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Ewan Clague, Ex-Labor Data Official, Dies

April 16, 1987|From Times Wire Services

BETHESDA, Md. — Ewan Clague, a highly praised administrator who served under three presidents as Bureau of Labor Statistics commissioner before his 1965 retirement, has died at 90.

Clague, often referred to as the nation's chief philosopher of figures, suffered from Alzheimer's disease and died Sunday at the Bethesda Retirement and Nursing Center.

The economist and administrator who headed the labor statistics agency for 19 years directed the gathering and dissemination of statistical data, including the monthly Consumer Price Index.

Under Clague, the bureau churned out figures on wages, prices, employment and unemployment, hours of work and earnings, strikes and productivity and dozens of other barometers on the nation's economy.

Political Purposes

The Prescott, Wash., native resisted constant pressure from labor unions, industrial management and even his own political superiors, who for political purposes often tried to skew the reports that determined much public and private decision-making on the economy. Clague declared on several occasions, "I am no high-powered statistician, but I have some of the best in the world working for me."

President Harry S. Truman appointed him labor statistics commissioner in 1946 during a time when unions were attacking the bureau for what they considered systematic understating of the Consumer Price Index, to which wage increases during World War II had been pegged.

Over the years, his integrity and penchant for accuracy made him acceptable to both business and labor.

Earned Doctorate

Clague was graduated from the University of Washington and served in the Army's ambulance service in France during World War I. Later, he earned a doctorate in economics at the University of Wisconsin.

In the 1920s and 1930s, he worked for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., did research at Yale University's Institute of Human Relations and was a staff member of the Pennsylvania School of Social Work.

During the New Deal's early days, Clague moved to Washington and worked on the Committee on Government Statistics and the Social Security Board.

After he retired, Clague taught labor statistics at UCLA, the Universities of Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Hampshire and at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

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