Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the Bureau of Labor Statistics?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, is the principal fact-finding agency for the Federal Government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics. BLS is an independent national statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, Congress, other Federal agencies, State and local governments, business, and labor. BLS also serves as a statistical resource to the Department of Labor.
BLS data must satisfy a number of criteria, including relevance to current social and economic issues, timeliness in reflecting today's rapidly changing economic conditions, accuracy and consistently high statistical quality, impartiality in both subject matter and presentation.
The BLS publishes information about the Nation's economy, relating to employment, unemployment, and other characteristics of the labor force; consumer and producer prices, consumer expenditures, import and export prices; wages and other worker compensation; productivity and technological change; employment projections; safety and health statistics, and international comparisons of labor statistics. The President, the Congress, academia, State and local governments, business, and labor and U.S. citizens obtain information from the BLS about the Nation's economy.
There are five major statistical programs at the BLS:
Employment and unemployment
- Measures composition of work force (age, sex, racial and ethnic composition)
- Measures wages and determines educational level of unemployed
- Generates mass layoff statistics
- Investigates topics of changing patterns of regional employment
Prices and living conditions
- Generates monthly inflation indicators: Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI)
- Responsible for U.S. Import and Export Price Index
Compensation and working conditions
- Studies changes in wages and benefits
- Generates surveys: Employer's Cost for Employee Compensation
- Maintains Collective Bargaining Agreements on file
Productivity and technology
- Produces productivity measures for industries and major sectors of the economy
- International comparisons and BLS foreign affairs
- Produces comprehensive projections using size and composition of labor force in over 200 industries and 500 occupations
- Publishes Occupational Outlook Handbook
- Generates GDP (Gross Domestic Product) projections
For more detailed information on the various program areas, see Bureau of Labor Statistics Career Opportunities Web Site.
Who works for BLS?
There are over 2600 employees working at BLS. These include economists, mathematical statisticians, and computer specialists. Most full-time positions are located in our National Office in Washington, D.C. Employees also work in seven regional offices: Boston (with a major sub-office in New York City), New York Region for Economic Analysis and Information, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas (with a major sub-office in Kansas City, MO), and San Francisco, and a variety of other locales.
Are the BLS regions hiring?
Yes. We have a limited number of vacancies for entry-level Economists.
We also have part-time positions available that collect data for the Consumer Price Index in over 85 cities nation-wide. Entry level economists in the regional offices perform data collection duties for Price and Compensation Programs or work with State agencies on developing employment statistics. All positions require some travel, although the amount varies by program and duty station.
Must I be an U.S. citizen to apply for a BLS position?
Is BLS an equal opportunity employer?
Yes. All qualified applicants receive consideration for employment without regard to sex, race, creed, color, age, or national origin.
What are the grade levels for which BLS typically recruits?
Generally at GS-7 and GS-9. Please check the Regional Job Openings section for current vacant positions.
Do I Qualify for Economist Positions?
For all Economist positions, you must have:
A bachelor's degree with 21 semester hours in economics, and 3 semester hours in statistics, accounting, or calculus. For more detailed and complete information on qualifications for the Economist positions, please see: Do I Qualify for Economist Positions?.
To qualify for Economist at the GS-7 level, you must:
Have a grade point average of 2.95 or higher; or
Be in the upper one-third of your college class; or
Be a member of a national scholastic honor society
To qualify for Economist at the GS-9 level, you must:
Have a Master's degree in economics; or
Have 2 years of graduate education in economics; or
Have 2 years of professional experience in economics
For information on all Computer Specialist and Mathematical Statistician positions please visit the Jobs in Washington page.
How do I apply for a regional position?
Check the Vacancy Announcements you are interested in on the Regional Job Openings for information as to what is required. BLS also hires students who qualify as Outstanding Scholars (overall GPA of 3.45 or higher, or upper 10% of college class) for both Economist and Computer Specialist positions (the latter are currently available in the BLS National Office only).
Are internships available?
Yes, but they are limited in the Regional Offices and may not be available at all times.
Cooperative Education: The Cooperative Education Program (Co-op) provides an opportunity for students at institutions of higher education to blend periods of study with periods of related or career-oriented employment. BLS and the college or university has a working agreement to develop a combined work/study program best suited to a student's career interest. The most unique benefit of the Co-op program is the potential for non-competitive conversion to a full-time, permanent position upon completing all program requirements.
Where are the vacant positions located?
About 25% (600) of the full-time BLS positions are located in the BLS Regional Offices. In addition, there are approximately 400 regional part-time positions. Full-time positions are predominantly Economists who perform data collection activities or who assist State agencies in the data BLS contracts for from those sources. The part-time positions collect data for the Consumer Price Index. There are six full BLS-Regional Offices and one Regional Office that oversees data dissemination activities. Most full-time staff are located in the regional office city, but they also may be stationed in any of a number of area offices. The part-time staff are located in the cities selected for pricing by the Consumer Price Index Program. A complete list of cities where potential positions may be located is available. For information about positions in those cities, please contact the corresponding Regional Office. The addresses and phone numbers of the Regional Offices as follows:
New England - Boston, Massachusetts
JFK Federal Building
Boston, MA 02203
New York-New Jersey - New York, New York
Regional Economic Analysis and Information
201 Varick Street
New York, NY 10014-4811
Mid-Atlantic - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Curtis Center - BLS Suite 610-East
170 South Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Southeast - Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, S.W.
Atlanta, GA 30303
Midwest - Chicago, Illinois
JCK Federal Office Building
230 S. Dearborn Street
Chicago, IL 60604
Southwest - Dallas, Texas
525 Griffin Street
Dallas, TX 75202-5028
Mountain-Plains - Kansas City, Missouri
2300 Main Street
Kansas City, MO 64108
Western - San Francisco, California
90 7th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
If hired, is an employee required to serve a probationary period?
