Data Users Seek Simplicity, Quality

by Michelle Massie
March 23, 2015

A customer satisfaction survey conducted by the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that many businesses and other audiences are using employment data, especially information available by industry sector, but some complained about the functionality of the BLS website. By surveying a sample of businesses, CES produces monthly estimates of hours, employment, and earnings. These are important indictors of the economy’s strength and can reveal trends in the labor market.

According to BLS, “CES data users reported being most interested in major industry and industry sector employment from the CES program. More users were interested in state-level data than in national data.” In addition, few respondents said they looked at CES data at the metropolitan or local level.

The majority of respondents identified themselves as people working in private businesses, state or local government workers, or employees of industry or trade associations. BLS recently released the results from the survey, which was conducted last year.

When asked to make open-ended comments, many respondents said the BLS website was difficult to navigate, and some wanted better tools for downloading large data sets and more accurate industry breakdowns at the state level, e.g. the ability to separate residential and nonresidential construction jobs.

A recent survey conducted by WDQC asked more than two dozen employers from Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships (BLU) to report on their usage of public data sources. WDQC found that more than half of employers turned to BLS data when determining where to locate or expand a business or make future investments, but they more often used information from competitors to determine wage rates or to see what positions were in demand.

The WDQC survey supports BLS’ assertion that businesses are making use of its publicly available data. Another similarity: half of the respondents from the WDQC survey used state labor market websites for forecasting and analysis, supporting the discovery from BLS that their users are interested in state-level data.

If BLS turns its survey findings into actionable improvements such as more streamlined data sets, enhanced industry breakdowns, and better marketing and explanation of products and programs, it is possible that more employers would use CES data in their information-gathering and decision-making processes—particularly for economic forecasting.