor disputes, especially in the steel, mining, and textile industries, were common during Neill's years as Commissioner. His investigations led to comprehensive reports detailing everything from the causes of the disputes to the impact of new technology on labor. In 1910, a strike at Bethlehem Steel was investigated by the Bureau, which led to a four-volume study, published over 2 years, on the conditions in the iron and steel industry. Another Bureau investigation looked into the violent conflicts between police and strikers at textile mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Although started by only a few workers in response to reduced pay by the American Woolen Company, the strike quickly grew to where it involved an organized group of 20,000 workers, led by the Industrial Workers of the World. The Senate published the Bureau's report as a Senate Document, eventually leading to the establishment of a commission to thoroughly investigate labor conditions in the United States.
Neill was essential in mediating many labor disputes, helping to settle around 60 railway controversies. However, this work absorbed enormous amounts of his time, so, in 1913, Neill worked with a committee to develop a plan for a separate, permanent board of mediation. Once Congress passed the Newlands Act, setting up the Board of Mediation and Conciliation, Commissioners of the Bureau were no longer required to mediate labor disputes.
The Bureau under Neill led the movement to improve industrial safety and health conditions, publishing reports on railway employee accidents, fatal accidents in coal mining, and accident experiences in other countries. In 1912, the publication Accidents and Accident Prevention was the first in a continuing annual series on industrial accidents in iron and steel. An article published in 1908 on mortality from consumption gave rise to the fight against tuberculosis. Neill's concern over phosphoric poisoning led to a study in 1909 on the effects of white phosphorous in match production; after the report's publication, legislation was introduced to ban phosphorous matches from interstate commerce.
Neill also led the Bureau to publish a study on industrial education, which the American Federation of Labor termed as the "most comprehensive study of the whole subject that has ever been made in the United States." Educational work in the field of social insurance resulted in Congress passing the first workmen's compensation law in 1908; the Bureau oversaw the administrative function for 8 years.
In 1907, Neill and the Bureau launched a massive study on the working conditions of women and children. Work on the study continued through 1909, and the resulting 19 volumes dealt with several aspects of the employment of women and children in the cotton, glass, men's readymade garments, and silk industries to reasons for children leaving school and the relationship between employment and juvenile delinquency. Studies also covered historical accounts, health questions, family budgets of cotton-mill workers, and State enforcement of labor laws. Results from the study influenced the establishment in 1911 of a special unit in the Bureau of Labor to conduct studies relating to the condition of women in the United States and also the creation of the Children's Bureau in 1917. The Bureau's studies on women and children were met with strong criticism by southern Senators, but many others backed the findings of the investigation.
Neill sought to improve the quality of the Bureau's statistical work. He visited the Bureau's agents in the field, and in 1908, he undertook an extensive revision and reorganization of the Bureau's statistical work. Also in 1908, in line with a Governmentwide directive to improve efficiency, the Bureau moved to put its personnel system on a merit basis and instituted efficiency ratings for its employees.
Neill's second term as Commissioner expired on February 1, 1913. On March 4, President Taft's last day in office, Taft signed the bill creating the new Department of Labor. On March 8, President Wilson sent Neill's nomination forward for a third time as Commissioner. Accusations against Neill of political partisanship and unfairness to the South by former Bureau employees and Senator Benjamin Tillman of South Carolina led to a full investigation of Neill, which succeeded in completely absolving him. President Wilson fought for Neill, and on March 22, the President made the appointment. However, two weeks after his reconfirmation, Neill submitted his resignation, citing financial difficulties.
Following his resignation, Neill took a position with the American Smelting and Refining Company to organize and conduct their labor department. Neill resigned from the company in 1915 to become manager of the Bureau of Information of the Southeastern Railways, a post he held until his retirement in 1939. Neill remained active in National Civic Federation projects directed at labor management-cooperation, mediation, and arbitration. He also continued to be active in civil and social welfare work, particularly concerning women and children. In January 1920, he was named to the Board of Education by the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia, and in November 1921, he became the first director of the National Catholic School of Social Service. Charles Neill died in October 1942.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Aug 1913–Jun 1920
Appointed by: Woodrow Wilson
Royal Meeker was born in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania in 1873. He attended college at Iowa State College, Columbia University, Seligman, and the University of Leipzig before becoming a professor of history, political science, and economics at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania. A year after publishing his dissertation in 1905, Meeker earned his Ph.D. from Columbia. When Meeker applied for and gained a position at Princeton in 1905, he made his first connection with Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton.
Wilson was elected President in 1912, and shortly afterward, Meeker offered to help by performing a survey of the economic community on the banking reform issue. Wilson found the information "most useful," and, in June 1913, when Secretary of Labor Wilson recommended Meeker fill the position of Commissioner of Labor Statistics, President Wilson urged the Senate to accept. Meeker was sworn in on August 11.
A staunch believer in stressing the human factor in business, Meeker wanted, among other things, a nationwide system of public employment offices; workmen's compensation; child labor restrictions combined with strong, State-controlled schools; and government action to protect workers. Meeker also sought to eliminate duplication of work by Government agencies, singling out six agencies competing with the Bureau.
During Meeker's first years as Commissioner, he revised the index numbers of retail and wholesale prices, updated wage studies data collections, and began cost-of-living studies for the District of Columbia. In his concern for unemployment, Meeker ordered studies in 16 East and Middle West cities and 12 Rocky Mountain and Pacific Coast cities. The Bureau published the results in 1916 in the publication Unemployment in the United States. At the same time, the Bureau began a monthly series, "Amount of employment in certain industries," which was the start of the Bureau's establishment series on employment and total payrolls. In trying to reduce labor turnover by promoting improved working conditions in businesses, the Bureau surveyed corporate welfare plans from 430 employers.
