Brookings Institution

Putting America to Work: The Essential Role of Federal Labor Market Statistics

The United States faces two challenges in providing the opportunity for gainful and meaningful employment to all its citizens.

The first, structural and long-term, requires workers and their communities to adjust to the ongoing shift toward greater skill requirements and higher educational attainment, evidenced by a growing mismatch between worker abilities and employer needs. The second challenge is the cyclical and near-term hurdle of moving the economy out of the Great Recession.

To address these twin challenges, well-working labor markets are essential. A component of that functioning is good labor market information, enabling intelligent choices about career paths, hiring, training, and public investment and policy. Unfortunately, today’s federal statistical system is not adequately serving the needs of the full array of labor market participants and policymakers. This paper’s aim is to provide a vision of a federal labor statistics system that enables Americans to gain productive occupations and a roadmap for implementing that vision.