Yes. The employee is hired under a "Career Conditional Appointment,"
and will serve a 1-year probationary period after the initial hire. During this time, the supervisor will be observing an employee's conduct and job performance. If the supervisor and BLS determine that the employee will not make a fully successful employee, the employee will be released from employment with the BLS.
What training opportunities exist?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is committed to being a "Lifelong Learning Organization", which provides the opportunity for every employee to learn continuously in order to improve organizational performance. Training begins the day you enter on duty at the Bureau of Labor Statistics through orientation and continues throughout your career.
To foster an atmosphere conducive to professional growth, BLS encourages an open exchange of information among the staff members and promotes a continuing education program. Training opportunities are readily available. BLS offers a number of on-site, no-cost training in the BLS Training and Conference Center.
Supervisors also may approve courses that are job-related or for an employee's career development at outside sources such as conferences, seminars, other Government agencies, and at local universities.
Does BLS have a union?
Yes. The Local 12 Bargaining Unit (the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO) is the union recognized as being the sole and exclusive representative for employees in the national office. National Council of Federal Labor Lodges (NCFLL) is the sole and exclusive representatives for employees in the regional offices.
What types of awards are granted to BLS employees?
BLS seeks to attract top talent, and we give special recognition to those who perform at above average levels. Awards are granted for:
- Superior work performance that contributes to the office's mission
- Career service that is marked by sustained superior quality and efficiency over a
- period of years
- Noteworthy achievement by an employee or a group of employees
- Outstanding efforts to promote equal employment opportunities
- Suggestions that improve efficiency.
What are the salaries for BLS positions?
The majority of the positions at BLS are classified under the Federal Government's "General Schedule" (GS). The duties and responsibilities of a job determine the GS number or grade level assigned to the job. Most entry-level professional positions begin at a GS-7 or GS-9.
New employees usually are appointed at Step 1 of the appropriate GS grade level. You will receive periodic salary increases called "within grade increases" or "step increases" if your work is at an acceptable level. You may advance to the next higher step in a grade level every year until you reach the fourth step, at which time you may advance every two years until the seventh step. Beyond the seventh step, the waiting period is 3 years up to the top of the salary range.
State and local taxes, Social Security, Retirement, and Medicare will be deducted from your paycheck.
Office of Personnel Management Pay Tables: www.opm.gov/oca/payrates/.
Promotional opportunities are excellent at BLS, and as a result, most new entry-level professional employees who are doing an acceptable job are promoted to higher grades. We encourage and reward achievement and talent.
Under the BLS "career ladder" program, entry level professionals can expect the opportunity to receive grade increases on a regular basis, up to GS-11. Employees must spend one year in a grade before they can be considered for a promotion to the next higher level. In career ladder positions, promotions are granted in two-grade intervals. For instance, a promotion from GS-7 will advance an employee to GS-9, and so on. Beyond GS-11, promotions are granted in one-grade intervals. Opportunities for promotion above GS-11 also are excellent.
What types of leave benefits are available?
As a Federal employee with BLS, you will be entitled to vacation and sick leave benefits. The amount of time spent in Federal service determines the rate at which vacation time (commonly called annual leave) is credited. Employees with less than three years of service earn 13 days of annual leave per year. Those with more than three years of service but less than fifteen receive 20 days of leave. Employees with fifteen or more years earn 26 days per year.
In addition to annual leave, Federal employees receive a total of 13 days of sick leave a year to be used in the event of illness, injury, or medical and dental appointments.
How many holidays does the BLS observe?
BLS is closed on 10 legal holidays during the year. Employees receive regular pay for these holidays.
Does BLS have flexible work hours?
Yes. The standard BLS workweek is 40 hours-8 hours a day and 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. However, to help meet the special needs of its employees, BLS has a flexible work plan that allows employees flexibility in their work hours to meet personal or family obligations.
Are health insurance plans available?
Yes. BLS offers you an opportunity to provide good medical and hospital care for yourself and your dependents through payroll deductions, with the Government paying up to 75 percent of the cost, depending on the type of plan and option you choose. A wide variety of health benefit plans are available to Federal employees.
Is life insurance provided?
Yes. All employees are given an opportunity to obtain low-cost life insurance protection regardless of your age, physical condition, or sex under the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Plan.
Does BLS offer a retirement program?
Yes. The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) is the Federal retirement system for employees hired after December 31, 1983. FERS is a three-tiered retirement plan. The three components are:
- Social Security Benefits
- Basic Retirement Benefit Plan
- Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is an optional, tax deferred retirement savings plan. An employee receives an immediate tax deduction for each year in which money is deposited in the account. The employee gets an additional tax break under the savings plan because money comes out of the employee's pay before federal, and, in most cases, state or local income taxes, are computed.
Employees may designate a percentage of their basic pay to be contributed to
the plan per each pay period (up to an annual maximum set by the IRS). The employee
will receive agency matching contributions of up to 5 percent of their basic pay contributed each pay
period. The employee receives agency automatic (1 percent) contributions whether or not they contribute to their TSP accounts. Employees may designate to have their savings invested in U.S. Treasury securities, in common stocks or other private market securities, or all three.
The FERS retirement system features "portability" and "flexibility,"
and enables you to take an active role in securing your future. Should you leave Federal service, you may take most of your benefits with you.
For more information on retirement and savings benefits, please visit the Office of Personnel Management website, www.opm.gov/retire/index.asp.
Last Modified Date: April 2, 2009