In 1915, Meeker began supplementing the Bureau's irregularly published bulletins with a new, monthly journal - the Monthly Review, now called the Monthly Labor Review. The journal expanded greatly, publicizing the first results of new Bureau surveys on cost of living, the new budget studies, and information on conditions in other countries. The Review later carried articles on the effect of war on wages, hours, working conditions, and prices in European countries.
Meeker also believed in creating national health insurance and safety programs. In 1916, he succeeded in convincing Congress to create a Board to administer the workmen's compensation program, which had been under the Bureau's responsibility since 1908. Working with a committee of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions, Meeker helped develop standard methods and definitions for reporting accidents. The Bureau offered to tabulate and publish State accident statistics, and in 1917, published Causes of Death by Occupation.
Meeker's second term brought new challenges with the United States entering World War I. With the Government trying to adjust wages to rising costs of living, Meeker was permitted to create a comprehensive consumer expenditure survey. The Bureau began work by surveying the cost of living of families in shipbuilding, the results of which the Shipbuilding Board used to set uniform national wage rates for skilled shipyard trades.
Soon, the Bureau was allocated $300,000 to collect nationwide data on the cost of living. Conducted in 1918–19, the survey covered 12,000 families in 92 cities in 42 States. The results were published in the Monthly Labor Review in May 1919. Shortly thereafter, the Bureau issued its first comprehensive set of cost-of-living indexes for the Nation and for major industrial and shipbuilding centers. This marked the beginning of semiannual cost-of-living indexes for the Nation as a whole and for 31 cities.
To reflect wartime conditions and help resolve disputes, the Bureau was allotted $300,000 for an integrated study of occupational hours and earnings. The results, presented in May 1920, covered wages and hours during 1918 and 1919 for 780 occupations in 28 industries.
Meeker resigned in 1920 to head up the Scientific Division of the International Labor Office (ILO), a major office in the League of Nations. Secretary of Labor Wilson called Meeker "an exceptionally efficient administrator of the Bureau of Labor Statistics." Secretary Wilson went on to describe Meeker's three greatest accomplishments: coordinating the Bureau's work with work performed by States and standardizing industrial terminology and methods; reorganizing the cost-of-living work on a family budget or market basket basis; and studying wartime wages and living costs that were accepted by all the wage boards.
After working for the ILO from 1920 to 1923, Meeker served as Secretary of Labor and Industry for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from 1923 to 1924. In 1924, he went to China as a member of the Commission on Social Research, and 1926–27, he taught economics at Carleton College in Minnesota. Meeker served as president of the Index Number Institute in New Haven from 1930 to 1936, and in 1941, he was named Administrative Assistant and Director of Research and Statistics of the Connecticut Department. He retired in 1946 and died in New Haven in 1953.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Jun 1920–Jun 1932
Appointed by: Woodrow Wilson
Also served under: Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover
The fourth Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Ethelbert Stewart, was born in Cook County, Illinois, the county that encompasses Chicago, in 1857. After moving south to Lincoln, Illinois at the age of 20, Stewart began publishing the Lincoln County Republican. He later sold his interest in the paper and made a few other job changes before beginning work at the Decatur Coffin Factory. Laboring in a factory stimulated his interest in the workingman's situation, and he became involved in politics. The year 1885 was one of both blessings and curses for Stewart. Although he was unsuccessful in his run for the office of city clerk on a workingman's ticket, he did later obtain a position as an officer at the Illinois State Trades and Labor Convention. Also, his efforts on behalf of the workingman were not popular with company management and led to him being blacklisted by them. However, Illinois Governor Richard Oglesby was impressed by Stewart's work and appointed him Secretary of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics. Stewart also joined the Knights of Labor and took on the position of editor for the Decatur Labor Bulletin. All of this occurred in 1885.
Stewart continued as Secretary of the Illinois Bureau of Labor Statistics through four successive 2-year terms, ending in 1893. Concurrently with the Secretary position, Stewart became a special agent for the new Federal Bureau of Labor in 1887. He continued in this role until 1910, when he transferred to the Tariff Board and followed that by going to the Children's Bureau in 1912. However, in 1913, he returned to what had now become known as the Department of Labor when he became simultaneously the Chief Clerk, Chief Statistician, and Deputy Commissioner for BLS. During the next 7 years, he performed the duties of these offices with distinction, as well as serving the Department in a variety of other capacities.
In 1920, Secretary of Labor Wilson recommended Stewart to President Woodrow Wilson (no relation) for the position of Commissioner of Labor Statistics. Politics delayed Stewart's confirmation, but he was renominated by incoming President Warren G. Harding and confirmed in April 1921.
During World War I, much of the work of BLS had been paid for with special funds, but afterwards funding returned to normal levels and several programs were cut. Nevertheless, by developing cooperative relationships with the State bureaus and establishing a nationwide network of reporting agencies, the Bureau was able to expand some of its programs. Stewart also increased cooperative relationships with professional societies such as the American Economic Association and the American Statistical Association.
Early in Stewart's tenure as Commissioner, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, along with President Harding, pushed for the cost-of-living work to be transferred to the Census Bureau. This proposal was never acted upon, but, in order to live within its budget, in 1925, the Bureau had to begin publishing the index semi-annually, rather than quarterly. Because it was a less costly and complex process than using the consumer expenditure survey to calculate a cost-of-living index estimate, the Bureau expanded its collection of retail prices, so that by 1932, it included 42 articles of food in 51 continental cities of the United States and in Honolulu.
The wholesale price index was revised and expanded three times while Stewart was in office, the last time being in 1932 when the number of price series was increased to 784 and index publication became weekly, rather than just quarterly. This index proved to be very popular and became the focus of various legislative proposals for stabilizing commodity price levels. For example, a 1922 bill in Congress would have pegged the quantity of gold weight in the dollar to a BLS index of wholesale prices in an attempt to maintain constant purchasing power.
Stewart expanded the collection of wage data and launched a few new series in this branch of labor statistics. In the late 1920s, the Bureau started a monthly series on current general wage changes based on questionnaires sent to establishments and unions. Especially valuable were the series begun in 1932 on hours worked per week and average hourly earnings.
