The choice of how much reliance to place on either of the two employment series affects measured growth of unit labor costs and productivity, which carries important policy implications. For example, the higher unit labor costs derived from the CPS (relative to the CES) would support a stronger case for increasing interest rates. Schultze agreed with the position that both data series contribute relevant information, but he added that the reasons underlying the inconsistencies need to be more fully understood. If it were possible to integrate Census Bureau data on the self-employed and nonemployers with employment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), one element of the discrepancy in establishment- and household-based employment statistics could be studied more carefully.
The afternoon session featured the perspectives of data users outside the statistical agencies. Carol Corrado opened the discussion of user needs and concerns related to data sharing with a presentation on monetary policy and research at the Federal Reserve Board (FRB). Dale Jorgenson and George Plesko provided additional researcher perspectives with presentations on productivity and real output measurement and on tax data needs for estimating corporate profits, respectively. The session concluded with a presentation on the use of data and the potential value of data sharing for budget forecasting by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
Carol Corrado spoke from the perspective of the FRB—perhaps the most important policy consumer of economic statistics—about the value of accurate data and how improved coordination among the statistical agencies might enhance that value. Her comments focused on how business list reconciliation would provide a more consistent source of data for use in the analysis and forecasting of productivity—particularly multifactor productivity. Real-time economic statistics, imperfect by nature, play an important role in the Federal Reserve’s assessment of underlying trends in gross domestic product (GDP) and gross domestic income (GDI), payroll and household-based estimates of employment, industry productivity, and business inventories. Corrado cited these and several other examples as cases in which alternative data sources do not typically align. Sometimes one source is more revealing than another; for example, data from the income side of the national accounts captured the 1990s acceleration in productivity considerably sooner than did data from the product side.