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Blog Category: Data

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.

NOAA Releases New Views of Earth’s Ocean Floor

A view of Delgada Canyon offshore Northern California, as portrayed in NOAA’s new online viewer.

NOAA has made sea floor maps and other data on the world’s coasts, continental shelves and deep ocean available for easy viewing online. Anyone with Internet access can now explore undersea features and obtain detailed depictions of the sea floor and coasts, including deep canyons, ripples, landslides and likely fish habitat.

The new online data viewer compiles sea floor data from the near shore to the deep blue, including the latest high-resolution bathymetric (sea bottom) data collected by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey primarily to support nautical charting.

“NOAA’s ocean bottom data are critical to so many mission requirements, including coastal safety and resiliency, navigation, healthy oceans and more. They are also just plain beautiful,” said Susan McLean, chief of NOAA’s Marine Geology and Geophysics Division in Boulder, Colo.

McLean’s division is part of NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center, responsible for compiling, archiving and distributing Earth system data, including Earth observations from space, marine geology information and international natural hazard data and imagery. NGDC’s sea floor data have long been free and open to the public in original science formatting, but that often required the use of specialized software to convert the data into maps and other products.

Commerce Department Agencies Unveil New Website Home Pages

Two agencies of the Department of Commerce unveiled new home pages for their websites in December—the result of efforts to make news and data more readily available and easily accessible to users. The agencies studied user feedback and website best practices to create a more visual and less confusing approach to the mission of informing the public. Both feature links to agency blogs written by their leadership and guest authors and links to economic indicators and career and business opportunities.

On December 20, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the launch of the newest version of its website at www.uspto.gov, while at the same time making its retired home page available to users in the transition to its new iteration. In announcing the change, USPTO said it is “just the first of several new changes . . . in the coming months that will help modernize our services for online visitors.” The USPTO is encouraging both positive and negative comments and suggestions that may help the agency with future design enhancements through newhomepage[at]uspto[dot]gov.

On the same day, Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau unveiled its overhauled website with features designed to improve navigation and ease of use, and to make statistics more discoverable, with an interactive map showing business and demographic information for the U.S., as well as states and counties. Like USPTO, this is the start of a series of anticipated ongoing improvements to the Census Bureau website. | census.gov home page

The 2010 Holiday Season Facts and Features from the U.S. Census Bureau

Image of the Commerce headquarters with red bows

The holiday season is a time for gathering to celebrate with friends and family, to reflect and to give thanks. At this time of year, the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau presents holiday-related facts and statistics from its data collections, including details about mail, retail sales, toys, trees and decorations and much more. The nation's projected population as we ring in the New Year is estimated to be more than 312 million.  Happy holidays from the U.S. Department of Commerce! 

Holiday facts and features

U.S. Census Bureau: 2011 A Year of Successes and Anticipating 2012

In 2011, the Commerce Department's U.S. Census Bureau continued to provide quality statistics to governments and businesses to inform the decisions that affect everyone’s lives. These statistics touch every aspect of Americans’ lives–health, crime, income, education, labor force participation, housing conditions, consumer expenditures and a host of others.

While we have plenty to be proud of, here we highlight some of this year’s big successes.

Innovating Efficiencies:

The Census Bureau is building on the $1.9 billion in savings from the 2010 Census last year by looking for ways to innovate, become more efficient and to save money. The Improving Operational Efficiencies program has generated thousands of ideas from staff, including saving $24 million over a five-year period alone by consolidating IT storage and establishing an enterprise storage area network. We've also worked to streamline our regional office structure. By realigning the field infrastructure, the Census Bureau is saving taxpayer money and keeping pace with current developments in survey work worldwide. The restructuring is projected to result in $15 to $18 million in annual savings to the Federal government commencing in FY 2014. The Census Bureau is striving to be a responsible steward of taxpayer money and, like many in the current economic climate, is committed to the basic premise of doing more with less.

