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Blog Category: Data

1776 Roundtable: Businesses Growing Out of Data

Under Secretary Mark Doms Addresses Entrepreneurs at 1776

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

This morning, I visited start-up hub 1776, to discuss the Department of Commerce’s efforts to make government data more accessible and informative – to build businesses, grow the economy and help governments and individuals make more informed decisions.

One of my roles as the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs is to connect with our data users, (our customers), to discuss our strategic initiatives in the data space, and gather feedback from interested businesses, government officials, and the public.

At 1776, we met with key stakeholders from innovative start-ups like ID.me, Haystack, Narrative Science, Brigade, Ride Scout (just purchased by Daimler), and firms like Yelp, which has graduated from the start-up phase to employ thousands with offices around the world.

All are users of federal, state and local data, and all are making a contribution to our economy, through employment and the deployment of new technologies that spur innovation and improve peoples’ lives. It was a great conversation, and we gathered some excellent ideas to explore, such as the possibility of using private sector developed APIs for public sector data dissemination.

As a convener and facilitator of world class talent, 1776 sets the model for start-up hubs across the country. Thanks to our hosts and participants for a great event!

Using Data to Connect Workers & Employers at Career Building Data Jam

Using Data to Connect Workers with Employers at the 21st Century Career Counseling Data Jam

Cross post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

On Friday, I was part of the team from the Department of Commerce, Department of Labor, Office of the Vice President, and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) who joined up with Baltimore’s Morgan State University (MSU) to "data jam" on how to get America’s youth connected to jobs and on the path to rewarding careers.

Labor force participation for America’s youth is at historic lows. Only about 1 in 2 people in their teens and early 20s are working or looking for work. While it is easy to point to increasing college enrollment as a reasonable explanation, the workplace offers the opportunity to gain skills to complement academic, career and technical training. The cost of young people staying out of the labor market is all too real. Failure to join the labor market means reduced financial self-sufficiency, lost opportunities to apply academic skills or gain occupation-specific experience, and acquire more general workplace skills such as teamwork, time management, and problem solving.

The Data Jam brought together entrepreneurs, technology leaders, and policy experts to explore ideas for tools, services, and apps for young job seekers to explore career options, training opportunities, and new industries. Technology can help young people find connections to the labor market; assess academic, career, and technical training information; and, simply learn more about the world of work. The proliferation of labor market and career information from federal and state governments and the private sectors can provide great content and inspiration for new tools and apps. So, it was fitting that MSU, with competitive STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) coursework and state of the art facilities, opened its doors to national technology experts, and regional and federal government leaders to connect young workers with the training and resources they need to identify and seize upon employment opportunities.

Secretary Pritzker Discusses the Power of Government Data and Announces the Department of Commerce Will Hire Its First-Ever Chief Data Officer

Announces the Department of Commerce Will Hire Its First-Ever Chief Data Officer

Today, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker discussed the Department of Commerce’s expanding role as “America’s Data Agency” at the 2014 Esri International User’s Conference in San Diego, California. The annual conference, hosted by Esri, a geographic information systems (GIS) software development company is attended by 16,000 data experts, including those from federal, state, local, and regional governments; Fortune 1000 companies; small business owners; university scholars; and K-12 teachers. 

During her address, Secretary Pritzker described how the Department of Commerce’s data collection – which literally reaches from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun – not only informs trillions of dollars of private and public investments each year and plants the seeds of economic growth, but also saves lives. Because of Commerce Department data, Secretary Pritzker explained, communities vulnerable to tornados have seen warning times triple and tornado warning accuracy double over the past 25 years, giving residents greater time to search for shelter in the event of an emergency. The breadth of the Department’s data collection and dissemination, which touches of the lives of millions of Americans every day, is why many, including Secretary Pritzker call the Department of Commerce “America’s Data Agency.”

To develop and implement a vision for the next phase in the open data revolution, Secretary Pritzker announced that the Department of Commerce will hire its first-ever Chief Data Officer. This leader, Secretary Pritzker explained, will oversee improvements to data collection and dissemination in order to ensure that Commerce’s data programs are coordinated, comprehensive, and strategic. To bolster the Chief Data Officer’s efforts, Secretary Pritzker explained that the Department will create a data advisory council, which will be comprised of private sector leaders who will advise the Department on how to best use and unleash more government data.

Secretary Pritzker also announced the launch of the International Trade Administration’s “Developer Portal,” which will centralize data that is vital to exporting businesses across the country. Finally, Secretary Pritzker invited conference attendees to participate in a panel discussion later in the week in San Diego on how businesses can best utilize data from the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual statistical survey that helps guide $400 billion in federal spending each year.

