The Essential Role of Federal Labor Market Statistics

Hats off to Andrew Reamer at Brookings for another great advocacy piece on the U.S. federal statistical system. 

"Putting America to Work: The Essential Role of Federal Labor Market Statistics" is a call-to-action for policy makers to create a labor market statistical system which actually tracks labor needs, educational attainment, and other supply and demand issues in a more comprehensive and real-time manner. 

It is time that we stopped obscuring the inequalities and the failures (and successes) of our education system through a hamstrung statistical system. For too long we have operated blindly with regard to our labor inputs and outputs and Andrew has many concrete recommendations for bringing these measures together. 

I wanted to call my readers' attention to a section where Andrew talks about some innovations occurring currently:

Local Employment Dynamics: LED links and analyzes millions of workforce administrative records, particularly establishment and employee wage records from state unemployment insurance systems. An experimental program for a decade, Congress approved permanent status for the program in 2009. With annual funding of $14 million, LED is in the first of a three-year expansion plan. LED’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators analyzes workforce dynamics such as hires, fires, turnover, and wage levels by geography (state, metro, county, workforce investment board) and demographic characteristics (age, sex). OnTheMap visualizes the relationship between where people work and reside. A third product, a job-to-job flows tool, will show how defined groups of workers (e.g., in a particular industry and geography, with particular demographic characteristics) move through the economy over time. LED is close to having 50-state coverage. Over the next two years, with proper funding, it plans to add worker characteristics of occupation, educational attainment, race, and ethnicity.

Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems: Statewide longitudinal data systems are NCES-supported, state-managed efforts that track individual progress through formal education programs (pre-kindergarten to postsecondary) and into the workforce. Forty- one states and DC have received NCES grants, totaling $515 million since FY2006. NCES and ETA are encouraging the matching of worker job, wage, and training history with academic history. The Census Bureau’s LED offers the potential to link education data with workforce outcomes across state lines. A complete set of 51 SLDS that link education and workforce microdata would greatly aid understanding of educational program outcomes and career path patterns and so inform student choices of careers and schools, employer choice of workers, educational program design, and public policies.

Real-Time LMI: Using $4 million in Recovery Act funds, ETA is supporting an eight-state consortium’s development of an innovative real-time LMI project for green jobs in the Northeast. Through use of intelligent software, job ads on the web are regularly “scraped” and analyzed to collect current and trend information about job vacancies by geography, occupation, industry, required levels of education and experience, and earnings levels. The information is auto-coded (into standard occupational and industry coding structures) and parsed (to categorize and understand the meaning of the words/phrases contained in the ads). The technology eliminates the time lag between data collection and data production common to most publicly-produced data sources. Real-time LMI will enable vacancy rate estimation, six- and 12-month projections of occupational demand, and better understanding of the demand for and supply of community college certificates and industry certifications. If successful, and with proper funding, real-time LMI technology could be applied to all regions and occupations.

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