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Blog Entries from September 2011

Economic and Statistics Administration – Providing the Foundation for Solid Public Policy

Economics and Statistics Administration Logo

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) is one of the primary economic arms of the American government.  Our mission is to serve the American public by measuring and analyzing the nation’s rapidly changing economic and social arrangements. We do that by informing policy makers about opportunities to improve the well-being of Americans, such as initiatives that put Americans back to work.

ESA helps with the understanding of the key forces at work in the economy by providing objective data that enable sound policymaking.  Our mission is to create the conditions for economic growth and opportunity, by providing information that supports innovation, entrepreneurship, competitiveness, and an informed society. 

Leveraging a treasure trove of economic and demographic data, we provide expert economic analysis -- in-depth reports, shorter fact sheets, and briefings. Policymakers, the public, American businesses – the many and varied customers of the Commerce Department rely upon these tools, as do state and local governments and our sister agencies here at DoC. Our economic indicators drive news around the world. 

In addition to regular economic statistical updates, we produce reports on important topics of the day.  Recent reports have included a three-part series on jobs of the future: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and the quality and promise those fields have for America as a global leader in technology and innovation.  We have reported on the status of the middle class in America, women-owned businesses, broadband access in the U.S., and the “green” economy. 

Acting Secretary Blank Meets with Travel and Tourism Advisory Board and Announces the Latest Data on International Visitation and Visitor Expenditures

This morning Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank met with key business leaders at the final meeting of the Commerce Department’s Travel and Tourism Advisory Board to discuss the President’s plan to create jobs across America, highlighting the essential role of the travel and tourism industry to American jobs and the American economy.  She announced that international visitors spent a record-setting $13.3 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the United States during the month of July – $1.8 billion or 15 percent more than was spent in July 2010.

The travel and tourism industry accounts for 25 percent of exports in services and 7 percent of all U.S. exports. Travel and tourism is one the industries targeted to help grow jobs across America and achieve the goal of doubling exports through President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI).   The Board meeting highlighted collaboration between the federal government and the private sector to address policy issues to help increase legitimate international travel to the United States.

The United States Travel and Tourism Advisory Board is the premier source of industry advice to the Secretary of Commerce.  The Board has met five times throughout their charter term, providing industry input on travel facilitation, airport security, marketing, communications, research and data and energy policy. It has been rechartered and is accepting applications for the next board - deadline is Friday.

Commerce's NTIA: Small Agency, Big Impact

NTIA logo

Guest blog post by Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

In the 21st century global economy, America’s competitiveness requires a modern communications infrastructure, a technology-savvy workforce, and public policies that preserve the Internet as an engine for job creation, innovation, and economic growth.  NTIA’s activities–at a cost of about a penny per month for each American–represent a modest yet critical investment in our economic future, one that can pay dividends for decades.
Broadband Internet is an essential ingredient not only for job creation but also for improving education, public safety, and health care. Consider this:

NTIA is a small agency, but we are playing a central role in helping America harness the power of the Internet to meet these national objectives. Our work is focused in three areas: maximizing spectrum use, expanding broadband access and adoption, and policymaking to support the continued growth of the Internet economy.

Acting Secretary Blank, SBA Administrator Mills, Mayor Nutter Highlight Federal Support for Philadelphia’s Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses

Acting Secretary Blank, SBA Administrator Mills, Mayor Nutter, CEO Desh Deshponde at NACIE in Philadelphia (Photo: Jason Heritage, Ben Franklin Partners)

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, along with Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development John Fernandez, addressed the media today in Philadelphia in conjunction with a meeting of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) to discuss federal support for area entrepreneurs and small businesses, research and commercialization efforts in the private sector, and the President’s American Jobs Act. 

The event was held before a crowd of local business leaders at The Navy Yard - a business incubator and home to the new Greater Philadelphia Innovation Cluster for Energy Efficient Buildings.

"The Navy Yard is a prime example of both a growing regional innovation cluster and the value of public-private partnerships that support innovation and entrepreneurship," Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Blank said. "It is part of the rebuilding of America's very economic foundation with investments in the building-block priorities that will help ensure the U.S. is home to the industries of the 21st century and the jobs they support."

