BLS is the principal fact-finding agency for the Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics. We are responsible for the development and publication of data on employment and unemployment, prices and living conditions, compensation and working conditions, productivity measurement, and economic growth and employment projections.
Fellows have a unique opportunity to make major advances in methodology and applications in a number of areas. Some sample topics are listed below. However, applicants are encouraged to propose studies in any socioeconomic or methodological areas that are applicable to BLS data or have the potential of encouraging further significant broad-based research.
Proposals in this area should be for research projects generally applicable to the collection, processing, or analysis of BLS data.
BLS is continuing to strengthen our quality control program. Of special interest is the development of additional techniques for assessing the quality of data obtained from establishment surveys. Some areas for research include:
Diversity in the types of BLS surveys provides a wide variety of missing-data problems. Some examples are:
Demand is continuously growing in survey programs for estimates for domains where the corresponding sample size is insufficient to produce standard design-based estimates of sufficient accuracy. Consequently, model-based or model-assisted estimators are needed. BLS programs such as the National Compensation Survey program are interested in producing small domain estimates.
Recent years have seen broad advances in the field of time series modeling, but BLS is interested in further development of these methods and their application. BLS has a broad array of monthly and quarterly time series for study and testing. Topics of particular interest include:
Inference based upon data from complex sample surveys is a broad area of research. Examples are:
BLS is also interested in a wide range methods for disclosure limitation/confidentiality protection. Examples include:
BLS provides public access to micro-, macro-, and metadata via the Internet. Research is needed on:
BLS publishes large volumes of economic data on employment, wages, and prices. Research is needed in the following areas:
Accuracy in measuring unemployment depends upon the ability to make meaningful distinctions between the various labor force concepts. Areas of possible research include:
A number of BLS establishment surveys collect data on wages and other employee compensation. The Employment Cost Index (ECI) measures the rate of change in total compensation, which includes wages, salaries, and employers' cost of employee benefits. However, additional research is needed to develop strategies on how to best measure and report the impact on labor cost from transitory changes in compensation policy. For example, in recessions, employers take temporary measures such as furloughs and suspension of employer retirement contributions to reduce labor costs. Another possible topic is identifying the measurement framework that is most appropriate for lumpy employment costs such as year-end bonuses.
Since 2003, the American Time Use Survey has collected detailed information about how respondents spend their time. This survey provides an opportunity for methodologists to propose reliability and validity studies. The data also provide a rich source of information useful for economic, psychological, and sociological research. Studies that could be conducted might include, but are not limited to:
The BLS Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII) measures the incidence of OSHA-recordable injuries and illnesses via an annual establishment survey. Recent research demonstrates that the survey likely undercounts the total number of workplace injuries and illnesses. This conclusion is based on matching SOII microdata to other case data (particularly workers compensation data) and applying capture-recapture analysis. Research in this area might explore matching data sets for numerous years to analyze any trends in undercounting over time by industry or injury type, or the effects of administrative changes in recordkeeping rules for the data sets. Alternatively, research might explore whether certain factors affect OSHA recordkeeping practices, such as safety incentive programs, competitive contracting based in part on recordable incident rates, unionization, or the use of third-party administrators, for example.
Productivity-related research includes:
A number of long-standing problems in price measurement would be suitable topics for research. They include:
The Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) program consists of two surveysthe Quarterly Interview survey and the Diary surveythat provide information on the buying habits, income, and demographic characteristics of American households. Proposals under this topic would include theoretical or empirical studies designed to improve the measurement of consumer expenditures. Research could focus on methods for reducing total survey error, as well as on more specific areas, such as optimal reference periods, improving diary methods, analyzing mode effects, or understanding cognitive factors associated with expenditure reporting. More analytic inquiries such as examinations of the joint distribution of income, expenditures, and net worth as well as joint distributions of income and expenditures are also of interest.
The need to define output arises in the development of BLS data on producer prices (the unit of output to be priced must be specified) and on productivity (labor productivity is defined as output per employee hour). Although there is some difficulty in defining output for goods-producing industries, the problems of defining output for many of the service-producing industries are particularly complex.
Behavioral science research approaches have been used to better understand psychological, sociological, and anthropological factors in the survey data collection process. For example, respondent motivation, comprehension, retrieval, and response processes have all been found to affect the quality of survey data. Research could be conducted in a field setting or utilizing the BLS Behavioral Science Research Laboratory which includes a fully equipped usability lab as well as general purpose research and observation rooms, audio and video recording capabilities, and facilities for running computer-administered experiments.
Research topics relevant to BLS might include:
Last Modified Date: September 20, 2012