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Obama taps Great Neck resident for top bureau

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Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 12:31 pm

Village of Thomaston resident Erica L. Groshen has been nominated by President Barack Obama to become the next commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a position she said on Wednesday will put her at the head of “one of the three most important statistical agencies in the government.”

Currently a vice president in the regional analysis function with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Groshen will succeed acting Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner John M. Galvin - if her nomination is approved by the U.S. Senate.

“I am a labor economist,” Groshen said. “I work all the time with labor statistics produced by the BLS. I’ve known commissioners of labor statistics and been in touch with them. I suppose it is a job that I, at times, thought it would be fun to do, an honor to do. But, it wasn’t something I was thinking about at the moment.”

If approved, Groshen, 57, will serve a four-year term as Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner. The appointment does not coincide with Obama’s term as president.

“I look forward to working with them,” Groshen said of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “I’m very hopeful that it will go forward.”

The process that has ultimately seen Groshen nominated to lead the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which produces the nation’s monthly jobs and unemployment rate report, began this summer.

“It began with a phone call back in June asking if I would be interested in having my name on a list of people,” Groshen said. “That kind of came out of the blue and I was honored to even be put on such a list.”

Now, Groshen said the process will continue “over the next week or two” when papers are filed with the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to review her nomination.

“They will review this material that describes me,” Groshen said. “There will be, I guess, some conversation back and forth and they (can) ask for clarification, more information on things that they’re interested in.”

The nomination process could take up to three months, Groshen said.

“I may meet with some staffers from that committee, or the members of the committee themselves,” she said. “They might to have a hearing, or not. They will eventually make then a recommendation to the full Senate.”

Although many appointments made by Obama have met political opposition from Senate Republicans, Groshen said that because of the “non-partisan” nature of her work the appointment should be accepted.

“I have a very non-political, non-partisan background,” Groshen said. “That’s the kind of work I’ve always done at the Fed and when I was briefly an academic. The BLS is just a continuation of that sort of career because that’s who I am. That’s what I do.”

“The BLS prides itself on being non-political and that makes it a good fit for me.”

There are 17 statistical agencies operating within the U.S. Government.

“The Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis are kind of the big three,” Groshen said.

The BLS currently has over 2,500 employees with eight regional offices around the country, Groshen said.

“It’s a highly professional, skilled group of people,” she said. “I look forward to helping lead them into the future, looking over the horizon at what are the changes in the labor market and technology that have an impact on the data (the Bureau of Labor Statistics) collects interpreting it and how best to collect it.”

A resident of Thomaston since 1994, Groshen said she plans to commute, if confirmed, from her home to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ main office in Washington D.C.

“I imagine I’ll be taking the train and the Long Island Rail Road home on weekends and back,” Groshen said. “I’ll certainly be doing some traveling to the regional offices to meet with the BLS people there, but also with their stakeholders around the region.”

Groshen began working at the New York Fed in 1994. She also has served at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.

During her tenure with the New York Fed, Groshen’s research has focused on “the effects of recessions on labor markets, wage rigidity and dispersion and the role of employers in the labor market,” according to her biography on the New York Fed’s Web site.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in economics and mathematics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Groshen received her masters and doctorate in economics from Harvard University.

If her appointment is confirmed, Groshen said she is excited to lead the Bureau of Labor Statistics in a “CEO-type role.”

“I look forward to working with respondents, the firms and the households from which we gather the data and also the huge user community, which includes policy makers, businesses, households, journalists too,” Groshen said.

“Statistics are a public good,” she added. “They are something, kind of like the roads, that everybody uses and just helps everybody make better decisions, whether its households or policy makers or firms.”

Welcome to the discussion.