Blank called for swift passage of the President’s American Jobs Act to help put more people back to work and put more money in the pockets of working Americans. The plan calls for cutting in half the payroll tax that comes out of every worker's paycheck, saving families an average of $1,500 a year. It also provides a payroll tax cut to 98 percent of businesses and eliminates the payroll tax on a firms’ new hires or employees to whom they give a raise.

Measuring America’s People, Places and our Economy

United States Census Bureau Logo

Our name, the Census Bureau, suggests to many only the decennial census of the population. However, we have more individual statistical programs measuring the economy than those measuring the population. From the Census Bureau, the country learns the economic health of the manufacturing, retail, and other service sectors. The Census Bureau supplies the country with key import and export data, which measure the relative success of American goods abroad and our consumption of other countries’ products. We track the construction of new homes and how housing starts are changing across the country. We measure the fiscal condition of state and local governments. We inform the country about the annual financial position of US corporations and on capital investment in new and used structures and equipment together with expenses for information and communications technology infrastructure. We measure the volume and change in businesses owned by women and minorities. There are hundreds of separate statistical programs that we run, which in these times of economic hardship, are the key metrics about how we’re doing as an economy.

The data provided by the Census Bureau underlies much about what we know about our economy and our people. For example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the statistics from the economic census to benchmark gross domestic product (GDP) estimates and prepare input-output tables – the fundamental tool for national and regional economic planning. During benchmark years, such as 2012, about 90 percent of the data used in calculating GDP comes from the Census Bureau. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses Census Bureau statistics to benchmark producer price indexes and prepare productivity statistics. The Federal Reserve Board uses our statistics to prepare indexes of industrial production.

Businesses use our statistics for site location, industry and market analysis, to make investment and production decisions, to gauge competitiveness, and to identify entrepreneurial opportunities. Detailed industry information for small geographic areas permits state and local agencies to forecast economic conditions, plan economic development, transportation, and social services. Watch how the Greater Houston Partnership finds that data from the American Community Survey and uses it to encourage economic development in Houston.

As you can see, the Census Bureau is about much more than just counting the population once a decade. By measuring America’s people, places and our economy, the Census Bureau provides a wealth of information about who we are as a society and where we are going.

Commerce’s NIST Announces U.S. and EU to Partner on Next Generation Electrical Grids

Image of grid interactive PV system installed on a utility pole (Photo: Energy.Sandia.gov)

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the European Union’s (EU) Smart Grid–Coordination Group jointly announced today their intention to work together on Smart Grid standards development to ensure a consistent set of international standards that can efficiently deliver reliable, economical and sustainable electricity services on both sides of the Atlantic.

The new collaboration is meant to ensure that Smart Grid standards on both continents have as much in common as possible, so that devices and systems that interact with these grids can be designed in similar fashion. Smart Grids are expected to ease the incorporation of renewable energy sources, energy saving devices and electric vehicles into the power system. Overall goals include the reduction of carbon emissions and security of supply.  Announcement

ESA: Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality in STEM

Blank announces STEM Report: Education Supports Racial and Ethnic Equality

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank unveiled findings from the Economics and Statistics Administration’s (ESA) third and final report on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs and education today at a Brookings Institution forum on advancing STEM education in the United States.

STEM workers are essential to American innovation  and competitiveness in an increasingly dynamic and global marketplace. In this third report, we examine demographic disparities in STEM education and find that educational attainment may affect equality of opportunity in these critical, high‐quality jobs of the future.

