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Blog Category: Economics and Statistics Administration

The American Community Survey: Best Quality Data with the Least Public Burden

The American Community Survey: Best Quality Data with the Least Public Burden

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

“Better Data for Better Decisions” is my mantra as I crisscross the country talking to people about making the data we collect easier to find, understand and use.  Making government data more accessible or “open” to improve government, business and community decisions is a major initiative in the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  The open data initiative has the potential to fuel new businesses, create new jobs and help us make better policy decisions. 

One of our best data sources is the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).  The ACS is truly a unique, national treasure, producing a wealth of data on which our country relies to make important decisions.  The ACS is used to inform disbursement of over $400 billion a year in Federal funds.  State and local decision makers rely on the ACS information to guide tough choices about competing funding priorities, such as locating hospitals, funding programs for children, building roads and transportation systems, targeting first responders, supporting veterans, locating schools, and promoting economic development. In short, our community leaders use ACS data to analyze how the needs of our neighborhoods are evolving.  And, our business users rely on ACS data to make key marketing, location and financial decisions to serve customers and create jobs. 

The value of the ACS is immense. It makes our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens more informed. 

This value comes from the fact that the ACS captures so much information so comprehensively.  But, this also means that the value of the ACS depends critically on the people responding to the survey, known as the respondents.  I met recently with members of the ACS Data Users Group, an organization dedicated to sharing innovations and best practices for ACS data use, to discuss how to get the best quality data with the least amount of respondent burden. This is of paramount importance.  A survey seen as too lengthy, burdensome and intrusive will produce lower response rates and could undermine both the quality of the data and value of the survey. But reducing the length of the survey could reduce the amount of information available for decision-making. 

Assess Costs Everywhere – Now Even Better!

Under Secretary Doms (far right), leads a panel discussion with Chief Economist Sue Helper (from left to right), Hal Sirkin, Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group, and Katy George, Director, McKinsey & Co.

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

Where to locate your business or a new facility for your business is a complicated decision. Many variables are involved, and if you are considering a location outside of the U.S., there are many factors that may not be obvious. At Commerce, we have been focused on making this decision and all of its moving parts easier to digest, and a major part of that is Commerce’s ACE Tool.

First released in April 2013, the Assess Costs Everywhere (ACE) tool outlines the wide range of costs and risks associated with offshore production, and provides links to important public and private resources, so that firms can more accurately assess the total cost of operating overseas.

Today we have updated the data and deepened the analysis, but the original conclusions remain as fresh as ever. Multiple costs and risks--some visible and some hidden--accompany firms' decisions about where to set up a factory and the supply chain.

I have had the pleasure of meeting frequently with business owners from across the country. They talk about where their challenges are in growing and sustaining their businesses, and they also talk about how locating production abroad hasn’t always turned out as well as they had hoped. Not surprisingly, during our current economic recovery and expansion, news reports and private consultants have repeatedly echoed that thinking. Increasingly we hear that U.S. companies that previously took their operations or supply chains overseas are now reshoring, or insourcing, bringing operations and supply chains back home to America.

The ACE Tool is intended to help businesses think through this complicated decision, and provide easy access to innovative research and thinking on issues related to site selection and supply chains. The ACE Tool is grounded in the forward-thinking work of Harry Moser of ReshoreNow.org and Rep. Frank Wolf, who called on Commerce to bring this effort to fruition. The Department of Commerce developed ACE in response to Rep. Wolf's call to help achieve our shared goals of boosting U.S. economic growth and ensuring that America remains competitive in manufacturing.

ACE explores 10 costs and risks:

Manufacturing: A New Commerce Department Report Shows Renewed Expansion

Guest blog post by Dr.Sue Helper, Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Commerce

The U.S. manufacturing sector is rebounding at a rate unseen since the late 1990s.  For the first time in more than a decade, output and employment are steadily and simultaneously increasing. A new Commerce Department report, Manufacturing Since the Great Recession, provides an overview of the resurgence of this important economic sector, examining production, international trade and the labor market.

