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Guest blog post by Robert M. Groves, Director, U.S. Census Bureau

Very recently the Census Bureau gave to the country the fully-evolved set of statistical information based on the American Community Survey – social and economic characteristics for thousands of communities across the country.

While this was a big deal for us data geeks at the Census Bureau, it marked the beginning of annual estimates for small communities and neighborhoods throughout the country.  Each year, each community throughout the country will get small area estimates of the occupational and industrial sector distribution, commuting patterns to work, health insurance status, disability status, wage levels, school attendance, non-English language spoken, military veteran status, housing structures, fuel use for health, housing costs, and citizenship status. These local estimates are already being used to make real decisions that affect the jobs of Americans.  One set of local officials used local data on current job distributions, educational attainment distributions, and location of other businesses, to attract a new plant to the area, stimulating even more jobs.  In that case, the town was competing with a site in another country.  The statistics from the American Community Survey helped persuade the company to locate the plant in that US town.  American Community Survey statistics answer really practical questions that business leaders have.  For locating an international call center – “Are there sufficient non-English speakers in the area to staff the center?”  For lower-skilled manufacturing – “How long will it take for employees to get to the proposed plant site; how many people use public transportation to get to work?”  For technology firms – “How many persons are there with science and engineering skills?”

To give you a sense of the magnitude of the statistical information we are delivering annually now to both small and large communities, they consist of about 11 billion statistical estimates on the topics above (22 billion if you count the measures of sampling variability we also deliver).  This is unprecedented in the history of the country and, as business leaders and local officials learn how these estimates can be used to make more informed decisions that affect their companies and communities, the real promise of the American Community Survey will be achieved.

Frank Gallo, Workforce Analyst, from the U.S. Department of Labor just authored a list of links on Longitudinal Surveys of Workers.  These surveys repeatedly query the same individual, household, or business establishment over time.  They provide essential insights into how the labor market functions, offering a different perspective from more traditional surveys.  The U.S. Employment and Training Administration’s (ETA) Office of Workforce Investment has assembled information on all the major longitudinal surveys that include information on workers.