New Commerce Department report explores huge benefits, low cost of government data

Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data

Cross post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Today we are pleased to roll out an important new Commerce Department report on government data. “Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data,” arrives as our society increasingly focuses on how the intelligent use of data can make our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens better informed. 

And when it comes to data, as the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, I have a special appreciation for the Commerce Department’s two preeminent statistical agencies, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. These agencies inform us on how our $17 trillion economy is evolving and how our population (318 million and counting) is changing, data critical to our country. Although “Big Data” is all the rage these days, the government has been in this  business for a long time: the first Decennial Census was in 1790, gathering information on close to four million people, a huge dataset for its day, and not too shabby by today’s standards as well. 

Just how valuable is the data we provide? Our report seeks to answer this question by exploring the range of federal statistics and how they are applied in decision-making. Examples of our data include gross domestic product, employment, consumer prices, corporate profits, retail sales, agricultural supply and demand, population, international trade and much more.

Response to NOAA's data RFI - "let's get started." And we are!

National Weather Service Data Visualization

Did you know that NOAA gathers 20 terabytes of data every day - twice the data of the entire printed collection of the United States Library of Congress? This environmental intelligence comes from a wide variety of sources including: Doppler radar systems, weather satellites, buoy networks and stations, computer models, tide gauges, real-time weather stations, as well as ships and aircraft. This network provides valuable and critical data that are instrumental in protecting lives and property across the country. But only a small percentage is easily accessible to the public and, as demand increases for this data and information, NOAA recognized it needed to find ways to effectively and efficiently distribute this data to decision makers and industries.

With that in mind, this past February NOAA announced a new effort to unleash the power of its data to foster innovation, create new industries and job opportunities. NOAA issued a Request for Information, or an RFI, to engage private industry to help make NOAA's data available in a rapid, scalable manner to the public. Through this process, American companies were asked to provide possible solutions for NOAA to be able to turn this untapped information into usable products or services.

So what does this mean to the economy? According to a 2013 McKinsey Global Institute Report, open data could add more than $3 trillion in total value annually to the education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, healthcare, and consumer finance sectors worldwide. If more of this data could be efficiently released, organizations will be able to develop new and innovative products and services to help us better understand our planet and keep communities resilient from extreme events.

NOAA received more than 70 responses to the RFI that closed on March 31st.  Responses came from industry and academia and ranged from single organizations to broad, integrated teams. NOAA has reviewed the responses and is continuing to engage with industry to elicit feedback for the best way to make this data accessible and useful.

Overall, respondents to the RFI provided a clear message - get started. And we heard this again at the Open Data Roundtable last week at the White House. So NOAA is talking to other agencies and formulating a plan for implementing a new, innovative model of public-private partnership around open government data, all in support of the Obama administration’s efforts to make data more accessible. NOAA intends to incrementally implement this partnership by enabling the government and industry to work together by testing the best methods for not just making data available, but creating an ecosystem around the data that will make a meaningful and lasting impact on the economy.

International Statistical Update: Health- and Education-Related Travel Now Part of Travel Services

Cross-post, Bureau of Economic Analysis

You may have noticed some data on international travel services look a little bit different. With the release of the monthly trade report on June 4, spending on health- and education-related travel are now counted in the travel services category. Previously, both were included in a category called “other personal services.”

Expenditures on goods and services by border, seasonal, and other short-term workers, which were also previously included in other private services, are reclassified to travel as well.

While this change alone will not affect the overall trade balance, the category measuring travel services – both imports and exports – will be larger. However, BEA will also report quarterly on health- and education-related travel separately from other more traditional business and personal travel so that users can track travel spending in several ways. You can see the new travel services category as well as the subcategories in a new table that will be available on June 18. A template is available now.

This change is part of the Comprehensive Restructuring of BEA’s International Economic Accounts, which we discussed in a recent blog post.

An example of health-related travel is when a foreign person travels to the United States for surgery. In this case, health-related travel exports would include the cost of medical procedures the person receives, in addition to any accommodations and other expenses he or she incurs in the United States.

An example of education-related travel is when a foreign person travels to the U.S. to attend school here. In this case, education-related travel exports would include all costs the foreign student incurs in the United States, including tuition at a U.S. institution. Like other changes to BEA’s international accounts, moving health- and education-related travel to the travel services category brings the U.S. international accounts into closer harmony with data produced by our trading partners and was a recommendation of the International Monetary Fund’s Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual, 6th edition.

