The majority of regional positions are for economists, or econ/statisticians. Regional "Field" Economist job duties include securing voluntary cooperation from sampled businesses, interviewing officials to acquire required data, analyzing collected data for conformance to program requirements or data accuracy, and preparing reports evaluating survey processes or procedures. More experienced field economists may be involved with reviewing data quality, training new staff, and assisting with survey management activities. Some field economists also work with the state agencies providing technical and operational guidance on a variety of employment and occupational injury surveys. As a representative of BLS, you will be expected to travel anywhere from 30-70% of the time, depending on the survey and where you are based. When traveling, you will be reimbursed for your expenses in addition to your regular salary. There also are a limited number of economists in the regional office cities working on public information activities. BLS regional offices also have occasional openings for full-time statistical assistants and administrative support staff.
In addition to Field Economists, BLS regional offices also hire part-time field representatives. There are over 370 positions in 95 cities around the United States. They collect the data that are used to compile the Consumer Price Index. The number of hours worked in a given month varies by the city in which the work is performed. A driver's license is required (expenses are reimbursed) and travel is limited to in and around the metropolitan area in which the position is located. A sample of the requirements for this position is provided. The job is one of visiting or calling stores, business, even renters and collecting specified information about products, services, or costs. Part-time employees are eligible for benefits (life insurance, health insurance, etc.) while they are with BLS.
The career ladder for BLS economists and statisticians is through grade 12. Staff may be promoted to that level, if they meet performance criteria, without competition. For part-time economic assistants, the top grade is currently GS-7.
Positions are generally transferable between regions and, to some extent, between programs. An economist collecting compensation data out of the Detroit office, for example, requires the same knowledge and skills as one working in the same program area out of the Dallas office. Interviewing and people skills are needed across the programs and can translate into opportunities in other regional Branches. An economist who is an able interviewer for the Industrial Price Programs can adapt those skills to conduct interviews for the National Compensation Survey. In addition, a regional economist who develops an in-depth knowledge of the program areas he or she works under is also developing knowledge which would make them qualified for positions in the Washington, D.C. Office.
Regional economists need PC skills. Laptops are often used to collect and/or submit data. The Bureau has an extensive computer network linking all the regional office sites as well as a remote access facility that allows data transmissions and e-mail from anywhere in the country. Those who work with State agencies are often providing technical assistance with nationally developed Unix or mainframe systems in addition to data review activities.
BLS provides both on-the-job and classroom training to new employees - and refresher courses for those who have been on the job for awhile. In addition, some programs have specified courses from outside sources to help you in developing your job skills. BLS also provides funds for additional university or professional courses that can help in preparing you for advancement.
Security of the collected data is of high importance to BLS. We take protecting our data seriously. All BLS surveys, with the exception of the annual survey of Occupational Injury and Illnesses, are voluntary and so require the cooperation of business and individuals. In return we assure them that we will not reveal specific information about them. When you are hired by BLS you will sign a "Pledge of Confidentiality" not to reveal data about the companies you visit to those outside the agency. You will also learn about the Bureau's computer security requirements and be coached in developing practices that will adhere to those requirements. BLS has a strong commitment to its respondents to protect their data and regional economists have a lead role in this effort.