The Bureau had already moved to expand its employment series when, in 1926, a study sponsored by the American Statistical Association recommended that BLS function as the coordinating agency for the publication of "a periodic report on employment throughout the nation." By the following year, the Bureau's monthly reports provided information on 54 manufacturing industries, covering approximately 11,000 establishments. After the stock market crash in October 1929, Stewart's and the Bureau's concentration increasingly was on employment and unemployment statistics. However, differences in unemployment estimates between the Bureau and the Employment Service, the latter estimate being lower and favored by the Hoover administration, became a politically explosive matter that hastened Stewart's retirement.
Stewart was a strong advocate of statistical programs in the areas of industrial safety and health. In 1926, the Bureau began an annual survey of industrial injuries in a group of manufacturing industries. Later, using data from 1930 covering about 25 percent of the workers in 30 manufacturing industries, the survey reported average frequency and severity rates.
Social insurance and various forms of protective legislation continued to be an active interest of the Bureau. In the early 1920s, reports were published on workmen's compensation, family allowances, legal aid, cooperatives, minimum wage, women workers, and child labor. Later in the decade, the Bureau concentrated on pension and retirement income.
The study of productivity and the effects of technological change made important strides under Stewart as productivity became an issue in labor-management relations in the 1920s. In 1926, the Bureau published its first annual indexes of labor productivity for the automobile, steel, paper, and shoe industries, and followed this in 1927 with indexes for 11 other industries.
On July 1, 1932, Commissioner Stewart, then 74 years old, was retired involuntarily under the Economy Act of 1932, which required automatic separation of retirement-age Federal employees after July 1932, unless specifically exempted by the President. Stewart's term ran until December 1933, but Secretary of Labor Doak's refusal to recommend exemption resulted in his termination. It was only 4 years later, in 1936, when Ethelbert Stewart died.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Jul 1933–Jan 1946
Appointed by: Franklin Roosevelt
Also served under: Harry Truman
Isador Lubin was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1896. His father, a Lithuanian immigrant, owned a retail clothing business, at which Isador worked part-time during his later high school years and his college years. He attended Clark College in Worcester, an institution which, interestingly enough, had Carroll Wright, the first Commissioner of Labor, as its first president early in the 20th century. Upon graduating in only 3 years in 1916, he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Missouri. Although he was on a fellowship in sociology, Lubin did most of his course work under the famous economist Thorstein Veblen.
Lubin's first job was with the Food Administration, where he prepared studies on food production and farm labor problems. In his second job, with the War Industries Board's Price Section, he analyzed commodity price fluctuations and the effects of Government-imposed price floors and ceilings. After a brief stint as an instructor in economics at the University of Michigan, he took a teaching and research position with the new Institute of Economics (later the Brookings Institution). In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Brookings gave him assignments that involved working closely with Senators Robert Lafollette of Wisconsin, Robert Wagner of New York, and Edward Costigan of Colorado on legislation involving employment. For example, during 1931 Lubin worked with Wagner on legislative efforts to secure unemployment insurance and with LaFollette on the Senator's famous investigation of the depression and possible remedies for it, including the question of economic planning. Isador also assisted in hearings on a bill that called for expanded monthly reports on employment by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which, after the hearings, was enacted immediately.
Frances Perkins, the newly-appointed Secretary of Labor in the incoming Roosevelt administration and the first-ever woman Cabinet member, appointed Lubin in 1933 to be the Commissioner of Labor Statistics, making him the fifth person to occupy the office. She did so because of her confidence that Lubin regarded statistics as more than just numbers, but representations of the struggles of actual people as well.
Lubin's views of government mirrored those of his appointing President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He saw minimum wage and maximum hour laws as necessary for workers to maintain a decent standard of living under humane working conditions. He believed events had demonstrated that government leadership and participation were required to meet violent economic dislocations, whether in peace or in war, since private enterprise did not adapt well to such dislocations.
Economic stability, Lubin believed, necessitated increasing the national income and raising the standard of living, and he continually argued for programs that would expand production and increase the general purchasing power. As an essential factor in achieving these goals, he urged the adoption of national economic planning. A strong supporter of protections for labor, he urged their inclusion in Section 7(a) of the National Industrial Recovery Act, fought for their enforcement, and tried in vain to have these extended to agricultural workers. As one of the chief participants in the development of the unemployment insurance section of the Social Security Act of 1935, he argued for a thoroughgoing national system and was dissatisfied with the emergent Federal-State plan. Lubin thus believed that through the agency of the Federal Government, the economic system could be stabilized and the industrial system humanized.
Upon assuming office, Lubin began immediately to work with Secretary Perkins on making improvements to the Department's statistical program. This resulted in a statement from Perkins in mid-1934 that the Department's statistical work "is perhaps better than at any time during its history and represents the best technical standards, as to method, coverage, and interpretation.4" Lubin and Perkins also worked with members of other Federal statistical agencies on the coordination of statistical work; this resulted in the establishment of a Central Statistical Board, on which Lubin served as vice-chairman.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) was created in 1919 as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. Congressional rejection of the treaty kept the United States out of the organization for many years. However, Secretary Perkins and Lubin began early in their terms to promote U.S. membership in the ILO and led to the Nation's entry in August of 1934. Lubin became the first U.S. delegate to its governing body.
Numerous changes, system upgrades, and new initiatives occurred during Lubin's time in office. In 1933 average hourly earnings and average weekly hours by industry and for total manufacturing were published for the first time. In 1935 the Bureau established the Machine Tabulation Division to centralize data processing. In 1940 BLS introduced a revised cost-of-living index that began to be released monthly. Also, during Lubin's tenure, BLS began occupational outlook work and estimates of employment by State, the latter coming in 1945 when he was Commissioner by title only. Lubin played a leading role in the organization of the Temporary National Economic Committee's investigation into industrial monopolies, for which the Bureau conducted several special studies.
