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Blog Category: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Challenging Mission, Strong Team

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

Our country – the public, businesses, NGOs, non-profits, academic institutions and governments at all levels – relies on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic & Statistics Administration (ESA) to provide timely, relevant, and high-quality data about our population and economy so they can make better decisions. This is no easy task given the sheer magnitude of our nation – we have over 7 million employer- businesses, 320 million people, a Gross Domestic Product of over $17 trillion, and trillions of dollars in international trade. It can make your head spin.  Additionally, keeping track of our economy and population is made all the more difficult because of the dynamism of our country: hundreds of thousands of new businesses start every year; tens of millions of people move; and new industries arise while others decline. On top of all of this, we are in the midst of a data revolution, with rapid advances in private-sector data availability, new data analysis tools, and ever more and changing ways to disseminate data. 

As the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, I ensure our people, programs, and policies are properly aligned and resourced to successfully perform our mission in this rapidly changing and increasingly complex environment. ESA’s three operating units; Commerce’s Office of the Chief Economist, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), and the Bureau of Census include a workforce of more than 10,000 dedicated professionals. In addition to our duties and challenges, ESA has been given another mission: to take the lead in achieving goals under the Data Pillar of the Department of Commerce’s Strategic Plan, working across all bureaus in Commerce to fulfill the imperative to “maximize the positive impacts of Commerce data on society.”

To be successful in both my traditional job as ESA Under Secretary and as a leader of the Data Pillar, I need a capable, nimble, leadership team with a diverse set of skills.  None of us can be successful alone; instead we need to be members of strong teams committed to excellence. This post focuses on just one ESA team, that of my immediate office, which has been revamped in the past year. Team members were chosen and the positions created to meet a specific and diverse list of challenges, the most important being continuity, communication, coordination, and planning.

BEA Operational Improvements Enable Agency to Publish More Regional Economic Statistics

Operational improvements at the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) mean the public will soon get to see more regional economic data. These improvements will safeguard businesses’ private information, while ensuring vital regional data is available to policy makers and other data users. BEA is constantly looking at ways to better provide the information that users need while protecting the confidentiality of employers’ records.

One improvement is in the area of county-level earnings. BEA, for instance, produces statistics on how much people earn in different industries for individual counties.  If there are too few employers in an industry for a given county, in order to protect employers’ privacy, BEA cannot publicly publish the data for that industry. The BEA county-level earnings by industry data are then used to calculate BEA’s gross domestic product by metropolitan area statistics. If BEA can’t publicly use certain pieces of data for an industry in the county-level earnings data set, then BEA also might not be able to publish the same data for that industry in our gross domestic product by metropolitan area statistics.

Since the 1980s, BEA has relied on a set of computer programs to identify which statistics must not be published publicly to protect the confidentiality of business records for individual companies.  This year, however, BEA is switching to a new disclosure-avoidance system that reduces processing time from five days to one, while generating fewer non-public statistics.

Our testing indicates that the new system will consistently result in 33 percent fewer unpublished values in the final public statistics on the economic activity generated by metropolitan areas.

Another improvement will affect data on how much each industry contributes to economic activity in   metro areas. Because of this improvement, BEA will increase the number of data points on industry contributions to metro area economic activity that can be published from 68.3 percent to 93.3 percent, meaning that BEA will be able to publish many more pieces of data.

These advancements are examples of how BEA delivers strong customer service through operational excellence. BEA is working harder and smarter to respond to our customers’ needs.  The Commerce Department identifies operational excellence as an important pillar in its Open for Business Agenda. That is, delivering better services, solutions and outcomes that benefit the American people.

BEA prides itself on producing timely, relevant and accurate statistics and putting its innovative thinking to work to meet both economic measurement challenges and customers’ needs. 

New BEA Data Provide Entrepreneurs with a Fortune 500 Research Department

Is consumer spending growing faster in North Dakota or North Carolina? How do consumers in different regions respond to economic downturns? Which state has the fastest growing consumer market for motor vehicles?

Some Fortune 500 companies have research departments to help answer these questions, but new BEA data on consumer spending broken out by state – released in August – provide startups and entrepreneurs with crucial insight into consumer behavior at the state level. In December 2015, we are planning to release a fresh batch of consumer spending by state statistics that will cover the year 2014 as well as some earlier years.

The prototype Personal Consumption Expenditure by state statistics are designed to be used in conjunction with other macroeconomic and regional data we produce, like statistics on Gross Domestic Product by State and State Personal Income.  This suite of statistics can offer entrepreneurs a better understanding of what’s driving or restraining economic activity at the state level, and thus inform their decisions about things like investing, financing, locating and hiring.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ experimental consumer spending by state statistics were released on Aug. 7 and covered the years from 1997 to 2012. So the fresh batch of statistics that will be out next year will be more up to date.  

