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Blog Category: Bureau of Economic Analysis

New BEA Data Proves Valuable for Retail Industry

Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D., Chief Economist, National Retail Federation

Guest blog post by Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D., Chief Economist, National Retail Federation 

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries.

The National Retail Federation closely monitors economic conditions in order to gauge the health of the overall industry and the consumers who represent nearly 70% of the national GDP. By having quarterly updates on the economic performance of 22 sectors, we will be better served when representing retailers and their needs as it relates to economic forecasts, labor markets and job reports, and much more.

Having higher frequency GDP data by industry will be extremely valuable in assessing current economic conditions and shaping economic forecasts. The new data series should provide reliable information on the changes in growth for specific industries, and offer insights into whether the growth is well-above, well-below, or average relative to overall GDP growth. In the past, the annual data could not provide perspective on the fits and starts in marketplace activity, so I am encouraged that a more detailed picture is now more accessible. 

No modeling effort can accurately capture the dynamics and complexity of the U.S. economy nor consider all the variables. The difference now is that we don’t have to wait a year to find out how different industries are performing and contributing to the United States’ economic growth. This data will add to our toolkit for forecasting both short and long-term trends. Additionally, these quarterly reports will provide a better barometer of when an industry might be poised for a surge or a drop – otherwise known as turning points – that can possibly be a signal for the direction of the larger U.S. economy.

All in all, the access to this new statistical product will add to more informed decisions by all who need reliable and timely data on the performance of the economy.

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.

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.

Files

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

Annual funding for the government expired on September 30. The Administration strongly believed that a lapse in funding should not occur. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations. Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations (PDF) in the absence of appropriations (a “shutdown plan”).

The plan may be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant. This plan (PDF) complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. All employees who are Presidentially Appointed, Senate Confirmed will remain on duty.

In compliance with the restrictions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support
• Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
• Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing
• Essential natural resource damage assessment activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident
• Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
• Patent and trademark application processing
• Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
• Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
• All services of the National Technical Information Service
• Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and coordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
• Budget operations required to support excepted activities under a shutdown, such as tracking of obligations and funds control.

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for Hurricane and FAA flight planning)
• Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
• Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
• Services and activities provided by:
−Bureau of Economic Analysis
−Economic Development Administration
−Economics and Statistics Administration
−Minority Business Development Agency
−Bureau of the Census
• Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration

Improving the Economic Measurement Toolkit: Partnerships between Businesses and Federal Statistical Agencies

Director Steve Landefeld

Businesses and federal statistical agencies have a long history of working together to produce something that is vitally important to both groups: the nation’s economic measurement toolkit.

Steve Landefeld, director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, charted the history of this collaboration and underscored the importance of continuing that partnership during a panel session Tuesday at the National Association for Business Economics’ (NABE) annual meeting in San Francisco.

This public-private partnership has produced concrete results over the years. For example, BEA partnered with IBM to develop a new type of price index that captured the effect of changes in technology. And BEA worked with Chrysler to develop a new price index for motor vehicles.  The Chamber of Commerce has also hosted conferences that led to important changes in the way the U.S. and other countries measure their economies. NABE has served as an important forum to spur additional ideas on the measurement front.

Proposed Cuts Hurt Job Creation, Economy, and the Middle-Class

The President has been clear that Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to finish a budget that cuts wasteful spending while investing in jobs, the economy, and middle class families. Until Congress reaches a budget agreement, the President will not sign individual appropriations bills that simply attempt to enact the House Republican budget into law. That would hurt our economy and make draconian cuts to middle class priorities.

The House Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill demonstrates just how damaging the overall spending limits imposed by House Republican leadership are. The bill would cut $1 billion from the President’s request for the Department of Commerce, requiring a halt to investments in areas designed to help grow the economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. The bill cuts more than $70 million from the International Trade Administration, which prevents placement of Foreign Commercial Service Officers in priority markets to help U.S. companies expand exports. That cut also limits our ability to attract foreign investment.  Instead of building on the momentum of resurgent American manufacturing as the President did in this budget, the bill terminates the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia, which is helping the industry identify long-term manufacturing needs, and it cuts $33 million from the President’s request for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The MEP program is a federal-state partnership, which consists of centers located across the country that work directly with their local manufacturing communities to strengthen the competitiveness of our nation's domestic manufacturing base.