New Commerce Data Supports Better Economic Decision-Making by Businesses and Policymakers

This week, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released two new data products that will help American businesses, consumers, policymakers and academia gain important information about the performance of the U.S. economy.

Yesterday, BEA released inflation-adjusted estimates of personal income for states and metropolitan areas, which are being released for the first time as official statistics. Americans looking to move or take a job anywhere in the country can now compare these inflation-adjusted incomes to better understand how their personal income may be affected by a job change or move. In addition, businesses looking to relocate or establish new facilities can use this data to get a comprehensive and consistent measure of differences in the cost of living and the purchasing power of consumers nationwide.

Also for the first time, BEA today released quarterly estimates of the economic activity generated by 22 industries – including manufacturing, construction, finance, transportation, retail, health care, educational services, and the arts. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) data – one of our government’s most valuable data resources – shows how different industries helped or hindered the U.S. economy’s growth in a given quarter. These new statistics will enable industries in all sectors to better measure their contributions to GDP and understand and identify emerging trends more quickly. This economic intelligence can help make businesses more competitive and innovative, as well as guide their decisions about investing and hiring.

New BEA Data Proves Valuable for Retail Industry

Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D., Chief Economist, National Retail Federation

Guest blog post by Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D., Chief Economist, National Retail Federation 

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries.

The National Retail Federation closely monitors economic conditions in order to gauge the health of the overall industry and the consumers who represent nearly 70% of the national GDP. By having quarterly updates on the economic performance of 22 sectors, we will be better served when representing retailers and their needs as it relates to economic forecasts, labor markets and job reports, and much more.

Having higher frequency GDP data by industry will be extremely valuable in assessing current economic conditions and shaping economic forecasts. The new data series should provide reliable information on the changes in growth for specific industries, and offer insights into whether the growth is well-above, well-below, or average relative to overall GDP growth. In the past, the annual data could not provide perspective on the fits and starts in marketplace activity, so I am encouraged that a more detailed picture is now more accessible. 

No modeling effort can accurately capture the dynamics and complexity of the U.S. economy nor consider all the variables. The difference now is that we don’t have to wait a year to find out how different industries are performing and contributing to the United States’ economic growth. This data will add to our toolkit for forecasting both short and long-term trends. Additionally, these quarterly reports will provide a better barometer of when an industry might be poised for a surge or a drop – otherwise known as turning points – that can possibly be a signal for the direction of the larger U.S. economy.

All in all, the access to this new statistical product will add to more informed decisions by all who need reliable and timely data on the performance of the economy.

New Online Tool Gives Public Wider Access to Key U.S. Statistics

U.S. Census Bureau logo

Census API lets developers create custom apps, reach new users

Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau has released a new online service that makes key demographic, socio-economic and housing statistics more accessible than ever before. The Census Bureau’s first-ever public Application Programming Interface (API) allows developers to design Web and mobile apps to explore or learn more about America's changing population and economy.

The new API lets developers customize Census Bureau statistics into Web or mobile apps that provide users quick and easy access from two popular sets of statistics:

  • 2010 Census (Summary File 1), which includes detailed statistics on population, age, sex, race, Hispanic origin, household relationship and owner/renter status, for a variety of geographic areas down to the level of census tracts and blocks.
  • 2006-2010 American Community Survey (five-year estimates), which includes detailed statistics on a rich assortment of topics (education, income, employment, commuting, occupation, housing characteristics and more) down to the level of census tracts and block groups.

The 2010 Census and the American Community Survey statistics provide key information on the nation, neighborhoods and areas in between. By providing annual updates on population changes the survey helps communities plan for schools, social and emergency services, highway improvements and economic developments.  Census press release

Census Innovation Day: Government at the Speed of Business

Groves address the adience

Guest blog post by Robert Groves, Director of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau

I’m blogging from the Census Bureau’s Innovation Day event. We’re highlighting for all our staff the newest tools and techniques that we’re developing to do our work more efficiently.

These are the fruits of programs that seek ideas from every staff member, from the newest to the most senior, about how to do our work for less money, to do it faster, and to complete it with higher quality. Hundreds of proposals were submitted and scores of projects are underway to introduce the new procedures. The depth of creativity within the staff rivals that of any organization.

What are we up to?

The Census Bureau produces most all information we know about the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics continuously. We also are the key supplier of information on the economy—retail sales and other service sector volume, manufacturing, foreign trade, state and local government finances, and a host of others. Almost every week, information that answers the question, “How are we doing?” is released.