This report follows an analysis of labor market outcomes and gender disparities among STEM workers. We find that regardless of race and Hispanic origin, higher college graduation rates are associated with higher shares of workers with STEM jobs. But non‐Hispanic Whites and Asians are much more likely than other minority groups to have a bachelor’s degree. By increasing the numbers of STEM workers among currently underrepresented groups through education we can help ensure America’s future as a global leader in technology and innovation.  Press release  |  Third STEM report

Acting Secretary Blank Participates in 'September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance' at Ballou Senior High School

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank along with Ballou's Ruth Jones, GWU's Provost Steve Lerman and others plant a rhododendron in honor of a local student killed on September 11, 2001 ((Photo: Jati Lindsay))

On Sunday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank participated in a “September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance” at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast Washington D.C. This year’s 9/11 National Day of Service coincides with the third annual George Washington University Freshman Day of Service. Approximately 2,300 George Washington University freshmen and student leaders will visit 15 sites in the Washington, D.C. area to volunteer their time on service projects such as school beautification and restoration as well as environmental clean-up. About 150 students from George Washington University were assigned to Ballou for a variety of tasks.

Upon arrival, Acting Secretary Blank met with Principal Branch to learn more about the schools and the “New Ballou” effort underway that will help improve student academic performance and meet the myriad needs the students have.

After an orientation with all the George Washington University students, Dr. Blank participated in planting a rhododendron in honor of a local student who was killed on the September 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon. Bernard Brown was a student at a feeder school for Ballou and had he survived, he would have probably attended the high school. She then pulled up weeds in the vegetable garden alongside freshman George Washington University students.

After helping in the garden, Dr. Blank, along with George Washington University Provost Steve Lerman and several other members of George Washington University, took a tour of the New Ballou with Ruth Jones, the Director of Resource Development at Ballou. The group saw the transformation of the school that included a new computer lab and stocked library. The tour ended in the science lab where students were painting a mural of areas of scientific study. Dr. Blank rolled up her sleeves and helped some of the students with the mural of plant cells.

President Obama’s American Jobs Act Is a Win for Workers and Employers

Image of President Obama and AJA logo

Last night President Obama explained his proposal for putting creating jobs now and putting Americans back to work before Congress. In addition to giving the economy a shot in the arm with more money in the pockets of working Americans, his proposed American Jobs Act has several new ideas, backed by both Democrats AND Republicans, which are a win for businesses and employers. The President is focused on rebuilding the economy the American way, through the ingenuity and hard work of the American people.

Businesses and employers stand to win under the President’s American Jobs Act in various ways.

It offers tax relief:

  • A payroll tax cut for 98 percent of small businesses
  • A complete payroll tax holiday for added workers or increased wages
  • Extending 100 percent capital expensing into 2012
  • Reforms and regulatory reductions to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access capital

Financial rewards for hiring workers:

  • A tax credit from $5,600-$9,600 for hiring of unemployed veterans
  • New contracts for modernizing public schools, homes and businesses
  • A bipartisan-supported National Infrastructure Bank which provides capital and contracts to upgrade and build vital roads, rails and airports.
  • A $4,000 tax credit for hiring long-term unemployed workers
  • Allowing workers to earn unemployment insurance if they choose to work share over layoffs.

Learn more about the benefits of the American Jobs Act.

Chatting with Citizens in Cincinnati about President Obama’s Job Plan

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank enjoys Graeter's Ice Cream while on a tour with CEO Rich Graeter. Also enjoying the ice cream is Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory.

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

First thing this morning, I’ll be on a plane to Cincinnati to join Mayor Mark Mallory for a visit to Graeter’s Ice Cream, a locally and family owned ice cream company founded in 1870. At Graeter’s, I'll explain the details of President Obama’s American Jobs Act, specifically how it will spur economic growth and accelerate job creation. 

After my tour (and hopefully a sample or two of that ice cream), I will host a White House Business Council roundtable discussion with local business leaders to discuss the jobs plan in further detail, challenges facing America’s business community, ways to improve U.S. economic competitiveness and the help that is available to businesses from agencies across the federal government. 

Before the end of the day, I’ll be sitting down with the editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer to answer all their questions about President Obama’s jobs plan.

The American Jobs Act is a set of ideas that have been supported by both Democrats AND Republicans that needs to be passed right away. This plan will put more people back to work and more money in the pockets of working Americans. As the folks in Cincinnati will attest, Americans are working hard each and every day to meet their responsibilities. The only question now is whether Washington will meet its responsibilities. The time for obstruction and gridlock is over. Congress needs to pass the American Jobs Act.

UPDATE: Read Acting Secretary Blank's remarks