The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced in January that commercial printing, screen printing, and print support activities for printing have become “too small or too concentrated to be tracked” in the Current Employment Statistics database.
According to the Washington Post, the BLS takes stock annually, of “industries that become too small to be counted as a separate category in the database accompanying its widely watched monthly report on U.S. non-farm payrolls.”
The BLS report was met with criticism from the Printing Industry of America however, which issued the following statement in response.
“Printing Industries of America is disappointed – but not surprised – to learn of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ announcement that the agency would no longer track jobs related to commercial print, screen printing, and support activities for printing. The disappointment is shared by the approximately 800,000 workers in the printing, packaging, and publishing industry who go to work every morning knowing that their jobs are relevant to the nation’s manufacturing economy.
So relevant, in fact, that just last week PIA’s Center for Print Economics and Management released its 2019 State of the Industry Report forecasting a favorable year ahead with total print revenues increasing around 1 to 2 percent and printers’ profits holding at historic growth levels. This encouraging news demonstrates the staying power of print even in the face of challenges emanating from postal rate uncertainty, tariff and trade policy impact, and a multitude of “go paperless” initiatives.
The lack of surprise relates to the fact that Printing Industries of America has urged the Bureau of Labor Statistics multiple times over a number of years to revise its outdated definition of the printing industry. Print has and will continue to evolve as a media and printers will continue to transition with a diverse mix of processes, products, and ancillary services. With such divergence, which has occurred at a rapid pace since the Great Recession of 2008, “old” jobs give way to new human resources needs in the industry. Unfortunately, the BLS has demonstrated it is less than interested in keeping up with the times and in collaborating with PIA on modern industry definitions that would more accurately reflect that print is alive and thriving as a key manufacturing sector. Simply put, it is the BLS data as collected that is irrelevant, not printing and graphics communications jobs.
While PIA’s Center for Print Economics and Management is not directly impacted by the BLS’ decision to end industry data collection, it is concerning that public policy decision makers often rely on BLS data when shaping workforce development and training programs. According to the Printing Industries of America’s recent Legislative Priorities Survey, finding qualified, skilled workers to fill open and newly created positions remains a major problem for printing companies of all sizes. Therefore, PIA will extend yet another offer to the BLS to encourage the agency to rethink its attitude toward the printing industry and to possibly reintroduce a new category of “commercial print” using a modern, real-world definition that better reflects the industry’s economic value.”
The Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Sector-CWA (PPMWS) also believes that the BLS should consider changing its definition to reflect the changes in the industry. “The decision by the BLS to discontinue tracking employment in the commercial and screen printing industries is a slap in the face to our members,” says Dan Wasser, PPMWS President. “For years people have been writing the obituary for the printing industry. But rather than see the industry die, we have seen it evolve and change with the times. I’m saddened that the BLS has chosen to join with the misguided profiteers in their attempts to kill what is a very viable and lucrative industry.”