Some of the key findings included in the report are:

  • Manufacturing output has grown 38 percent since the second quarter of 2009 when the Great Recession ended, and accounts for 19 percent of the rise in real gross domestic product (GDP) since that time;
  • From March 2010 through May 2014, the manufacturing sector has added 646,000 jobs with an additional 243,000 positions yet to be filled. This is more than a cyclical rebound; the US has gained about four times as many manufacturing jobs since 2009 as would be expected from cyclical factors alone; and,
  • In 2013, average annual weekly hours for production workers in the manufacturing sector were at their highest level since the mid-1940s.

Manufacturing jobs are good jobs: workers earn 16 percent more in manufacturing jobs (in combined wages and benefits) than they would elsewhere. Not surprisingly, quit rates are also lower than in any non-government sector.

Investing in Data, Investing in America

Dr. Mark E. Doms

Cross-post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

The Department of Commerce’s mantra is that America is “Open for Business.”  As President Obama highlighted at Tuesday’s Investing in America roundtable, this has never been more true.  Today, U.S. and foreign businesses appreciate the competitive advantages that come from locating operations here. The U.S. provides the total package: a skilled, world-class workforce; global leadership in innovation and invention; access to our growing domestic market; rich infrastructure easy access to export markets. The list goes on. (Check out the Assess Costs Everywhere tool to get a more complete list and discussion of the advantages of setting up shop in the U.S.) 

Business leaders from across the spectrum and across the world are making new investments here. Individually their stories are compelling, and they are echoed in data from our Bureau of Economic Analysis and captured in a joint report issued by the Department of Commerce and the White House. For example, business fixed investment from companies choosing to grow and invest in the United States accounts for more than 20 percent of the rebound in real GDP since mid-2009, and global investors have played a large part.  Since 2006, the United States has been the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI). And FDI inflows have swelled, totaling $1.5 trillion between 2006 and 2012. For 2013 alone, FDI inflows totaled $193 billion up from $166 billion in 2012. 

These investments are good for our economy, for investors, and for workers (such as the 5.6 million who work for U.S. affiliates of foreign firms and have average annual compensation of $77,000). We know this because the evidence is clear in the data. And while it is important to focus on the value of the inward investment and the jobs and growth that brings to our economy, it is also important to take a look at the data that tells us this, as well as the data which informs businesses when they decide to select the USA.

Census Bureau Kicks Off National Bike to Work Week and Releases First-Ever Data Focused on Biking and Walking to Work

Census Bureau Kicks Off National Bike to Work Week and Releases First-Ever Data Focused on Biking and Walking to Work

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

The U.S. Census Bureau today kicked off National Bike to Work Week and released the first-ever data on the number of people who bike and walk to work.  In addition, the Census Bureau released a new commuting edition of the interactive map Census Explorer that allows Web visitors easy click-and-zoom access to commuting statistics for every neighborhood in the U.S. It also shows how commuting has changed since 1990 at the neighborhood, county and state level — including how long it takes to get to work, commutes longer than an hour, and number of bikers.  

The Census Bureau report "Modes Less Traveled — Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008-2012," found many U.S. cities are seeing an increase in bicycle commuters. Nationwide, the number of people who traveled to work by bike increased roughly 60 percent over the last decade, from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 during the 2008-2012 period. This is the largest percentage increase of all commuting modes tracked by the 2000 Census and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey. 

This report — the Census Bureau's first focusing only on biking and walking to work — is one of many that examines specific aspects of commuting, including workplace location, working from home, long commutes and specific travel modes. The report highlights the trends and socio-economic and geographic differences between motorized and nonmotorized commutes.

Big Data is Big Business for Commerce

Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms (center) along with Erie Meyer, Joel Gurin, Waldo Jaquith, and Daniel Castro at the Center for Data Innovation hosted “The Economic Benefits of Open Data” event

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

Big Data and Open Data are all the rage these days. However, Commerce was into Big Data before Big Data was cool. As far back as 1790, we began collecting data on patents in the U.S. and the Census Bureau conducted the first Decennial Census the same year. In 1870, the National Weather Service was created – which today is one of the biggest data producing agencies around.