In June 1940, Secretary Perkins gave Lubin a new assignment as economic adviser to Sidney Hillman, the head of the Labor Division of the National Defense Advisory Commission. Lubin retained his position as Commissioner, but A. Ford Hinrichs became the Acting Commissioner and remained so until Lubin's resignation from Government service in 1946. Lubin worked in several different positions, both with the Government and with private enterprise, for the next 20 plus years, including serving as an economic consultant to the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. He died in 1978 at the age of 82.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Aug 1946–Sep 1965
Appointed by: Harry Truman
Also served under: Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson
Ewan Clague, born in Prescott, Washington in 1896, was the sixth Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner. His education included the University of Washington and, after serving as an ambulance driver in World War I, the University of Wisconsin. Clague's teacher, John R. Commons, recommended him to Commissioner Ethelbert Stewart, who hired Clague in 1926 to help develop productivity indexes. After finishing his project at the Bureau, Clague moved on to several other jobs, including working at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, studying the effects of mill closures for the Institute of Human Relations at Yale University, and serving as director of research and professor of social research at the Pennsylvania School of Social Work. In 1936, he was hired as Associate Director of Research and Statistics of the new Social Security Board, and was subsequently promoted to Director. In 1940, he became Director of the Bureau of Employment Security. When Clague was appointed Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1946, he came to the office as a trained economist and experienced civil servant.
Under Clague, the Bureau continued to consolidate duplicate work by separate agencies. In 1945, the Bureau began a national employment series for all 50 States. With budget cuts in 1947, State agencies began completing the compilations, with BLS providing technical guidance and funding. At the same time, the Census Bureau was compiling a monthly survey of the labor force through a survey of households. These two surveys differed in concept and method, thus causing confusion in the public. BLS sought to gain control over the employment data, and finally in 1959, BLS and the Census Bureau agreed to an exchange. BLS would take over responsibility for financing, analyzing, and publishing results from the Census household survey, and the Census Bureau would gain control over the BLS housing and construction activity surveys.
Clague also addressed the confidentiality of Bureau statistics. In an effort to prevent early release of data, in 1961, the Department of Labor began issuing the release dates for monthly data a year in advance. As unemployment rose to nearly 7 percent in 1961, BLS figures gained even greater attention. A Reader's Digest article in the same year accused the Bureau of exaggerating the figures to build support for legislative agenda. In response, President Kennedy established the President's Committee to Appraise Employment and Unemployment Statistics under the chairmanship of Robert A. Gordon of the University of California. The Gordon Committee report, Measuring Employment and Unemployment, came out in 1962 and, while praising the Bureau for publishing release dates in advance, it also offered suggested improvements to several surveys. Following these recommendations, in 1963, the Current Population Survey was updated to refine information concerning family relationships and availability for part-time work. Also, the decision was made that Bureau professionals would only release figures and administration officials would make separate political statements.
Another recommendation by the Gordon Committee was for BLS to collect job vacancy statistics. In 1964, the President gave approval for a series of pilot surveys on job vacancies in 20 labor market areas. BLS, the Bureau of Employment Security, and State agencies cooperated to conduct the surveys, and although Congress did not approve expansion, BLS continued the experimental program and explored additional techniques.
Meanwhile, the composition of the labor force was changing, and Secretary Mitchell encouraged researching it. In 1955, the Department published "Our Manpower Future, 1955–1965" and "Manpower: Challenge of the Sixties" came out in 1960. The Bureau issued School and Early Employment Experiences of Youth and updated and expanded Employment and Economic Status of Older Men and Women. BLS also pursued studies in job mobility, the secondary labor force, labor surplus areas, and plant closings, and began publishing data on educational attainment, marital and family characteristics of workers, and multiple jobholders. Other labor force studies included two projections of military manpower requirements, several surveys of personnel resources in the sciences, and an annual canvass of scientific and technical personnel.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) underwent changes after the war when BLS adjusted weights and components, revised calculations of food prices, and conducted special weekly telegraphic surveys of food prices for prompt release. Budget cuts in 1947, though, resulted in the elimination of some cities and items and a reduced frequency of pricing. Just 2 years later, Congress approved funding for a major revision of the CPI. The revised CPI would not be introduced until 1953. Changes included a modernized market basket, an increased number of items, and expanded coverage to include small urban places. The Bureau also began to measure all items connected with acquisition and operation of a home and calculated a housing index.
The late 1950s, with shifting demographic and buying patterns, brought criticisms of the CPI. The Bureau of the Budget sponsored a comprehensive review of Government price statistics by a committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research. In the new CPI index issued in March 1964, the Bureau utilized some of the committee's ideas, increasing population coverage to include single-person families, establishing probability sampling techniques, developing a system to measure sampling error, and creating a division of price and index number research.
In 1948, BLS published "Workers' Budgets in the United States", a report on the living costs of workers in large cities and the differences between cities. The budget was printed until 1951, when BLS discontinued it because of obsolete goods and quantities. In 1959, Congress gave BLS permission to update the standard budget, and in 1966, a new and greatly expanded series began with City Worker's Family Budget.
Clague oversaw the production of three measures of price movements in primary markets-the comprehensive monthly index, a weekly estimate of trends in the monthly series, and a daily commodity index. The Wholesale Price Index was completely revised in 1952, with the commodity series more than doubling and the base period shifting from 1926 to an average of 1947-49. In 1961, the Stigler Committee issued a report criticizing the Wholesale Price Index as not having a clearly defined universe. Using the Committee's recommendations, the Bureau began developing a time series of industry prices.
Industry studies were severely reduced after 1947 budget cuts, and restructuring produced two types of surveys: the industry surveys and a new series of community or area surveys. In 1959, the Bureau enlarged the wage program to cover 50 manufacturing and 20 nonmanufacturing industries in the industry series, and the area program expanded from 20 major labor markets to 80 areas. In 1960, BLS used the 80-area survey design to conduct a survey of professional, managerial, and clerical occupations, which was used as a basis for comparing the pay of Federal and private sector employees. The Bureau also provided blue-collar wages for other Federal agencies.
