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Blog Category: Economic Indicators

Commerce’s Economic Data Is a Goldmine for Small Businesses

Graphic of Econmic Census

Public data is a valuable national asset whose value is multiplied when it is made easily accessible to the public. For example, the public release of weather data from government satellites and ground stations generated an entire economic sector that today includes the Weather Channel, commercial agricultural advisory services, and new insurance options. Similarly, the decision by the U.S. Government to make the Global Positioning System (GPS), once reserved for military use, available for civilian and commercial access, gave rise to GPS-powered innovations ranging from aircraft navigation systems to precision farming to location-based apps, contributing tens of billions of dollars in annual value to the American economy.

The Department of Commerce makes available to small businesses economic data that are important for key business decisions such as where to locate, where to manufacture a product and where to sell that product.

For example, AmFor Electronics, a second-generation, family-owned manufacturer in Portland, Oregon, is the market leader in the manufacturing of alternator and starter testers, which are sold to auto parts stores, auto repair shops, and alternator and starter rebuilders. Using Commerce data like that available in the Assess Costs Everywhere tool, AmFor decided to enter the wire harness sector and chose to locate their manufacturing facility domestically rather than overseas because it provides a shorter turnaround times with fewer defects that ultimately leads to a reduction in costs. These successes have translated into new customers and the hiring of 50 employees.

Census Bureau Releases Its First Mobile App Providing Real-Time Statistics on U.S. Economy

Logo: America's Economy

The Department of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau today released its first-ever mobile application, "America's Economy," which will provide constantly updated statistics on the U.S. economy, including monthly economic indicators, trends, along with a schedule of upcoming announcements. The app, which is currently available for Android mobile device users, combines statistics from the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

America's Economy is the first mobile app from the Census Bureau that provides smartphone and tablet users with the real-time government statistics that drive business hiring, sales and production decisions and assist economists, researchers, planners and policymakers. The economic indicators track monthly and quarterly trends in industries, such as employment, housing construction, international trade, personal income, retail sales and manufacturing.

The America's Economy app has been developed as part of the Census Bureau's Web Transformation Project and fulfills a key goal of President Obama's recently announced Digital Strategy to provide federal employees and the general public with greater access to government information and services. The creation of this app is also consistent with the Census Bureau's longtime mission of providing accurate statistics about the nation's growth and changes using 21st century technology to make that information available more quickly and easily. Read the full press release. America's Economy is available now for Android users and is expected be available for Apple smartphone and tablet users in the Apple App Store in the coming weeks.

BEA in the 1940s

Graph of rise of GDP

Ed. Note: This post is part of a series following the release of the 1940 Census highlighting various Commerce agencies and their hard work on behalf of the American people during the 1940s through today.

As the U.S. population has changed dramatically since 1940, so too has the U.S. economy. Just a few years prior to the 1940 Census, in 1935, employees of the Department of Commerce and the National Bureau of Economic Research created what we call the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), a comprehensive set of economic accounts for the nation that provides unparalleled insight into the workings of our economy.
 
Let’s take a quick glance at the NIPAs and see how things have changed over the last 72 years. One commonly used measure of standards of living is GDP per capita—the total output of the nation divided by the population. Looking to national accounts table 7.1, we see that in 1940 U.S. GDP per capita was $8,824 in inflation-adjusted dollars. By 2011, it had increased nearly fivefold to $42,671. Over that period, the structure of the economy changed with services accounting for an ever increasing for spending. In 1940, consumer spending on services (everything from haircuts to heart surgery), according to NIPA table 1.1.10 accounted for 30 percent of GDP. By 2011, it was 47 percent—nearly half of economic activity.

The American Jobs Act: GDP Growth and Job Creation

The American Jobs Act Banner

Today, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released the advanced estimate for the 3rd quarter 2011 Gross Domestic Product. The report said the U.S. economy grew 2.5% in the third quarter, compare with 1.3% in second quarter of 2011. This is a tremendous step-up from the 0.4% growth in the first quarter and 1.3% in the second quarter of 2011. The good news is that consumers increased their spending, businesses continue to invest, and our exports grew, but continued growth is vital. U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson said this morning, “In spite of headwinds hitting the U.S. economy, today’s GDP report – the ninth straight positive quarter – reflects strong consumer spending and export growth and continued investment by American businesses.”

This growth comes at a time when only two months ago there were fears of a double dip recession and the volatile stock market resembled a wild roller coaster. Consumer spending, factory production and exports all have increased. This type of growth to GDP shows encouraging signs of a growing and improving economy, but faster growth is needed to replace the jobs lost in the recent downturn and to reduce long-term unemployment. That's why the President has offered his American Jobs Act.

The President’s American Jobs Act has been supported by economists across the political spectrum. They have said repeatedly it will create jobs and boost economic growth.  Susan Wachter, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School suggests, Social Security tax cuts would not only grow the economy, but create 1 million jobs in the next year. Mark Zandi, of Moody Analytics, says the American Jobs Act creatively helps fuel growth for small businesses who have been hurt most by the recession. He projects that the American Jobs Act would grow the economy at an additional 2 percentage points and add 1.9 million jobs all in 2012. 

Focusing on durable goods, preventing teacher layoffs and keeping first responders on the job, and cutting payroll taxes which will support consumer spending are three of the many measures included in the American Jobs Act that will continue to grow the economy and create more jobs. All of this will be fully paid for as part of the President’s long-term deficit reduction plan. See all of the details of the American Jobs Act on the White House blog.

The American Jobs Act: New Project Rebuild and Durable Goods

Inside of a rebuilt home

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released their Advanced Report on Durable Good for September 2011 and new orders for durable goods dipped 0.8% in September, but excluding transportation equipment (which includes the volatile aircraft manufacturing sector), new orders increased 1.7%. That's good news, but continued growth in our manufacturing sector is vital to improving America's economy and that's why part of President Obama’s American Jobs Act includes a new Project Rebuild.

This new Project Rebuild will put people back to work rehabilitating homes, business, and communities. The President is willing to invest $15 billion into this national effort to spur economic growth. This project will not only put workers back on the job, but it will enable hundreds of thousands of vacant and foreclosed homes and businesses to be rebuilt. So what does all of this mean?

Project Rebuild will create numerous jobs and provide construction workers with many new opportunities. Many citizens across the United States still continue to struggle with finding full-time employment today. This project may be the answer and is certainly one step in the right direction.

Countless buildings across the United States have been empty and rundown for too long. Project Rebuild will allow for them to be reconstructed from scratch. Once these homes and buildings are completely renovated, they will require a large number of washing machines, furniture and refrigerators to fill them. Those are all key components of the durable goods inventory and employ thousands of individuals who manufacture them.

Project Rebuild is just one way President Obama plans to improve the United States economy. See all the details of the American Jobs Act on the White House blog.

Census Bureau Introduces New Economic Indicators Search Tool

The Department of Commerce's Census Bureau has introduced a new, user-friendly Internet tool that takes all the guesswork out of finding, downloading and using data from economic indicators. For the first time, users can access data from multiple indicators in one place and all in the same format. This tool provides an easy way to create data tables in ASCII text or time series charts in your favorite spreadsheet format. Users can select an indicator and choose data by item, time period and other dimensions using drop-down menus. Of the Census Bureau's 12 economic indicators, four are operational in the new tool now -- international trade, manufactures' shipments, monthly wholesale trade and quarterly services; the remainder are expected to be available in this database throughout the course of 2011.