Back then, our economy was based largely on agriculture. Over the years, our economy evolved through the industrial revolution, later giving rise to the strong service sector. Today, we are at the nascent stages of the next era in our economic growth, the information age. On a daily basis, there is an ever-increasing amount of data becoming available, and the demand for data is increasing exponentially. We have before us both great opportunity and fascinating challenges to understand how best to harness this national resource. This is a key focus of Commerce’s Open for Business Agenda.

You may not know it, but the Department of Commerce is home to many agencies that are your primary source for data that you likely use every day.

For example:

  • How many people live in the U.S. or in your hometown? You might know the Census Bureau is the authority on population, but did you know the Census Bureau’s data goes well beyond just population? Census also produces huge volumes of data on our economy, demographics, and fascinatingly insightful data describing our communities – or, if you are a business, your customers.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis is a little know agency that produces key economic data and many of the closely watched economic indicators that move markets, drive investment decisions and guide economic policy. Do you know which industries are the leading sources of income in your community, or to your customers? BEA data can tell you.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is your primary source for weather, ocean and climate data – they are collecting data every minute of every day from land, sea, and even spaced-based sensors. When you hear the local forecast or hear about severe weather warning, that is NOAA data informing you about your environment in real time.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology, locally known as NIST, is our nation’s authority on broad swaths of scientific, cyber, and physical data – including, officially, what time it is.
  • We also have data on patents going back more than 200 years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is a gold mine of inspiration for innovation.
  • Other agencies in Commerce provide data on economic development, minority businesses, trade, and telecommunications and the Internet.

On any given day, the Department will generate in excess of 20 terabytes of data, and sometimes much more. Yet, we think we can do more with this resource. We want to take every step we can to open access to it to the entrepreneurs and innovators of America, as we are pretty convinced that there is huge unmet value and potential. We understand that a huge part of the value of data is when it is not seen alone, but as part of a rich tapestry of information. We believe that there is great opportunity to solve problems, innovate new businesses, and improve data-driven decision-making, and we are committed to that path.

That is why I was so glad to be a part of today’s launch of the Open Data 500 Project, housed out of the GovLab at NYU. This exciting project has verified what we were certain must be true: That hundreds of American companies are using Commerce data every day to innovate and deliver important goods and services to their customers.

The Commerce Department’s Strategic Plan: The Value of Government Data

The Average Daily Cost, Per Person, of the Principal Statistical Agencies is Three Cents

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

Last week, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker unveiled the Department’s America is Open for Business:  Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2014-2018.  One of the plan’s five priority areas is a redefinition of how we manage, optimize and enable public access to our treasure trove of data.  The Commerce Department is fortunate to have numerous agencies that provide data that are critical to the information economy, such as:

  • The U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) demographic and economic statistics;
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather, ocean and climate information; 
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) scientific data;
  • National Technical Information Service (NTIS) information; and
  • U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) patent databases. 

Specifically, the plan pledges to “improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.”  Success has three dimensions.  First, everyone in our country should have easy access to reliable information about their communities, about their climate, and about how these are changing.  Second, every business should have easy access to reliable information on their market, potential markets, scientific information, and changing economic conditions.  Further, new data-based businesses should be able to easily pull our data, combine it with other information, and make new products to compete in the private marketplace.  Third, and finally, every government should have easy access to the information they need to better serve their communities and to assess the efficacy of their programs.  More simply put, success is making our data accessible in ways that make our businesses more competitive, our governments smarter, and our citizens more informed.