Delivering 2010 Census Products and ACS Data:

The Census Bureau has delivered its many 2010 Census and American Community Survey data products on time and on budget, including the statistics used by states in their redistricting and providing valuable local insights that paint a portrait of America. The ACS provides the most timely estimates available for thousands of small places and population groups on key social and economic attributes. For many of these places and groups, these are the only detailed socioeconomic characteristics available. In the Fall of 2011 the Census Bureau produced detailed statistics for over 700,000 distinct geographic areas, permitting local governments and businesses to make the case to new employers about the value of building new job producing activities in their locales.
 
Feeding the Nation's Appetite for Data:

Here at the Census Bureau, we know that our users want more statistical information; they want it in a more timely fashion; they want it on smaller geographic areas and subpopulations. So we're supplementing our talent in small area estimation, hopefully increasing the breadth of our estimates in many programs. We're redesigning the way that users can access our statistical information on the Web. We want everybody to be able to access our estimates on the Web using any device they happen to use. We are building new statistical products by combining multiple data sets behind our firewalls. We are investing in visualization tools to widen the audience of our statistical information. We will extract more information from the same data sources by increasing our analysis of the data we collect.

This coming year we will see more with our Web transformation and with new tools like the economic indicator dashboard and the county business and demographics map. We will also be gearing up for the Economic Census, and working hard to increase access to our data and participation in our surveys so we can continue to provide quality statistics about the nation's people, places and economy.

How You Can Analyze Federal Programs Using BEA Statistics: A Look at Unemployment Insurance Benefits Payments

Bureau of Economic Analysis logo

The national income and product accounts, produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), provide a consistent and comprehensive picture of the nation’s economy; as a result, they provide a useful tool for analyzing the economic effects of recent federal legislation designed to stabilize and stimulate the economy.   For example, it’s logical that reduced income tax rates and expanded tax credits lowered personal current tax receipts, but by how much? It makes sense that a reduction in the social security tax rate lowered contributions for government social insurance, but how do you put that reduction in context?  Or by how much did federal assistance to states increase over previous periods?  BEA’s national accounts can help you find the facts and answer these sorts of questions.

Here’s an easy and interesting example:   What government program explains the increase in government social benefits over the course of the recent recession? 

Data from the BEA show that total government social benefits, as a share of personal income, increased from 14.2 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 18.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. That’s a notable increase, but what’s behind those numbers?

USPTO Teams With Google to Provide Bulk Patent and Trademark Data to the Public

Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos announced today that the USPTO has entered into a no-cost, two-year agreement with Google to make bulk electronic patent and trademark public data available to the public in bulk form. Under this agreement, the USPTO is providing Google with existing bulk, electronic files, which Google will host without modification for the public free of charge.  This bulk data can be accessed at http://www.google.com/googlebooks/uspto.html.

"The USPTO is committed to providing increased transparency as called for by the President’s Open Government Initiative. An important element of that transparency is making valuable public patent and trademark information more widely available in a bulk form so companies and researchers can download it for analysis and research,” said Under Secretary Kappos. “Because the USPTO does not currently have the technical capability to offer the data in bulk form from our own Web site, we have teamed with Google to provide the data in a way that is convenient and at no cost for those who desire it.”

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NOAA: Above-Normal Temperatures and Below-Normal Precipitation in April

Graphic of temperature mapNOAA's State of the Climate report shows the April 2010 average temperature for the contiguous United States was 54.3 degress F, which is 2.3 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average (14th-warmest April on record). April's average precipitation was 2.18 inches, 0.25 inch below the 1901-2000 average, based on a 116-year record since 1895, this monthly analysis is prepared by scientists at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. (Release) (Temperature graphic) (Precipitation graphic)

Statement from Under Secretary Blank on March 2010 Personal Income and Outlays

Blank portrait.

Washington (May 3)—The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis released personal income and outlays data for March 2010. Personal income increased 0.3 percent in March, and real disposable personal income rose 0.2 percent. Real personal consumption expenditures increased 0.5 percent in March. “Today’s personal income data, particularly the growth in employee compensation, indicates that the recovery is taking hold across America,” said U.S. Commerce Department Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Rebecca Blank.” (More) (Release—PDF)