{"API Evangelist"}

Taking Another Look At The Department Of Labor API Efforts

Someone asked me about the current state of the Department of Labors (DOL) API efforts the other day, and since I hadn't actually taken a look in a few months I wanted to spend some time in there seeing what they have going on. There is no better way to get a feel for what a government agency is up to than going through their API efforts--the DOL is pretty ahead of the game in this area.

The vibe when you land on developer.dol.gov (which is a great subdomain) is nice. It is clean and has all the links that I am looking for, providing access to their APIs, as well as supporting code, while allowing you to ask questions and report bugs.

One thing I think is interesting in their approach is that they efficiently use Github in support of their code, apply Stack Exchange in support of asking questions, and employ Github issues for reporting bugs. I understand that government agencies do not always have the resources necessary to support their API efforts, so this approach seems sensible to me when providing the minimum viable support for an API.

The Department of Labor provides a number of APIs which provide access to some key economic data, broken down into four separate categories

There is a wealth of valuable economic data available in there. I am not a fan of their API design patterns, I get the same feeling like I did from Environment Protection Agency--that the information is accessible (yay), but it isn't all the intuitive when it comes to finding everything that is in there. They provide you with an API sampler, that lets you play with the APIs using a form, but I'd prefer some more investment in the overall design to simplify and make intuitive on the first click.

While I feel a lot more could be invested in API design to make DOL's data more accessible, they are way ahead of other agencies like the VA, so I'll take what I can get. They are also using actively Github, which I think is super promising. The quick look has provided me with a fresh mental image of what the DOL is up to with their APIs, and provided the seeds for a couple other stories--so it was a success. One project I'd like to also play with if I have the time is to see if I can auto generate an OpenAPI Spec from the DOL metadata API, and help autogenerate some docs that could help shed light on the wealth of data available within the federal government API.