How will that be achieved?  The first component is to transform DOC’s data capacity to make our data more accessible and usable.  The second component of the data strategic plan is for us to use data to make government smarter.  The third objective of our plan is to develop better collaboration and feedback loops with the private sector; to create timely, relevant, and accessible products and services.  Many specific initiatives are well underway.  For example, NOAA already is seeking private-sector input on new public-private partnership models to make more weather and climate data available.  NIST is spearheading the development of Big Data standards. <--break->

Department of Commerce releases FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

Plan priorities are in direct alignment with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda”

Today the Department of Commerce released its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2014 to 2018. The five-year plan, along with the recently released FY15 budget, provides the pathway for meeting the Department’s long-term goals and objectives. The plan, summarizes the key strategies and initiatives that will drive progress in the Department’s five priority areas:

  • Trade and Investment. Expanding the U.S. economy through increased exports and foreign direct investment that leads to more and better American jobs.
  • Innovation. Fostering a more innovative U.S. economy—one that is better at inventing, improving, and commercializing products and technologies that lead to higher productivity and  competitiveness.
  • Data. Improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.
  • Environment. Ensuring communities and businesses have the necessary information, products, and services to prepare for and prosper in a changing environment.
  • Operational Excellence. Delivering better services, solutions, and outcomes that benefit the American people.

The creation of the strategic plan was a collaborative effort involving staff from every Department of Commerce bureau and serves as a foundation for economic growth and opportunity. The plan is in direct alignment with the  “Open for Business Agenda,” which reflects the Department’s role as the voice of business, and the Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Department leaders and employees will use this plan to transform strategies into actions, and actions into results.

Read a summary of the plan or the entire plan.

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America Is Open for Giving

Combined Federal Campaign Logo for 2013

Guest blog post by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker

Cross-post from LinkedIn.

After Thanksgiving, you may have stood in long lines for Black Friday, supported your local businesses on Small Business Saturday, and clicked endlessly on Cyber Monday. And today, there is a relatively new tradition that demonstrates America’s incredible capacity for generosity – Giving Tuesday.

Along with businesses and charities worldwide, I am proud to support #GivingTuesday today, an event designed to support our communities by helping charities raise money online. Spearheaded by the United Nations Foundation and 92nd Street Y, a non-profit cultural and community center in New York City, #GivingTuesday allows you to support your favorite causes across the nation and around the world.

Last year, $10 million in online donations rolled in on the inaugural #GivingTuesday. The number of PayPal mobile donations jumped nearly fivefold over the previous year, and the value of those donations increased more than 200 percent. Clearly, Americans are showing that they are ready to use technology and innovation to give back.

This year promises to deliver much more in positive impact. Already, the number of #GivingTuesday partners has already tripled from 2,500 to 7,500, and I’m glad to see businesses like eBay, Johnson & Johnson and AT&T all have efforts to support Giving Tuesday. Some examples are Microsoft launching a campaign to raise $500,000 for Give for Youth to create education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people in conjunction with Giving Tuesday. And the Case Foundation is helping to host an online site where donors can support selected nonprofits and get their contributions matched. These are just a few of the many signing on.

Schools and community groups are also getting involved. This is the type of creative collaboration between public, private, and nonprofit entities that I love seeing.

Commerce and President's Council of Economic Advisors Release Report on Economic Benefits of Foreign Direct Investment

SelectUSA logo

A new report from the U.S. Commerce Department and the President's Council of Economic Advisors spotlights the array of factors that have made the U.S. the destination of choice for foreign direct investment (FDI). The joint report, released at the inaugural SelectUSA 2013 Investment Summit, also documents the positive impact FDI is having on the U.S. economy, including job creation, higher research and development spending and export growth.

The U.S. is the largest recipient of FDI in the world, with stock of more than $2.6 trillion dollars–including $166 billion that flowed into the country in 2012. Moreover, companies around the world now consider the U.S. to be the nation with the top FDI prospects globally.

The United States has been the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) since 2006. Every day, foreign companies establish new operations in the United States or provide additional capital to established businesses. With the world’s largest consumer market, skilled and productive workers, a highly innovative environment, appropriate legal protections, a predictable regulatory environment, and a growing energy sector, the United States offers an attractive investment climate for firms across the globe.