An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Accessing Census Bureau Statistics

U.S. Census Apps

If you are thinking of starting a new business, one of the first things you need is information to understand market conditions. Entrepreneurs rely on American Community Survey and Economic Census data to understand local markets, the local workforce, commuting patterns and economic activity in prospective new locations to make investment decisions that create jobs and grow the economy. 

You may already know that the U.S. Census Bureau has a wealth of information that can be invaluable to entrepreneurs. But how do you get started? We have several tools that make it easy to find the statistics you need to start or grow your business. Here are four tools you can begin using today and one that is coming soon. 

1. QuickFacts

Many times, you may just need to know a quick fact such as the population or demographic makeup of a state or county. With our QuickFacts tool, you can find current population estimates, key demographic statistics from the American Community Survey, and economic statistics from selected Census Bureau economic programs. A soon to be released beta version of the tool allows for comparison of these data across geographic areas as well as expanded visualizations of these data.

2. Census Explorer

One of our newest tools, Census Explorer provides an interactive map of various demographic topics for states, counties and census tracts. For example, Census Explorer: Retail Edition includes statistics on retail trade in America from County Business Patterns, including the growing online shopping market. You can find information on the number of businesses, employment and average annual payroll per employee for every county in the U.S.  Other editions of Census Explorer display population estimates or topics from the American Community Survey, such as commuting information, education and income.

Commerce Data: Then & Now

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

In July, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced that our department will be hiring our first ever Chief Data Officer (CDO), building on her commitment to Commerce’s role as “America’s Data Agency.” She also announced the formation of a data advisory council comprising private sector leaders who will help the CDO navigate new and dynamic data challenges. This is the latest chapter in Commerce’s long history of adapting to serve the needs of an ever-changing American economy.

The United States Department of Commerce has been a trusted provider of data and statistics for centuries. The first decennial census took place in 1790 and the first patent was issued that same year.  Today, because of advances in technology, we are able to provide Americans with more data, faster and more accurately than ever before. This transformation can be seen in the evolution of the Census Bureau.

Article 1 Section 3 of the US Constitution states that the U.S. government shall enumerate the population of the United States every 10 years. Beginning with the 1790 Decennial Census and once every decade since then, the federal government has provided this invaluable information, making the United States the first country to produce a regular count of its citizens.   

By the early 1800s it became clear that in addition to the important demographic information flowing from the decennial census, there was also an imperative for regular collection of business information. In response to that need, in 1810, the U.S. Census Bureau established a census of businesses, also known as the economic census.  The initial focal points were manufacturing, lumber yards and butcher shops. In 1902, Congress authorized the establishment of the U.S. Census Bureau and directed that the census of manufacturers be taken every five years (a “quinquennial” census).  As the economy grew, the Census Bureau responded accordingly and by 1930 it had expanded the economic census to include services.  The breadth of the survey has since changed to keep pace with our nation’s growing economy.  The 2012 economic census data are currently being released.

BEA Stats Offer Interesting Nuggets about U.S. Factories in Recognition of Manufacturing Day

BEA Stats Offer Interesting Nuggets about U.S. Factories in Recognition of Manufacturing Day

Today is Manufacturing Day and that’s the perfect time to brush up on your factory factoids. Here are some data nuggets produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis that might surprise you:

The first two facts come from BEA’s GDP by industry data, which are now available on a quarterly basis. The next installment comes out Nov. 13. The third one comes from BEA’s GDP accounts. And, data on exports of manufactured goods can be found in the monthly trade report produced jointly by BEA and the U.S. Census Bureau.  

Want to know where manufacturing plays the biggest role in state and regional economies? You can rely on BEA data to answer that question.   

In 2013, Indiana ranked highest in the concentration of manufacturing, followed by Oregon, Louisiana, and North Carolina. According to the BEA’s GDP by metropolitan area data released Sept. 16, the Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana and Kokomo, Indiana metro areas had the highest manufacturing concentration in the nation, followed by the Lake Charles, Louisiana metro area.

Providing businesses and individuals with the statistics they need to compete in the global marketplace is one way that BEA is helping to unleash the power of data for American businesses. The Commerce Department’s ‘Open for Business Agenda’ prioritizes unleashing more data and making it more accessible so it can catalyze the emergence of new businesses, products, and services. Data from the Commerce Department, America’s data agency, enable start-ups, move markets, and power both small and multi-billion dollar companies. 

Deputy Secretary Andrews Lauds Software Industry for Helping Ensure America is Open for Business

Deputy Secretary Andrews Lauds Software Industry for Helping Ensure America is Open for Business

Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews spoke about the software industry’s role in strengthening the economy at an event hosted by the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA), the principal trade association for the software and digital content industry. During the event, titled “The Software Century: Analyzing Economic Impact & Job Creation,” Deputy Secretary Andrews talked with SIIA Vice President of Public Policy Mark MacCarthy about the Commerce Department’s efforts to support American businesses in the software and other high-tech sectors.