Clague resumed the Bureau's work on productivity indexes for selected industries, with the first indexes for the manufacturing sector as a whole published in 1955. In 1959, the Bureau published indexes for the total private economy. The Bureau's productivity data were used by the Council of Economic Advisers in 1962 to set wage and price guideposts listed in its annual report to the President. The Bureau also performed studies examining unit labor costs at home and abroad and the effects on collective bargaining and employment and studied the effects of automation and technological change.
Another accomplishment under Clague's tenure was the expansion of the annual series of injury-frequency and injury-severity measures covering manufacturing and nonmanufacturing injuries. During the late 1940s, the Bureau worked with the European Recovery Program to plan and conduct a number of productivity studies and gave technical assistance to European governments for developing their own economic statistics. About 80 European labor statisticians took 3-month courses with BLS from 1950-51. In 1962, the Bureau joined with other Government agencies and private organizations for the analysis and projection of economic growth trends; in late 1966, the Bureau published the 1970 projections of demand, interindustry relationships, and employment.
Clague retired from office on September 14, 1965, during his fifth term as Commissioner. Senator William Proxmire, a member of the Joint Economic Committee, noted that Clague's "19 immensely productive years" showed "steady improvement in quality and the constantly more accurate and detailed picture of our economy." After retirement, Clague first served as a consultant to Secretary Wirtz and later conducted and published research studies on labor force subjects.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Oct 1965–Jul 1968
Appointed by: Lyndon Johnson
Arthur Ross, the seventh BLS Commissioner, was born in Rochester, New York, on May 1, 1916. He graduated from Harvard University in 1937 and received his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley in 1941. During World War II, he served in the War Manpower Commission. Ross published his first book, Trade Union Wage Policy, in 1948. In 1952 President Truman appointed him to the National Wage Stabilization Board. From 1954 to 1963, he was director of the Institute of Industrial Relations at UC Berkeley, and from 1956 to 1965, he was also chairman of the central adjustment board of the cannery industry of California. During the 20 years previous to becoming Commissioner, he also served on various other public and private boards and commissions and as an arbitrator in several industries.
Upon the retirement of Ewan Clague, Ross was nominated to be Commissioner by President Johnson, and he was confirmed in October 1965. At his swearing-in ceremony, Ross responded to long-standing criticism from several quarters that the Bureau was not interpreting statistics in meaningful terms. He stated that the Bureau "does not and should not formulate policy, but it can and should present impartial, competent analysis of the data in terms which are relevant to the policy issues." He also outlined six principal tasks for the Bureau, including maximum service to the Labor Department; increased analysis and interpretation; programs matched to new trends in the economy and labor force; improved technical quality, especially with enhanced computer capability; more effective communication of BLS activities; and development of new data and analysis on social issues and policy problems.
In 1966, Commissioner Ross presented to the Joint Economic Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Statistics a "master plan" for a comprehensive system of price indexes, which included improvements in the Consumer Price Index to fill gaps, update statistical techniques, and extend coverage to the entire population. In addition, the proposal provided for review - between major revisions - of such elements as outlet and reporter samples and item and specification samples, with appropriate reweighting. Furthermore, it called for experimentation with new approaches to shelter costs, substitution, new products, quality change, taxes, and annual consumer surveys. However, the brevity of the Ross administration prevented these ideas from being implemented until his successor, Geoffrey Moore, had taken office.
To meet the demand for more information, the Bureau's ongoing work on productivity measures was expanded. Productivity measures for the economy as a whole and for major sectors, first published on an annual basis in 1960, were introduced quarterly in 1968. Meanwhile, BLS continued its interest in the impact of automation and technological change. In 1966, the Bureau released an expanded and updated version of its study of 36 major industries. It followed with new studies on computers, railroads, and energy, while continuing to update the earlier work in a series of publications.
Historically, BLS had conducted frequent studies of occupational safety and health problems and had worked closely with safety and inspection groups. In 1966, it began publishing quarterly, as well as annual, statistics on the frequency and severity of work injuries in many industries.
In 1966, the management consulting firm Booz-Allen Hamilton recommended that BLS become "a more integral part of the Department (of Labor)." Also, characterizing BLS as too compartmentalized and inflexible to meet new demands, the consultants suggested stronger central leadership for the Bureau, with a Chief Economist responsible for the products and planning and a Chief Statistician responsible for standards and techniques. Ross accepted these recommendations and put them into effect, also separating the operations functions from the program and planning functions in the Bureau's regional offices. Implementing another Booz-Allen recommendation, the Bureau established a central Office of Publications to help the Commissioner and the program offices plan, prepare, and disseminate public information. Based on another Booz-Allen recommendation, the Bureau encouraged computer language training for its professionals to promote expanded use of computers for analysis and interpretation and worked with the Labor Department to plan a system based on a third-generation facility.
In 1961, President Kennedy established the President's Committee to Appraise Employment and Unemployment Statistics under the chairmanship of Robert A. Gordon of the University of California. After an extensive study, the Gordon Committee called upon the Bureau for major improvements in its statistics. Consequently, in January 1967, the Bureau put into effect some of their major recommendations for the Current Population Survey (CPS). It introduced sharper definitions; a minimum age of 16, rather than 14; and a larger sample.
The Bureau continued its efforts to develop job vacancy statistics, although methodological and conceptual problems and budget restraints plagued the program from the beginning. In 1967, the Bureau began collection of job vacancy data in Phoenix and Oklahoma City in connection with the regular labor turnover survey. At about the same time, however, funding for the turnover program was cut in half as part of general budget reductions.
