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Bureau of Labor Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics was founded in 1884 to gather economic data about employment and labor in the United States. The Bureau was founded only after several decades of struggle by the labor movement to establish a permanent federal bureau of labor statistics. Although several states had bureaus of labor statistics, unions wanted a federal bureau to gather economic data on a nationwide basis, which they felt would help the labor movement by providing an accurate picture of employment in the United States for policymakers to consider.

In addition to unions, state commissioners of labor statistics bureaus also favored a federal bureau. For example, Carroll Davidson Wright, the Commissioner of the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor and the future first director of the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, testified before Congress in favor of a federal bureau. Politicians finally got on board with the idea of a federal bureau of labor statistics in the early 1880s. During the 1884 election, both Republicans and Democrats were actively courting labor votes, and thus both parties responded to labor pressure by finally creating a federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Bowing to political pressure, President Chester A. Arthur signed the law creating the Bureau of Labor Statistics on June 27, 1884.

Since its inception in 1884, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has become one of the US government's major generators of data about the state of the US economy. Now under the aegis of the US Department of Labor, the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures inflation, consumer spending, wage levels, demographics of the labor force, and unemployment levels. Even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics was conceived of as an organization that would primarily benefit unions, it has grown into a scientific, neutral, and objective agency that benefits all Americans by providing accurate data on crucial indicators of the health of the US economy.

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