September 1999, Vol. 122, No. 9
Labor month in review
Lawrence R. Klein (1908–1999)
The September Review
Even the most casual follower of the economic statistics scene is aware of the controversies that have swirled around the issue of quality adjustment in price indexes. According to one critical report, the product category that contributed most to their estimate of potential quality-change adjustments was the appliances including consumer electronics component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Paul R. Liegey and Nicole Shepler look at using hedonic regression techniques to quality adjust VCR prices and the impact such adjusted prices would have on the CPI. While the quality adjustment was relatively straightforward (the authors characterized it as "low-hanging fruit"), the impact on the published price index for "video products other than televisions" was very small in a direction that most analysts would not have expected. The results, in Liegey and Shepler’s words, "indicate that the published index is essentially the same as our quality-adjusted index; if anything the published CPI index (slightly) understated, rather than overstated, average price change for VCRs … ".
As eastern European economies are transformed from command-and-control to market economies, they need more sophisticated economic measures, including labor market indicators. The emerging market economies require policymakers and analysts to have a good understanding of labor market dynamics and the data that are used to analyze them. Mierczyslaw Waclaw Socha and Yaacov (Jacob) Weisberg examine and compare the sources and methods of data gathering in both the previous centralized economic system and the current "Western-model" economy of Poland.
Dave McDermott, an economist in the Kansas City region, contributes an analysis of employment trends in the electric services industry. He finds that employment often, but not always, ran counter to overall employment movements. For example, employment in the industry actually rose during the early 1980s as total employment declined. Conversely, industry employment has drifted down in the 1990s while total employment has risen. McDermott suggests a number of economic, organizational, and regulatory factors that may have played a role in these developments.
Also in this issue, Walter Vanderheide, in an "At Issue," discusses historical trends in consumers' spending over the 1935-36 to 1996-97 period; Charles Muhl reviews a new book by Edward M. Gramlich, Is It Time to Reform Social Security?; and Horst Brand reviews Redefining the State: Privatization and Welfare Reform in Industrial and Transitional Economies, written by Nicholas Spulber.
Lawrence R. Klein (1908–1999)
Lawrence R. Klein, former editor-in-chief of the Monthly Labor Review, died September 23. Mr. Klein, a vigorous advocate for clear writing among government economists, edited the Review for 22 years, and successfully established the magazine as the Bureau of Labor Statistics flagship journal of fact, analysis, and research.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Mr. Klein served in State government in Michigan as an assistant to the Director of the Emergency Welfare Administration and as director of the Division of Industrial Information and Reports of the Department of Labor and Industry. In the period between these appointments, he headed New York’s Department of Statistics and Information of the National Refugee Service.
In 1946, Mr. Klein accepted an appointment as an associate commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. His duties encompassed overseeing a wide variety of Bureau publications, including the Monthly Labor Review. Under his leadership, the Review published articles on a number of important special topics, unique in their time, including collective bargaining in the steel industry, labor in the South, the progress of American labor during the first half of the 20th century, and the status of labor in Puerto Rico, Alaska, and Hawaii, to name a few.
Mr. Klein was awarded the Bureau of Labor Statistics Eminent Achievement Award in 1968 for melding technical value and literary merit in the Monthly Labor Review. Upon his retirement from the Bureau, annual awards were endowed in his name to honor the best article written for the Review by an author from within the Bureau and by an author from outside the organization. Indeed, Mr. Klein continued to vigorously encourage clear writing in the Review, through the Klein Award process and by means of thoughtful critical correspondence.
After retirement, Mr. Klein lectured in economics at the University of Kentucky, and also was founding executive editor of Growth and Change: A Journal of Regional Development. He also taught economics at the University of Arizona, for which he received a second Eminent Achievement Award nearly two decades after his retirement from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for his continued promotion of clear writing.
Lawrence R. Klein established a standard for the Review for which successive generations of editors have tried diligently to adhere. His ongoing contributions will be missed, but his legacy will live on.
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