These figures show that the recession and the following years of job losses "affected men worse than women," Hartmann said. Without such data, "we wouldn't see that pattern."
As for the bureau's comment that there is little interest in such data, Hartmann responded, "There aren't enough economists of either gender looking at the differences in the labor market by gender, and they are significant and may affect what we want to do" through government policy.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who was helping circulate the letter, agreed that "policymakers would want to have information at their disposal on the different patterns women have in the workforce."
He said "the value of the data far outweigh the burden" on employers providing them.
However, other researchers are hungry for the additional information the bureau wants to seek from employers, such as earning data on all workers. The agency said this data will help improve the government's estimates of overall income growth and gains in productivity.
The payroll survey collects information on the hours worked and the earnings of production and non-supervisory workers, who account for about 80 percent of the workforce. But this omits earning data on managers and executives.
Other government data have prompted several economists to surmise that pay is rising much more rapidly for the managerial group, which partly explains how the economy has managed to grow at a healthy pace despite relatively lackluster wage gains for most workers. But firm data on pay gains for the high-wage earners are unavailable.
The agency will accept public comments on its plan until Feb. 22.