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Handbook of Methods

Handbook of Methods

Geographic Area Definitions


Geographic classification systems are ways of grouping and organizing location-based data so that they may be compared with other location-based data.

How BLS measures geographic areas

BLS produces measures for the United States as a whole, its 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, regions of the United States, counties, metropolitan areas, and other subnational jurisdictions. In addition, the International Price Program publishes data on imports by country of origin. However, not each program publishes data for all of these jurisdictions. To learn the level of geography available for each data series, see the BLS Geographic Guide.

Political boundaries such as country, state, and county lines tend to be fixed and don’t change over time. Cities and metropolitan areas tend to be classified by population and commuting patterns observed in the decennial census.

For some of the metropolitan area definitions in use at BLS, see

For geographic area information by program, see