During the discussion, Deputy Secretary Andrews highlighted how the Department supports the software industry at practically every stage of development through our “Open for Business Agenda.” Those efforts include increasing broadband access across the country, linking small businesses and their customers with high-speed Internet, boosting manufacturing to provide the hardware software needs, and strengthening U.S. intellectual property protections, cybersecurity and consumer privacy.

Deputy Secretary Andrews also talked about data as a key department-wide strategic priority. Commerce is working to unleash more of its data to strengthen the nation’s economic growth; make its data easier to access, understand, and use; and, maximize the return of data investments for industries, including the software industry.

It was fitting, then, that SIIA today released a first-of-its-kind report providing detailed analysis and data related to the software industry’s output, productivity, exports and job creation. MacCarthy, former Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Robert J. Shapiro, and representatives from Oracle, Intuit and GM discussed the report, titled “The Impact of the U.S Software Industry on the American Economy,” at the event.

The report epitomizes how government data is essential for industries to understand their contributions to the broader economy and how improvements can be made accordingly. Further, Deputy Secretary Andrews explained that the prevalence of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis data throughout the report is a testament to the usefulness of the department’s data to help American businesses grow. The value of government data was recently highlighted in “Fostering Innovation, Creating Jobs, Driving Better Decisions: The Value of Government Data,” a Commerce report by the Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA).

Quarterly Gross Domestic Product by State, 2005–2013 (Prototype Statistics)

Percent Change in Real GDP by State, 2013:III-2013:IV

Cross Post: Bureau of Economic Analysis

  • The quarterly GDP by state prototype statistics for 2005-2013 provide a more complete picture of economic growth across states as they evolve from quarter to quarter. 
  • The quarterly GDP by state statistics are released for 21 industry sectors and are released in both current dollars and inflation-adjusted chained (2009) dollars. 
  • Nondurable-goods manufacturing was the largest contributor to U.S. real GDP by state growth in the fourth quarter of 2013. This industry was the leading contributor to real GDP growth in 31 states in the fourth quarter. 
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services was the second largest contributor to U.S. real GDP growth in the third and fourth quarters of 2013. This industry contributed to the growth in 49 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2013. 
  • Wholesale trade contributed to real GDP growth in 48 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2013. 
  • Construction subtracted from real GDP growth in 47 states and the District of Columbia in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Read the full report.

New BEA Data Provide Insights on How Harsh Winter Impacted Industries in First Quarter

Real value added —a measure of an industry’s contribution to GDP—for agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting declined 31 percent in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in the production of farm-type products, including livestock and dairy.

How much did the harsh winter weather affect the U.S. economy in the first quarter of this year?

We know that the economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), contracted at an annual rate of 2.9 percent over January, February and March, the first quarterly decline in three years. But how were different industries affected and was weather a factor?  New data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis provide fresh insights on that front.

The economy’s downturn in the first quarter was widespread, with 19 of 22 major industry groups contributing to the drop in U.S. economic activity, the new BEA data show.  Some of the leading contributors to the downturn included industries that were impacted by the unusually harsh winter weather that hit most of the United States, including “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting.”

Severe weather conditions can have both positive and negative (although mostly negative) effects on the Nation’s economic performance. For some industries this is intuitive, like “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting” and “construction;” for other industries, like “mining,” and “nondurable-goods manufacturing,” the link may not be as intuitive.

Real value added —a measure of an industry’s contribution to GDP—for agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting declined 31 percent in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in the production of farm-type products, including livestock and dairy. 

Construction fell almost 9 percent, reflecting a notable decline in nonresidential construction activity that began in January and continued through March; unusually cold and wet weather hampered construction activity. 

Perhaps somewhat surprising, the utility industry also contributed to the decline in GDP in the first quarter.  While demand for additional utilities, for example electricity generation, was evident with the severe winter weather, a surge in the costs of the inputs used by the utilities industry—things like energy, materials, and purchased services used in the production process—caused real value added to drop over 16 percent in the first quarter. 

Looking for Economic Information on Coastal Areas? Visit BEA’s Website

Recreational boats parked in a marina

How much economic activity is generated by a state in a coastal area? How much do people living in coastal areas earn?

A visit to BEA’s Economic Information for Coastal Areas section on its website provides you with that information – and much more.

You can get details on the sources of personal income, such as wages and salaries, how much income came from investments and how much came from transfer benefits such as unemployment checks and Social Security benefits. This information is available for coastal states and for coastal counties. You can also find out how much income per person was generated in coastal counties and states.

You also can find out earnings generated by people working in different industries for coastal states and coastal counties. For instance, you can look up earnings for people employed in fishing, hunting and trapping. Or for those employed in oil and gas extraction, food manufacturing or transportation. That information also is available on a state and county level.

Business owners and entrepreneurs can use BEA’s coastal economic statistics to help them make more informed decisions about investing and hiring in those areas.

The site, launched two years ago, stems from a joint project with the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.