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Blog Category: Economics and Statistics Administration

Commerce's BEA Keeps its Finger on the Economy's Pulse

BEA logo

Throughout 2011, Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis, the agency charged with keeping a finger on the economy’s pulse, has been hard at work measuring an ever-changing economy. During the year the Bureau instituted new methodologies, new techniques, released new Web-based analytical tools, and made continual improvements to the national accounts to keep pace with the changing economy.  2011 proved to be a stronger year for the economy, for the performance of U.S. companies and the spending behavior of American consumers. Fortunately, there have been some improvements on all three fronts over the last year.  

BEA’s Four Big Numbers to highlight in 2011 are:

  • $15,180,900,000,000 (That’s $15 trillion). That’s the total size of the U.S. economy as of the 3rd quarter of 2011 on an annualized basis.
  • $1,977,400,000,000 (That’s $1.9 trillion).  That’s the value of corporate profits as of the 3rd quarter of 2011. Profits of corporations in the United States climbed to the highest level on record stretching back to 1947. 
  • 2.3 percent.  That’s the real growth rate of consumer spending in the 3rd quarter of 2011. Consumer spending, the goods and services which we all buy on a daily basis, accounts for roughly 70 percent of all economic activity in the United States. The growth rate is the fastest seen so far this year. Consumer spending on services–like haircuts, sports tickets and going out to bars and restaurants–grew by nearly 3 percent, the strongest pace since 2006. 
  • 15.6 percent growth in business investment in equipment and software. This rate of investment is at its strongest pace in a year, and this is crucial as these investments are critical in supporting economic recovery and driving growth.

Thanksgiving Day: November 24, 2011

Image of colorful Fall fruits and vegetables (Photo: Westmont.IL.gov)

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims, early settlers of Plymouth Colony, held a three-day feast to celebrate a bountiful harvest, an event many regard as the nation's first Thanksgiving. Historians have also recorded ceremonies of thanks among other groups of European settlers in North America, including British colonists in Virginia in 1619. The legacy of thanks and the feast have survived the centuries, as the event became a national holiday in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving. Later, President Franklin Roosevelt clarified that Thanksgiving should always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month to encourage earlier holiday shopping, never on the occasional fifth Thursday. 

  • 248 million:  The number of turkeys expected to be raised in the United States in 2011. That's up 2 percent from the number raised during 2010. The turkeys produced in 2010 together weighed 7.11 billion pounds and were valued at $4.37 billion.
  • 1.1 billion pounds:  Total production of pumpkins in the major pumpkin-producing states in 2010. Illinois led the country by producing 427 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, New York and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: Each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $117 million.
  • 13.3 pounds:  The quantity of turkey consumed by the typical American in 2009, with no doubt a hearty helping devoured at Thanksgiving time. Per capita sweet potato consumption was 5.3 pounds.
  • 37:  Number of places and townships in the United States named Plymouth, as in Plymouth Rock, the landing site of the first Pilgrims.

Facts, features and more for Thanksgiving Day

ESA: Tough Economic Times Continue for State and Local Governments

State and Local Government Expenditures and Employment

Cross post by Commerce Chief Economist Mark Doms

Last week’s gross domestic product (GDP) report confirmed that our economy continues to grow (2.5 percent in the third quarter), although not as quickly as we would like. The fears of a “double dip” recession didn’t come to pass (if anyone in the DC area is interested in a triple dip, head to Ben and Jerry’s from 4 to 7 for their 3-dips-for-3-bucks special.).  One reason why the economy isn’t growing faster is that budget constraints are forcing continued and historically deep contractions in state and local government spending.  Measures within the American Jobs Act can help bridge the gap.

These cuts in state and local government spending are evident in the GDP data and also in the employment data (the October payroll data will be released this Friday).  State and local spending and investment decreased 5.3 percent in real terms since spending peaked in the fourth quarter of 2007, by far the deepest 15-quarter decline in spending in the post-WWII era.  Job losses that have followed from these budget cuts total 646,000, or 3.3 percent, since state and local employment peaked in August 2008. 

So far this year state and local governments have been cutting jobs at the same pace that private sector firms are adding them.  Over the first 9 months of the year, private payroll employment has grown 1.2 percent (1.3 million jobs) while employment in state and local governments declined by 1.2 percent (234,000 jobs). 

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?)