Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

Blog Category: Economics and Statistics Administration

Census Bureau Facts for Features: Halloween, 2011

Image of jack-o-lantern, pumpkin and spider web

The observance of Halloween, which dates back to Celtic rituals thousands of years ago, has long been associated with images of witches, ghosts and vampires. Over the years, Halloween customs and rituals have changed dramatically. Today, Halloween is celebrated many different ways, including wearing costumes, children trick or treating, carving pumpkins, and going to haunted houses and parties.

Facts for Features and Special Editions consist of collections of statistics from the Census Bureau's demographic and economic subject areas intended to commemorate anniversaries or observances or to provide background information for topics in the news.  Here is this year's edition of Facts for features: Halloween, October 31, 2011

The American Jobs Act: Cutting Payroll Taxes Supports Consumer Spending

Image of tax forms

This morning, the U.S. Census Bureau released its latest Retail Sales figures for September and they went up sharply (1.1percent), with gains in lots of categories.  The gains in July and August were revised upwards, too.  From an economic growth point of view, this is unequivocally good news.  However, history and statistics tell us not to get too excited over a single data point. So, although this is good news, it is clear that economy is not growing as fast as it needs to. That’s why President Obama has proposed cutting payroll taxes in half for 160 million workers next year.

As the Economics and Statistics Administration has already shown, job gains combined with lower taxes equals more spending. That’s why these tax cuts make sense. They help create demand to give the economy a little breathing room while it recovers.

The president’s plan will expand the payroll tax cut passed last December by cutting workers' payroll taxes in half next year. This provision will provide a tax cut of $1,500 to the typical family earning $50,000 a year. As with the payroll tax cut passed in December 2010, the American Jobs Act will specify that Social Security will still receive every dollar it would have gotten otherwise, through a transfer from the General Fund into the Social Security Trust Fund.

Spotlight on Commerce: Angela M. Manso, Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Census Bureau

Portrait of Angela Manso

Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.

Angela M. Manso is Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Census Bureau

As Chief of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Census Bureau, I serve as the primary advisor to the Director of the Bureau regarding congressional and intergovernmental matters. 

I am one of three political appointees at the Census Bureau and one of nearly 15 Hispanic appointees at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Growing up in the working class neighborhood of Villa Palmeras in Santurce, Puerto Rico, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would work for the President of the United States. 

While living with my grandmother, who read the paper and watched the evening news daily, I developed a healthy interest in current and foreign affairs.  The news reported about civil wars, dictatorships and coups happening all over Latin America and the Caribbean, and I couldn’t get enough of it.  I wanted to understand why these things were occurring and I haven’t stopped since. 

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. 

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

Listening to Local Businesses in South Carolina

Under Secretary Nancy Potok tours South Carolina MTU, a German-owned diesel engine company with plant manager Jeorge Klisch.

Guest blog post by Nancy Potok, Commerce Deputy Under Secretary, Economics and Statistics Administration

In the heart of South Carolina’s picturesque horse community, I sat down at the Aiken County Chamber of Commerce to begin the first of two White House Business Council roundtable discussions with local business owners in Aiken and Columbia, S.C.  These discussions, focused on rural communities during the month of August, are designed to provide an intimate forum for local businesses to discuss the obstacles they face in creating jobs and growing their businesses. 

Attending that discussion, along with about 20 others was Jeorge Klisch, the plant manager of MTU, a German-owned diesel engine company formerly known as “Detroit Diesel” that has been located in Aiken about a year.  Earlier that morning I took a tour of MTU’s state of the art facility located about twelve miles outside Aiken in the once thriving manufacturing community of Graniteville, S.C.. Having grown up in Detroit with the required elementary school field trip to an automotive plant, I was expecting a hot, loud and oil covered environment.  In contrast, MTU was temperature controlled, clean and high tech.  During the tour, Klitsch shared with me their plans to  bring another 200 jobs to the Aiken area, the need for a skilled workforce, and his efforts to collaborate with surrounding area high schools and technical colleges to adjust their curriculum and support his “ work and learn” initiative that will help fill MTU’s future  need for engineers and technicians.  I noticed an absence of women in the workplace, but before I asked about it, Klisch said he want to dispel myths held by women about manufacturing jobs and plans to focus on introducing young women and girls to manufacturing, where they are significantly underrepresented at MTU.  MTU exports about 50 percent of its products and has invested more than $77 million in this new site with plans for expansion and increased production.  Very impressive and a great indication of the growth potential in the Aiken area.