The tremendous growth in demand for local data and the accompanying expansion of Federal-state cooperative programs enhanced the role of the Bureau's regional offices. In 1967, as part of the Department's effort to establish uniform regional organizations and boundaries, BLS changed the location of one of its regional offices from Cleveland to Kansas City. In 1968, it established new offices in Philadelphia and Dallas, for a total of eight regional offices.
In July 1968, Ross decided to return to academic life and accepted a post at the University of Michigan. Ben Burdetsky served as Acting Commissioner until a new Commissioner, Geoffrey Moore, could be confirmed.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Geoffrey H. Moore
Mar 1969–Jan 1973
Appointed 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."View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Jul 1973–Oct 1978
Appointed by: Richard Nixon
Also served under: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter
Julius Shiskin was the ninth U.S. Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Shiskin had a varied and remarkable public service career. One lasting impact of his leadership is certain to be his insistence on forthrightness and candor in describing data, including their defects and limitations, as the best way to build credibility as well as good statistics.
A graduate of Rutgers University (B.S. and M.A. degrees), he did further graduate work at Columbia University. He was an instructor in economics and statistics at Rutgers (1934-38), a staff assistant at the National Bureau of Economic Research (1938-42), head economist of the planning division of the War Production Board (1942-45), Chief Economic Statistician and Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Census (1945-69), Chief Statistician of the Office of Management and Budget (1969-73), and Commissioner of Labor Statistics from August 1973 until 1978.
Shiskin served under three Presidents and four Secretaries of Labor. He laid the groundwork for a continuing consumer expenditure survey-a break with the tradition of decennial surveys-which would permit orderly and efficient revision at regular intervals of the market basket of goods and services which underlies the index. In 1976, BLS started the first comprehensive revision of the Wholesale Price Index by surveying index users to determine their needs and their views of shortcomings in the measure. The Bureau had reweighted the index in January 1976, but wanted a "general price index" that would be broadly based and more accurate, utilizing probability sampling. The new system consisted of four major components: industry output price indexes, detailed commodity price indexes, stage-of-processing price indexes, and industry input price indexes. In 1978, to emphasize that the index was a measure of change in selling prices received by producers at the level of the first significant commercial transaction of the United States, the Bureau renamed the index from Wholesale to Producer Price Index.
The Bureau continued to introduce new producer price indexes, with the goal of covering all 493 industries in the mining and manufacturing sectors. Shiskin expanded unemployment and employment statistics to include an array of unemployment rates and the employment-population ratio-innovations intended to increase the usefulness of the employment statistics to policymakers and analysts. He presided over the inauguration of new statistical series on occupational injury and illness, wage and benefit costs, international prices, and government productivity. He also initiated an ongoing revision of the Producer Price Index, scheduled for completion in 1984. Another innovative contribution was his interpretation and analysis of the employment price and related data for Government officials, the Joint Economic Committee of the Congress, and the electronic and print media.
Shiskin followed a policy of openness and full discussion of the Bureau's data and methods. Faced with charges of inadequacies in the unemployment data, he campaigned for a national commission to conduct a comprehensive review of employment and unemployment statistics, and he appeared before the Joint Economic Committee almost every month to provide the opportunity for questions about the Bureau's latest figures. He was closely associated with the establishment and funding of the program of continuing consumer expenditure studies. During his tenure, the Federal Government Productivity Measurement Program was authorized on a continuing basis (1973), U1-U7 of unemployment measures first appeared (1975), the Bureau adopted the third generation computer system (1975), and the Bureau published the initial Employment Cost Index as a measure of change in the price of purchased labor services (1976).
His interest in ideas and innovation contributed to the many honors given him: Department of Commerce Silver Medal (1954), Rockefeller Public Service Award (1956); Fellow, American Statistical Association (1961); Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (1962); Department of Commerce Gold Medal (1963); Elected Member of the International Statistical Institute (1969); Honorary Fellow, National Association of Business Economists (1977), among others.
Shiskin's success in improving the data and in maintaining the credibility of the Bureau was reflected in the support for his renomination in 1977. With his reappointment by President Carter, Shiskin became the first Commissioner since Clague to start a second term. Finally, in 1978, Shiskin spearheaded the Bureau's issue of the revised CPI series, the new CPI-U for all urban consumers and the traditional CPI-W for wage-earners and clerical workers. After a long period of illness, Shiskin died in office in October 1978.
To honor the memory of Julius Shiskin, the Washington Statistical Society established an award to be given periodically to individuals making outstanding achievements in the field of economic statistics.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
May 1979–Dec 1991
Appointed by: Jimmy Carter
Reappointed by: Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush
After receiving her B.A. from Douglass College of Rutgers University and her Ph.D. from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, Janet Norwood taught at Wellesley College and conducted research in international economics at nearby Tufts. She began working at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1963, and in the next 9 years she spent most of her time in the price office, where she renewed and redeveloped the international price program and managed the consumer price program. She rose rapidly in the ranks as she was named Associate Deputy Commissioner for Data Analysis in 1972, Deputy Commissioner for Data Analysis in 1973, and Deputy Commissioner in 1975. Prior to becoming the Commissioner, Norwood received numerous awards, including the Secretary's Award for Distinguished Achievement (1972), the Secretary's Special Commendation (1977), and the Philip Arnow Award (1979).
Toward the end of Julius Shiskin's tenure as Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner, he became very ill and was unable to perform his duties, so Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall appointed Janet Norwood to be the Acting Commissioner. Shiskin died in October 1978, and in March 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated Norwood to be the new Commissioner; she was confirmed in May of that year.
Perhaps the first major accomplishment of the Bureau during Norwood's tenure was the launching of the Continuing Consumer Expenditure Survey, i.e., it was now conducted annually. Although this had been a goal of the Bureau for 25 years, prior to this time the survey had been done only when revisions of the CPI were done, due to a shortage of funds.
