Researcher Access To Confidential Microdata At The Bureau Of Labor Statistics

Virginia A. de Wolf

Abstract

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) mission is to gather, produce, analyze, and disseminate information on economic statistics. The bulk of the economic data that BLS collects is from business establishments. Most BLS economic data are collected under a pledge of confidentiality. Since staff cannot conduct all necessary (and possible) analyses on the data that BLS collects, the agency sometimes relies on other researchers (non-BLS staff) to do such work. The risk of re-identifying confidential data collected from establishments limits the access to these data (for instance, public-use microdata files are rarely released). BLS has developed a set of procedures to enable access to confidential microdata on-site at its national office in Washington, D.C., for legitimate research purposes. This paper summarizes that process. A brief description of BLS's confidentiality policy is also included.