Commerce’s Economic Data Is a Goldmine for Small Businesses

Graphic of Econmic Census

Public data is a valuable national asset whose value is multiplied when it is made easily accessible to the public. For example, the public release of weather data from government satellites and ground stations generated an entire economic sector that today includes the Weather Channel, commercial agricultural advisory services, and new insurance options. Similarly, the decision by the U.S. Government to make the Global Positioning System (GPS), once reserved for military use, available for civilian and commercial access, gave rise to GPS-powered innovations ranging from aircraft navigation systems to precision farming to location-based apps, contributing tens of billions of dollars in annual value to the American economy.

The Department of Commerce makes available to small businesses economic data that are important for key business decisions such as where to locate, where to manufacture a product and where to sell that product.

For example, AmFor Electronics, a second-generation, family-owned manufacturer in Portland, Oregon, is the market leader in the manufacturing of alternator and starter testers, which are sold to auto parts stores, auto repair shops, and alternator and starter rebuilders. Using Commerce data like that available in the Assess Costs Everywhere tool, AmFor decided to enter the wire harness sector and chose to locate their manufacturing facility domestically rather than overseas because it provides a shorter turnaround times with fewer defects that ultimately leads to a reduction in costs. These successes have translated into new customers and the hiring of 50 employees.

Digital Government Strategy Brings Big Changes to the Commerce Department

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Digital Government Strategy, an effort by the Administration to transform public-facing government services in line with 21st century expectations. The Department of Commerce has made some big strides in providing better information to citizens in a timely manner through multiple formats and increasing access to services on mobile devices. The goal is to make citizen services and information available anywhere, anytime, and on any device, and in formats that facilitate additional use by public developers and entrepreneurs.

Technology is changing so rapidly that nearly 50% of American adults own a smart phone today, up from 35% only one year ago. To help keep pace with the rapid deployment of mobile technology, Commerce is working hard to ensure our services and data are available to citizens in whatever format and on whatever device they prefer. For example, earlier this week, NOAA released a mobile app to provide free nautical charts for recreational boaters to ensure safer and easier boating. NOAA is putting the finishing touches on the iOS version of their Shortfin Mako Shark Live Release app for public release next week. The success of these apps builds upon the America’s Economy app from the U.S. Census Bureau that already has more than 90,000 downloads.

We also have released the additional data for public consumption. For example, the International Trade Administration has released an application programming interface (API) for Export Trade Events so that data can be used by other organizations to pull the most relevant events for their members. The Department's Bureau of Industry and Security created the Commerce Control List Order of Review Decision Tool, a new web-based tool to assist exporters in understanding changes being made as part of the Administration's Export Control Reform Initiative. All information available for public use is on Data.gov and also on our new Developer page. The release of this data and APIs is intended to provide developers, researches, entrepreneurs and others with the ability to access government data in ways that make it easier to use and program.

Learn More About the Ocean and Great Lakes Economy on BEA’s New Web Portal

Tugboat

Ed. Note: This is cross-posted from the Bureau of Economic Analysis's blog. It highlights the coordination and collaboration between BEA and NOAA to bring value in data and services to the American public.

How many jobs are created from the construction of a new bridge or an increase in tourism?

The Bureau of Economic Analysis’ (BEA) new Web portal on the ocean and Great Lakes economy shows how the Bureau’s Regional Input-Output Modeling System (RIMS II) can be used to provide answers to such questions. The new Web site stems from a joint project with the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

RIMS II, a regional economic model, is used by investors, planners, and elected officials to objectively assess the returns to projects ranging from a new sports stadium to a new bridge. The returns include the short- and long-term increases in jobs and spending associated with the projects.

The idea behind the results of RIMS II is that an initial change in economic activity leads to additional changes in economic activity in other parts of an economy—for example, building a new bridge leads to increased production of concrete and steel. The increased production of concrete and steel leads to more mining. Workers benefiting from these increases may also enjoy bigger paychecks, so they may then spend more by eating out at nicer restaurants or splurging more on entertainment.

Labor Day 2012: September 3

Labor Day collage (Credit: Delaware.gov)

The first observance of Labor Day is believed to have been a parade of 10,000 workers on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, organized by Peter J. McGuire, a Carpenters and Joiners Union secretary. By 1893, more than half the states were observing “Labor Day” on one day or another. Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

The Department of Commerce's U.S. Census Bureau has gathered a collection of interesting statistics in its "Facts for Features" series. This edition highlights the many statistics associated with celebrating Labor Day, including:

  • 155.2 million: Number of people 16 and older in the nation’s labor force in June 2012;
  • 16.3 million: Number of commuters who left for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m. in 2010. They represent 12.5 percent of all commuters;
  • 25.3 minutes: The average time it took people in the nation to commute to work in 2010.

For more statistics, see the Labor Day Facts for Features.