Inflation was a severe problem for the country in the late 1970s and motivated the establishment of a House Budget Committee Task Force on Inflation. Debate arose over whether the CPI was overstating the rate of inflation and whether programs indexed to the CPI were receiving too much money. Later in the decade, the Bureau began research on alternative approaches to measurement of homeownership costs in the CPI, a component with substantial weight in the index. After considerable discussion with user groups, the Bureau published five experimental measures of homeownership, including a "rental equivalence" measure. This measure was implemented in the CPI-U in 1983 and in the CPI-W in 1985.
In 1979, the National Commission on Employment and Unemployment Statistics issued a report that contained approximately 90 recommendations pertaining to the Bureau's employment and unemployment statistics programs. The Bureau put many of them into effect while Norwood was Commissioner. In addition, in January 1982, the Bureau issued "Linking Employment Problems to Economic Status," the first of its annual reports on the subject.
In 1983, the Bureau published its first multifactor productivity indexes for major sectors of the private economy, covering the period 1948-81. These estimates measured the annual change in output per unit of combined labor and capital input. Previously, the BLS productivity measurement program had focused on only output per hour of all employees.
When the Employment and Training Administration decided to quit conducting the National Longitudinal Survey, Norwood saved the program by arranging for BLS to take it over. This rich body of data was retained, and surveys continued to keep the information current.
By making regular visits to State agencies and having conversations with Governors about the importance of the statistical work done by these agencies, Commissioner Norwood increased the attention given to the Federal-State cooperative programs. She arranged to have funds for the ES-202 program, now the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), transferred to BLS from the Employment and Training Administration and increased the cooperative relationship with the States.
During her time as BLS Commissioner, Norwood consistently strived to promote the professionalism of its employees. She elevated the role of statisticians in BLS to improve the statistical quality of Bureau indicators and increased their participation in professional associations. During her tenure, Norwood served as president of the American Statistical Association (ASA), vice president of the International Statistical Institute (ISI), and a board member of the American Economic Association (AEA). She also pushed for closer contact between BLS staff and the University community.
Commissioner Norwood established a cognitive laboratory at BLS and developed a memorandum of agreement for cooperation among the laboratories at BLS, the Census Bureau, and the National Center for Health Statistics. This laboratory is now part of the Office of Survey Methods Research, which has made very significant contributions to BLS.
Certainly, this is an impressive list of achievements, but probably the most important accomplishment Commissioner Norwood made was the assertion of the independence of BLS both from political interference and from the rest of the Labor Department on all scientific matters, personnel decisions, and scientific content of all BLS releases. In emphasizing this assertion in her administration, Norwood very closely reflected the attitude and work of Carroll Wright, the first Commissioner at BLS.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Katharine G. Abraham
Oct 1993–Oct 2001
Appointed by: Bill Clinton
Also served under: George W. Bush
Dr. Katharine Abraham received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1982. She served on the faculty of the Sloan School of Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was a research associate at the Brookings Institution, and was a professor of economics at the University of Maryland. During the 2002 spring semester, she also held the positions of visiting professor at the Woodrow Wilson School and visiting research scholar in the Department of Economics, Princeton University.
Dr. Abraham has written extensively on a wide range of labor-market subjects including the effects of job duration on wages; the effects of advertising on job vacancies, wages and the business cycle; and comparisons among the U.S., European, and Japanese labor markets.
As the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for two 4-year terms, from 1993 through 2001, Dr. Abraham instituted improvements in consumer, producer, and international price statistics, and employment and wage statistics. She laid the groundwork for the first U.S. Government survey of time use, and she established the only joint statistical agency advisory body, the Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee. During the public debate on the Consumer Price Index, Dr. Abraham steered a careful course of studying shortcomings and making revisions based on objective research. She expanded coverage of the prices of services in the Producer Price Index; instituted improvements in the Current Employment Statistics, including the substitution of a probability sample for the quota sample; accelerated delivery of employment and wage statistics; and took steps toward expanding coverage of wages and salaries in those programs.
Dr. Abraham now works as professor of survey methodology and affiliate professor of economics with the Joint Program for Survey Methodology at the University of Maryland. She was the 2002 recipient of the Julius Shiskin Award for Economic Statistics, sponsored by the National Association for Business Economics, the Washington Statistical Society, and the Business and Economics Statistics Section of the American Statistical Association. The award recognized Dr. Abraham's many methodological improvements in U.S. price and employment statistics, improvements demanded by the increasingly complex roles those statistics play in business and government affairs.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Jul 2002–Jul 2006
Appointed by: George W. Bush
Kathleen Utgoff received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from California State University at Northridge and in 1978 a Ph.D. in economics from UCLA. Her dissertation was "Unemployment Insurance, the Duration of Unemployment and Subsequent Earnings".
Dr. Utgoff's first job as an economist was with the Center for Naval Analysis (CNAC), a research and development center that conducts policy-oriented research for the Department of the Navy and other public institutions. She was there from 1974 to 1983 performing economic research for the Navy, the Marine Corps, and our own Department of Labor. The work for the Marine Corps earned her a Commendation for Exceptional Service.
From 1983 to 1985, she was a senior economist with the Council of Economic Advisers, where she was responsible for all labor market issues. She headed up an interagency working group that developed policy and legislative strategy for the Cabinet Council on Pensions and Health. She also authored major sections of the Economic Report of the President.
Her work with pensions led her to the position of Executive Director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the Federal agency that insures private-sector defined-benefit pension plans. She served in this position from 1985-89, during which time the agency restored the program to solvency by designing and implementing two new pension laws and instituting risk-related premiums.
From 1989–95, Utgoff served as the chief economist and a partner at Grooms and Nordberg, the largest employee benefits law firm in the country. Besides employee benefits, her areas of practice included the taxation of life insurance companies and corporate reorganizations. She returned to CNAC in 1995 as a vice president responsible for planning and supervision of all research on workforce issues, the environment, health care and infrastructure.
In July 2002 President George W. Bush appointed Dr. Utgoff to be the 12th Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During her tenure as Commissioner there were a number of significant program improvements, in particular, those that addressed long-standing gaps in the Federal Statistical system and those that benefited BLS data users and survey respondents.
