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July 1992, Vol. 115, No. 7

BLS regional offices: contribution to wage programs

Alan M. Paisner

In establishing the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1884, Congress directed Carroll D. Wright, the first BLS Commissioner, "to collect information upon the subject of labor, its relation to capital, the hours of labor, and the earnings of laboring men and women, and the means of promoting their material, social, intellectual, and moral prosperity."1 With this mandate, the measurement of wages, hours of work, and working conditions became a prime focus of the Bureau from its inception.

The program to measure workers' earnings and benefits, as well as work practices, was conducted in the national office for many years. However, over the past 50 years, the Bureau's regional offices have played a vital role in advancing the Bureau's wage, benefit, and compensation programs. This role includes conducting surveys, assisting in the development of concepts, performing operational research, analyzing and disseminating survey results, assisting and advising data users, and most importantly, developing and maintaining a continuing and mutually beneficial relationship with data providers.

Although regional wage offices were not established until 1942, their inception was anticipated as early as 1884, when Commissioner Wright stipulated principles to be followed in the Bureau's work. These included "firsthand data collection, voluntary reporting, and confidentiality of returns."2 As data requirements continued to increase dramatically, Wright's insistence on first hand data collection, that is, gathering data through personal visits to business establishments, necessitated a regional staff to perform the function adequately.

This excerpt is from an article published in the July 1992 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.

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1 "Activities of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in World War II," Historical Reports of War Administration, No. 1, June 1947, p. 2.

2 Joseph P. Goldberg and William T. Moye, The First 100 Years of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, September 1985), p. 12.

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