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Blog Category: Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms

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.

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.

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:

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->

Another Year, Another Export Record

Editor's note:  This has been cross-posted from Tradeology, the Official Blog of the Internatational Trade Administration

Guest Blog Post by Ken Hyatt, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and Mark Doms, Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs

Four years ago, President Obama made export promotion a national priority, launching the National Export Initiative to renew and revitalize American exports.

That initiative is working.  Today, the Department of Commerce announced that for the fourth year in a row, the United States has set a record for annual exports. Total U.S. exports for 2013 reached $2.3 trillion.

There were record highs in both goods and services exports. Goods exports totaled 1.58 trillion, with records in a number of important sectors, including industrial supplies, consumer goods, and capital goods.

Service exports hit an all-time high of $682 billion, with records in several major service sectors. Travel and tourism was one record sector, as international visitors contributed $139 billion to the American economy.

Mexico was a particularly bright spot for U.S. exporters, as we saw a 4.7 percent increase to $226 billion in exports to our southern neighbor. Commerce Secretary Pritzker is currently leading a business development mission in Mexico, helping even more American companies find new opportunities and qualified business partners in one of our most important export markets.

Let Freedom Ring

New Citizens of the United States of America

Guest blog post by Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms

Last Friday, I was given the honor of speaking to about 500 people from 80 countries who took the oath to become U.S. citizens at a ceremony in Sterling, Virginia. The happiness, joy, pride, and gratitude in the room brought tears to my eyes, especially after imagining the collective hardships endured, the journeys taken, and the fears overcome by our new citizens.

Like my family, most of us owe our lives and citizenship to our ancestors who left their homes, families, and friends behind to start a new life in a land of freedom and opportunity. We remain thankful for the incredible journeys and sacrifices they made so that their children could have better lives. Likewise, the children and grandchildren of the people granted citizenship in Sterling, Virginia last Friday will also look back with special thanks to our new Americans.

And let us not forget the instrumental roles that immigrants and their descendants have played in growing America’s economy. Further, our history as a nation of immigrants has defined our culture, and the diversity of ideas and customs that immigration provides keeps us competitive in this ever-changing world.

Undoubtedly, the 500 people I spoke to have faced numerous challenges on their road to becoming U.S. citizens, including the challenge of traversing a broken immigration system. Thanks to a strong bipartisan effort in the U.S. Senate, we are much closer to fixing that system. Doing so will uphold our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.

As years pass, I suspect that today, July 4th, 2013, will stand out in my memory because of the 500 lives that changed in Sterling, Virginia, and the possibility that many millions more lives will change – and strengthen our nation – in the years to come.