Bureau of Labor Statistics

Congress should increase funding for key federal statistical agencies assessing traded sector competitiveness and create a national statistical agency.

It makes little sense to have separate economic statistical agencies; other nations combine theirs into national statistical agencies, and the United States should do the same. At the same time, years of budget constraints have caused U.S. statistical agencies to lack the resources needed to effectively measure key elements of the traded economy. There are numerous examples, including the following, which should be rectified through increased or restored funding: The International Labor Comparisons Program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which produces timely, high-quality international comparisons of labor force, productivity, hourly compensation, and prices for many industrialized countries, was terminated in the Administration’s FY 2013 budget; The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) no longer measures manufacturing foreign direct investment specifically and can’t distinguish between “greenfield” new plant investment in the United States and foreign purchases of existing U.S. establishments; BLS reporting of state level data on manufacturing property, plant, and equipment data ended in 2007; BLS lacks and needs to build an import price index so it can fix the productivity measurement problem with regard to imported manufacturing inputs; NSF needs to produce industrial R&D data in a timelier manner, as the most recent data is from 2008. It would also be helpful if the NSF data reported on three distinct components: scientific research, engineering research, and development; BEA should improve its existing annual surveys and five-year benchmark surveys of companies with facilities overseas to identify the type of products manufactured abroad and the number of employees at these facilities.

Congress should restore funding for the International Labor Comparisons (ILC) program at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

BLS’s International Labor Comparisons program adjusts foreign data to a common framework, allowing one to compare the traded sector health and competitiveness of the United States against that of other countries. The ILC data provides complete and comparable time series for extremely useful indicators including manufacturing output, hours, compensation, and productivity, as well as labor force, employment, price, and industry statistics. Funding for the ILC program was terminated by the 2013 sequestration, yet this data is critical to understanding U.S. economic competitiveness, and should be restored by Congress immediately.
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