Putting numbers to work for 125 years

June 26, 2009

June 2009 marks the 125th anniversary of The Bureau of Labor Statistics. In honor of this anniversary, BLS is "shining the spotlight" on a sample of its products, such as price indexes, employment and unemployment numbers, occupational injury and illness rates, productivity, and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

Eight Occupational Outlook Handbook covers

In 1884, Congress voted to establish a Bureau of Labor, and on June 27 of that year President Chester A. Arthur signed the bill into law. A few years later the name of the organization was changed to Bureau of Labor Statistics. Eventually BLS became part of the Department of Labor when the Department was established in 1913.

The Consumer Price Index, or CPI, dates back to the World War I era and is one of the most widely used measures of inflation in the U.S. Currently, over 80 million individuals are affected by cost of living adjustments determined by the CPI; including Social Security beneficiaries.

One of the most closely watched numbers from BLS is the national unemployment rate. It is released monthly, usually on the first Friday of the month. Payroll employment figures from BLS also garner much attention each month.

Other high-profile statistics published by BLS include the Employment Cost Index, productivity, and tallies of workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.

Many people are first introduced to numbers from BLS through one of its best known products, the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The evolution of the Occupational Outlook Handbook is illustrated above. The Handbook has helped Americans plan their careers since shortly after World War II.

To learn more, see "BLS 125th Anniversary," BLS Spotlight on Statistics, June 2009.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, The Economics Daily, Putting numbers to work for 125 years on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2009/jun/wk4/art05.htm (visited September 29, 2016).


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