Spotlight on Statistics

June 2009

BLS 125th Anniversary – Spotlight on Statistics

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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.

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. The biggest 12-month increase ever in the Consumer Price Index was from June 1919 to June 1920, when prices rose 23.7 percent. The biggest drop in prices immediately followed—from June 1920 to June 1921, prices fell 15.8 percent.

One of the most closely watched numbers from BLS is the national unemployment rate. This rate is calculated for many different groups of people—by age, race, gender, education, occupation, and so on—and is derived using responses from a sample of 60,000 households. The highest national unemployment rate in the past 60 years was 10.8 percent in November and December 1982. The lowest rate was 2.5 percent in May and June 1953.

Like the unemployment statistics, payroll employment figures garner much attention each month. These numbers come from a survey of about 150,000 businesses and government agencies. The survey shows that total nonfarm employment has grown by about 100 million since 1939.

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 Handbook has helped Americans plan their careers since shortly after World War II.

For more facts on the occasion of the BLS 125th Anniversary, visit www.bls.gov/spotlight/2009/125_anniversary/.

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