ACCESS: gopher://stats.bls.gov OR
ftp://stats.bls.gov OWNER: U.S. Dept. of Lavor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides data to businesses, the general public, and government agencies through a variety of formats including print, computer tapes, telephone, electronic bulletin board, and even mailgram. Since January 1994, the BLS database, known as LABSTAT, has been available through the INTERNET via gopher and anonymous ftp. There are future plans for World Wibe Web access.
LABSTAT presenetly provides current and historical statistical data for twenty-six surveys and national indicatiors such as the _Consumer Price Index_ and _Producer Price Index_. For each survey there are documentation files that include a brief description, table structure, and database elements. All data is in ASCII text format (tab delimited) and can be directly imported into a word processor, a database, or a spreadsheet program.
Also found in LABSTAT are news releases that provide current survey-specific information as well as special reports related to labor, such as "Displaced Workers During the Early 1990's." Current surveys and news releases are released individually according to set schedules. The news release database is WAIIS indexed and searchable by keyword.
Historical data is presented in a coded format and is found under "time-series." The coded time-series data can be disconcerting and a bit intimidating to the uninitiated. There are, however, corresponding files containing keys that interpret the codes. If users have specific questions there are BLS contact phone numbers for each survey. A phone call to the _Consumer Price Index_ contact number was promply answered and I was given useful information in a courteous manner. There is also a help desk available on-line.
Some of the time-series files are quite large and unwieldy. For instance, the "Summaries" file for the _Consumer Price Index - All Urban Consumers_ is over nine megabytes! You may want to use anonymous ftp to download the larger files once you have perused the files you need with gopher. Not having to deal with compressed files is an advantage as long as you are a _very_ patient person.
Business librarians needing current, as well as historical, BLS data, all in one place, should visit this gopher.
Robert L. Battenfeld
Southhampton College Library
Long Island University