While Utgoff was Commissioner, BLS began publishing several new data series, including monthly estimates on the numbers of separations, new hires, and current job openings both for the economy as a whole and for major industry groups. The Bureau also introduced nationally representative estimates of how Americans spend their time, an important addition to understanding socio-economic trends in our increasingly complex society. Adding regularly-published data on employment trends by size of firm was another major accomplishment.
BLS expanded service-sector coverage in its Producer Price Indexes, U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes, and labor productivity series. Services account for about 70 percent of the U.S. market economy, so this expansion vastly increased the relevance of the data to users.
BLS accelerated the release of several series, including data from the Employee Benefits Survey, which employers commonly use to evaluate benefits offered to employees nationwide. With more timely data, employers are better able to improve benefit packages to remain competitive in the labor market and lower employee turnover rates. BLS also made its Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses summary case and industry data available one month earlier. Information on the more seriously injured and ill workers and the circumstances of their injuries and illnesses now are available 3 months earlier. These data are used by employers, policymakers, and safety inspectors to identify and mitigate potential workplace hazards.
BLS increased the number of options available to respondents, for example, an Internet data collection facility that started in 2003 and an expanded e-mail data collection service. These additions eased data collection efforts and reduced collection costs, while simultaneously improving response rates and the quality of collected data. Another benefit was a reduction in survey turnaround time.
Kathleen Utgoff chose not to continue for another 4-year term and completed her term as Commissioner in July 2006. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and others honored her for her service. Although she has not ruled out future opportunities to serve the Nation, she now spends her time with her family and does volunteer work in her community.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Jan 2008–Jan 2012
Appointed by: George W. Bush
Also served under: Barack Obama
Dr. Keith Hall received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from the University of Virginia and M.S. and Ph.D. in Economics from Purdue University. Prior to his government service, Dr. Hall was a full time-faculty member in the economics departments at the Universities of Arkansas and Missouri. He published a number of papers on international trade.
Dr. Hall had over 20 years of federal service with the Department of the Treasury, the International Trade Commission, the Department of Commerce, the Executive Office of the President, and BLS. Prior to becoming BLS Commissioner, he served as Chief Economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers, where he analyzed a broad range of fiscal, regulatory and macroeconomic policies and directed a team that monitored the state of the economy and developed economic forecasts.
He served as the Chief Economist for the U.S. Department of Commerce for four years. In that role, he was the principal economic adviser to the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs and served as a special adviser to the Secretary of Commerce. Dr. Hall previously served as a Senior International Economist in the Research Division at the U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent agency that investigates any matter involving tariffs, international trade, and competition between U.S. and foreign industries.
In 2007, President George W. Bush nominated Dr. Hall to be the 13th Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He was confirmed by the Senate in December 2007 and officially sworn in to office in January 2008. One of Dr. Hall's top priorities was the completion of the effort to modernize the BLS pricing programs. BLS now continuously updates all of the components of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), rather than updating once a decade with each decennial census. Under his leadership, the Bureau began redesigning the Consumer Expenditure Survey that is used to select the market basket of goods used in the CPI. In addition, Dr. Hall oversaw the successful completion of a major information technology investment project to modernize the Producer Price Index Program.
Another priority of Dr. Hall was improving data analysis and dissemination at the Bureau. During his tenure the Bureau redesigned its website; redesigned the data releases; implemented a Customer Information System to track the types of questions our users are asking; developed a detailed Strategic Plan with specific outreach goals; and developed a detailed plan for using social media.
During his term, Dr. Hall oversaw the preparation and celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
Erica L. Groshen
Jan 2013–Jan 2017
Appointed by: Barack Obama
Dr. Erica L. Groshen earned a bachelor's degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University. She was a visiting assistant professor of economics at Barnard College at Columbia University and an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Dr. Groshen joined the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in 1994 and held the position of Vice President in the Research and Statistics Group. She was a visiting economist at the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland, in 1999–2000. She also served on advisory boards for BLS and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Her economics research has focused on labor markets over the business cycle, regional economics, wage rigidity and dispersion, the male-female wage differential, and the role of employers in labor market outcomes.
Erica L. Groshen became the 14th Commissioner of Labor Statistics in January 2013.View bio as an HTML page on www.bls.gov
William W. Beach
Appointed by: Donald J. Trump
William W. Beach became the 15th Commissioner of Labor Statistics on March 28, 2019. Before joining BLS, Dr. Beach was vice president for policy research at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University from February 2016 to March 2019. Before that he served as the Chief Economist for the Senate Budget Committee, Republican Staff, from 2013 through early 2016. Among his other professional positions, he was the Lazof Family Fellow in Economics at the Heritage Foundation and founder and director of the Foundation's Center for Data Analysis. Prior to joining Heritage in 1995, Dr. Beach served as a senior economist in the corporate headquarters of Sprint United, Inc., in Kansas City and, from 1991, as the president of the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. A graduate of Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, Beach also holds a master's degree in history and economics from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Ph.D. in Economics from Buckingham University in Great Britain, where he is a Visiting Fellow in Economics.
Current BLS Senior Management Officials
Acting Commissioners serve between the departure of one Commissioner and appointment of another.
This list includes:
- G.W.W. Hanger, May 1913–August 1913
- Charles E. Baldwin, July 1932–July 1933
- A. Ford Hinrichs, January 1946–July 1946
- Aryness Joy Wickens, July 1946–August 1946; June 1954–July 1955
- Ben Burdetsky, July 1968–March 1969; January 1973–July 1973
- William G. Barron Jr., December 1991–October 1993
- Lois Orr, October 2001–July 2002
- Philip Rones, July 2006–January 2008
- John M. (Jack) Galvin, January 2012–January 2013
- William J. Wiatrowski, January 2017–March 2019
Last Modified Date: April 25, 2019