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Monthly jobs data may get a JOLT

Ready to quit your job? You may show up soon in the government's high-profile monthly jobs report.

One overlooked corner of President Barack Obama's $4 trillion budget included a funding bump for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to beef up its data gathering. This would, theoretically, give policymakers a better read on the economy.

If the BLS gets the extra money, it says it plans to raise the profile and expand the reach of a survey known as the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS.

The survey, which tracks the number of open positions, along with how many workers have been hired, fired or just up and quit their jobs, gets much less attention than the high-profile payroll and jobless rate data that comes out on the first Friday of every month. The JOLTS report is usually released the following Tuesday.

Lately, JOLTS has been getting more attention—in part, because it's one of the data points closely watched by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The central bank is keeping a close eye on the job market as a bellwether for the strength of the recovery as it decides how soon to raise interest rates.

One measure of a strong market is a pickup in the pace of hiring. Another, apparently, is the pace at which workers feel confident enough to move on to another job voluntarily—or just up and quit.

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To elevate the profile of the JOLTS data, the BLS wants to turn the numbers around at the same time it releases the flagship employment report each month. It's also proposing to expand the JOLTS data to include state level numbers and industry breakdowns. (These improvements will cost about $6.5 million, the agency said in a statement.)

The BLS is also looking to expand on other data series, including taking a closer look at contingent workers, "workplace flexibility" and other changes in the workplace. It also wants to bring back a canceled survey of export prices and expand its surveys on poverty.

Altogether, the president's budget is asking for $632.7 million in BLS funding for the year that starts this October, an increase of $40.5 million over fiscal 2015.

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There's no guarantee Congress will go along with the idea, of course. BLS didn't get its fiscal 2015 funding approved until December, after Congress cut $17.9 million from the original request. To make ends meet, the department said that, for the remainder of this fiscal year, "planned improvements and development and research projects will be deferred or curtailed.

"If funding is similarly constrained in FY 2016, the BLS will be forced to consider programmatic reductions or eliminations," the department said.

So if you want to be included in the "new" JOLTS report, don't quit your job just yet.