Janet L. Norwood (1923 - 2015)

"I believe strongly that an objective, scientifically created system of data is essential for a democracy to flourish."

Janet L. Norwood served as commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics for 13 years. “Objective, methodical, unflappable under sometimes hostile congressional questioning, Norwood measures our prosperity and tells the man on the street whether the next line he stands in is likely to be at the bank-teller window or the unemployment office,” The Washington Post wrote in 1983 profile after her first of three terms as BLS commissioner. She appeared before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress 137 times. Born in New Jersey in 1923, Norwood began working at BLS in 1963, and served as associate deputy commissioner for data analysis and deputy commissioner. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter nominated her to a four-year term as commissioner. She was re-nominated twice by President Ronald Reagan. Norwood brought the National Longitudinal Survey to BLS and developed the quarterly Employment Cost Index. She advocated the benefits of social and behavioral science on economic indicators, creating a ‘cognitive laboratory’ within BLS to increase its efficiency and the quality of its output. Even in retirement Norwood blazed a trail, becoming the first female president of Washington, D.C.’s prestigious Cosmos Club in 1995 - only seven years after the venerable institution admitted its first female members.

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