BEA Computes that Rural America Personal Income Did Better than Urban America in 2009

Image of combine in a field (Photo: U.S. Census Bureau)

Guest blog post by Steve Landefeld, Director of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Off the top of your head, it probably seems obvious that the economies of America’s major cities differ structurally and behaviorally from our nation’s nonmetropolitan and rural areas, right? You are correct, indeed! But the really interesting question is, What can you learn about this from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis?  BEA measures our regional economies in several ways, including GDP by State, GDP by Metropolitan Area, State Personal Income, Metropolitan Area Personal Income and County Personal Income (AKA: Local Area Personal Income).

To understand the differences between the big, metropolitan areas and the rural parts of the country, your best bet is to turn to BEA’s Local Area Personal Income which details earnings in all 3,143 counties in the U.S.

Technically speaking, nonmetropolitan counties are those that are not part of a metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget.  Population in these counties is generally less than 50,000 people. There are 2,032 nonmetropolitan counties in the U.S., almost twice the number of metropolitan counties.  Of course, not all nonmetropolitan areas are rural, nor are all rural areas excluded from official designated metropolitan areas.  Another important consideration is commuting patterns, certainly plenty of Americans live in areas which may be rural, but drive into MSAs to work which intertwines these economies. (What, you thought we’d make it that easy?)

Rural and Suburban America: When One Definition is Not Enough

Graphic of three possible ways to define Peoria, Illinois

Guest blog post by Robert M. Groves, Director, U.S. Census Bureau

Cross-posted on the Census Director's blog

Last week I was pleased to speak to the Rural Philanthropy Conference. They are a set of private and community foundations that identify problems and issues facing rural America and seek to improve the areas through foundation investments. They want to do good works and see the lives of rural peoples improve. 

There was discussion about what “rural” really means. It is fair to say that rurality as a concept has for years been derived from first identifying various types of urban areas. In that sense, rural areas are residual to urban areas; everything that’s not urban is rural.

For example, looking at the area around Peoria, Illinois, illustrates the problem (see graphic). If we use the city limits of Peoria as the urban unit, then we deduce more land as rural adjacent to it. If we identify land use patterns, then we bring into a Peoria urban area more space, mainly suburban ring areas. If we use commuting patterns and other data to describe a cohesive economic center, then the rural fringe shrinks even more.

So, “urbanicity” (and thus “rurality”) is currently defined by various combinations of civil jurisdictions, population density, land use and economic notions.

Women in STEM: An Opportunity and An Imperative

Gender Shares of Total and STEM Jobs, 2009

Today Commerce's Economic and Statistics Administration released the second in a series of reports on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This report, entitled Women in STEM: A Gender Gap to Innovation (PDF), looked at women and STEM. The results offer an opportunity and an imperative for women and America. The results showed that women are vastly underrepresented in STEM jobs and among STEM degree holders despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce and half of the college-educated workforce. That leaves an untapped opportunity to expand STEM employment in the United States, even as there is wide agreement that the nation must do more to improve its competitiveness.

Other key findings are:

  • Although women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy, they hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. This has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college-educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce.
  • Women with STEM jobs earned 33 percent more than comparable women in non-STEM jobs–considerably higher than the STEM premium for men. As a result, the gender wage gap is smaller in STEM jobs than in non-STEM jobs.
  • Women hold a disproportionately low share of STEM undergraduate degrees, particularly in engineering.
  • Women with a STEM degree are less likely than their male counterparts to work in a STEM occupation; they are more likely to work in education or healthcare

For more information on this topic, read Chief Economist Mark Doms's blog post about the report and ESA's first report on STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future.

NOAA: Cultivating the Next Generation of STEM Workers, One Student at a Time

NOAA’s Ernest F. Hollings scholarship program students on Chesapeake Bay field study  (NOAA photo)

You’ve probably heard the term in the news of late. “STEM jobs” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, are the new “It” jobs.

A report from Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration discussed recently in this blog had good news for present and future STEM workers. Among its key findings, the report notes that in the past 10 years:

  • Growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs;
  • STEM workers earn 26 percent more than their non-STEM counterparts; and
  • Job growth in these fields will continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs. 

As the report confirms, STEM workers are driving our nation’s innovation and competitiveness and helping America “win the future” with new ideas, new businesses and new industries.

Enter Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA’s mission—to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans and coasts, to share that knowledge and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources—is central to many of today’s greatest challenges.  

Why? Climate change, extreme weather, declining biodiversity, and threatened natural resources all convey a common message: Now, more than ever, human health, prosperity and well-being depend upon the health and resilience of both natural and social ecosystems and resources.

That means we need skilled hands and inspired minds to help society prepare for and respond to weather-related events, to sustain healthy and productive ecosystems and to ensure resilient coastal communities and economies.