State uses of the WID are both for storage of data that are produced and for display and dissemination of that data to either the public or for internal reporting and research. There are costs to maintaining data in a database structure, though - the data has to be obtained, transformed, validated, and stored. That means both labor costs and IT support and infrastructure costs.
If it’s possible to leave the storage and validation to the data owner or to minimize the transformation, many states prefer to do that and avoid those costs. So for data that is not part of the core WID and is mostly being used for display or to provide broader context to the BLS programs data states produce, an alternative that’s worth exploring is the use of APIs.
An API or web service is a way that a database owner can distribute information over the internet. The output is text in a standard structure – usually JSON or XML – and often how much and what’s returned can be controlled by the user with the use of parameters in the call. While one of the major uses of APIs is by web developers interpreting the results and displaying them in a web page, more and more applications are supporting and encouraging users to tap into APIs to obtain data and pull down a local copy. ARC member states have been leveraging APIs. As good solutions to common problems are established, we’ll attempt to publish documentation and best practices for other states to use and learn from.