BLS Data in Excel Format

If you’ve ever tried to get the data out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) you know that can be kind of a pain in the butt. You usually have to go through the wizards to get the data and then it only gives you one kind of data per table and you have to do a lot of tedious work to get that data into a format that is actually useful for additional work.

I finally got tired of doing this, so this weekend I put together a little program that takes BLS data and turns it into csv format, which can be opened in Excel.

Finally, I would really appreciate two things. First, please mention me (Matthias Shapiro) if you use the data for professional purposes, link back here to let people know where to get it. Second, if this is actually helpful data, please consider tossing $5 or so into my digital hat. I make maybe $50 per year from this blog, so anything to let me know this is worth doing is helpful to me.

Or you could buy a copy of my book Beautiful Visualization (disclaimer: I only wrote one chapter, but I call it “my book” anyway because that makes me feel important).

Download employment status (A Tables) (BLS link)

  • 1948 – Nov 2011
  • civilian population
  • labor force
  • participation rate
  • employed
  • employment-to-population ratio
  • unemployed
  • unemployment rate
  • not in labor force
  • persons who currently want a job
  • 1939-Nov 2011
  • payroll job counts for 150 industries/sub-industries
  • csv file (headers labeled “[state] – [field]” Example: “Alabama – Unemployed”
  • xlsx file (better headers, grouping states)
  • 1976 – Oct 2011
  • labor force by state
  • employed by state
  • unemployed by state
  • unemployment rate by state
Download state payrolls by industry (BLS Link)


  1. Dale Furrow says:

    Matthias: Thanks for the useful format. I chipped in and bought your book (also as a thank-you for the Texas employment story). Don’t know what you want to do w/ the code, but would ask you to consider posting on GoogleCode or Github, if you feel someone else might find it useful.

  2. politicalmath says:


    Thank you!

    I’ll give some thought to posting the code somewhere… the code is a freaking disaster in the sense that it’s just a slapdash hack that happens to work. It’s not the kind of clean solution I prefer to put out into the open. Initially I thought about trying to fight my way through a javascript plugin, but ultimately I ended up with a WPF solution b/c I could do that faster.

    I’ll keep you updated.

  3. Randy says:

    Nice work! In case anybody is interested, I have taken your spreadsheets and migrated a normalized version of the data into an MS-Access database. The zip file is 227 KB, in case anybody wants it.

  4. Mary says:

    I LOVE your work and projects. Any time I get an opportunity, I recommend others to your blog. I love the fact that you are a purist in regard to the facts.

    Long, long ago, I heard a couple explanations of statistics that your work reminds me of (because you get to the root of the statistics, that is). It had to do with how statistics can deceive. For instance, it is a popular saying to state that 50% of American marriages fail. One can reach this statistic with 3 good marriages and 1 4x serial divorce-er. So, 3 out of 4 people don’t divorce, but one takes care of skewing the statistics.

    The other instance had to do with one year that Sweden’s unemployment rate sky-rocketed to double in one year. I can’t remember the exact numbers or the year, but it was something absurdly low, like 2 people and went up 50%, to 3.

    Since hearing these, it has always made me suspicious of statistics. That’s why I like your work!

  5. […] month, I published BLS Data in Excel format. This can be helpful for anyone who ever wants to really dig into the data but doesn't have the […]

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