The API Briefing: Bureau of Labor Statistics Invites Developers to Build Employment Apps

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The federal government collects an amazing amount of economic data. Several agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury, and the Census Bureau collect economic data, ranging from the stock market activity to local business conditions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects information on the labor market and is a rich source of data for researchers and the general public.

The BLS offers two APIs for accessing labor data. Version 1 of the Public Data API is a limited access API, which does not require registration. The Public Data API Version 2 requires registration but allows access to more data sources. Once a developer chooses a version, they can then specify one or more series of BLS data such as employment, pay, benefits, inflation, and other similar economic data.

The BLS also offers sample code for using the APIs. Along with the usual languages such as Java, Python, and PHP, developers can also access the data through the commercial statistical software application, SAS, or through the popular open source statistical programming language, R. This is especially useful to researchers and policy analysts who can easily analyze the BLS datasets.

I am especially intrigued by being able to use R to access BLS data. Thanks to the Shiny server, developers can mix R code with HTMl5, CSS3, and Javascript libraries to create amazing desktop and mobile apps to visualize and analyze BLS data. Of course, this is not an endorsement of Shiny because the same types of apps can be built using PHP or Python. In fact, many valuable apps can be built which is why BLS encourages developers to sign up for Version 2 of the Public Data API and start building._Each week in “The API Briefing,” I will showcase government APIs and the latest API news and trends. Visit this blog every week to learn how government APIs are transforming government and improving government services for the American people. If you have ideas for a topic or have questions about APIs, please contact me via email._ _Dr. William A. Brantley is the HRIS Branch Chief in the USDA’s Rural Development Human Resources Office. You can find out more about his non-federal work in this space at BillBrantley.com. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USDA and GSA._

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