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Blog Category: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Commerce Employees Saving Taxpayer Money

The BEA team with Secretary John Bryson and Acting Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank

Secretary Bryson and Acting Deputy Secretary Blank have recognized three Commerce teams that are improving customer service and saving taxpayer money.  Teams from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Census Bureau, and Department of Commerce Human Resources offices have received the Performance Excellence Award.

The Performance Excellence Award is distributed to teams that support the Secretary’s vision of an evolving department and continuously improve service delivery to the American public. Bryson hopes to establish the department as a role model for other federal agencies. In an effort to go the extra mile, process improvement teams are examining the department’s infrastructure to identify and remove inefficiencies.  As a result, processes are streamlined to enhance the administration and delivery of services to customers. Although the sector is very diverse, it is definitely possible to improve service delivery through department-wide collaboration.

Today, Bryson recognized three teams that have developed new processes to accelerate reduced costs and improve programs within their purview.

How You Can Analyze Federal Programs Using BEA Statistics: A Look at Unemployment Insurance Benefits Payments

Bureau of Economic Analysis logo

The national income and product accounts, produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), provide a consistent and comprehensive picture of the nation’s economy; as a result, they provide a useful tool for analyzing the economic effects of recent federal legislation designed to stabilize and stimulate the economy.   For example, it’s logical that reduced income tax rates and expanded tax credits lowered personal current tax receipts, but by how much? It makes sense that a reduction in the social security tax rate lowered contributions for government social insurance, but how do you put that reduction in context?  Or by how much did federal assistance to states increase over previous periods?  BEA’s national accounts can help you find the facts and answer these sorts of questions.

Here’s an easy and interesting example:   What government program explains the increase in government social benefits over the course of the recent recession? 

Data from the BEA show that total government social benefits, as a share of personal income, increased from 14.2 percent in the first quarter of 2008 to 18.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. That’s a notable increase, but what’s behind those numbers?

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?)

Tapping Experts to Improve Federal Statistics: The Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee

FESAC members with Acting  Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank

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

Major economic statistics tell us fundamental facts about the state of the economy – where we have been and how we are doing.  They allow citizens, businesses, and governments to assess how things are going.  Examples of such statistics include Gross Domestic Product (GDP), produced by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); U.S. international trade in goods and services, produced by the U.S. Census Bureau; and the consumer and producer price indexes, produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).  While each example statistic is issued by only one statistical agency, some – such as GDP - hit the statistical “trifecta” because they are built from data from all three agencies.

Keeping those statistics up-to-date and relevant to an ever-changing economy is central to the credibility of statistical organizations such as the Census Bureau, BEA, and BLS.  It is also a significant challenge for the agencies. We use many tactics and strategies to make sure our data are current and relevant.  Getting good advice from experts in relevant fields, through advisory committees, is one of those strategies.  Hearing about both the strengths and weaknesses of our data in an open and public setting is essential to improving our data and maintaining their credibility.

I am excited that we get advice from the Federal Economic Statistics Advisory Committee (FESAC).  FESAC advises the heads of the Census Bureau and BEA – both in the Department of Commerce – as well as the Department of Labor’s BLS. FESAC’s mission -- to recommend research to address important technical problems -- aims at improving exactly complex economic statistics relying on data from not just one, but two or three of these agencies. 

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

This blog post is about an older plan. The United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations at the end of FY 2013 is available here.

The current FY 2011 Continuing Resolution may expire without new budget authority. While it is not anticipated that there will be a lapse in appropriations, the Department must be prepared for a potential 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) requires the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations in the absence of appropriations (a "shutdown plan"). This plan will likely be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, as the situation develops, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant.

This plan complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce.

Files

Commerce Department Supports Puerto Rico as part of President’s Interagency Task Force

Guest blog post by Rick Wade, senior adviser to Secretary Locke, deputy chief of staff, and member of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status

Today the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status submitted a report to President Obama and Congress that provides recommendations for addressing Puerto Rico’s political status and economic climate. The report identifies specific proposals for boosting economic development, building competitive industries, and improving the quality of life for the people of Vieques – a Puerto Rican island-municipality in the northeastern Caribbean.

These recommendations, along with plans for their implementation, follow two public hearings held in San Juan, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., as well as meetings with island officials and other stakeholders to gather input directly from a broad cross section of voices on the issues of Puerto Rico’s status and economic development.

The report underlines the fact that Puerto Rico’s political status continues to be of great importance to its people. Its economy – like many others – has also faced significant challenges in recent years, driving the need for a greater focus on economic progress in the U.S. territory. Per capita income in Puerto Rico remains at less than one-third of that in the United States, due in part to its low employment rate and persistently low rate of labor force participation.

The U.S. Department of Commerce will be intensely involved in implementing the recommendations of the Task Force’s report. Six of the department’s 12 bureaus will lead projects in support of economic growth in Puerto Rico. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will help develop an interagency team that works to connect Puerto Ricans to broadband Internet. The International Trade Administration’s U.S. Export Assistance Center in San Juan will help Puerto Rico increase its exports. And the department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis will help Puerto Rico update its methodology for calculating gross domestic product so it aligns with U.S. standards and better captures economic conditions there.

September Marks the Fifth Consecutive Month of Double-Digit Travel and Tourism Export Growth

Graph of Change in U..S. Travel and Tourism-Related ExportsInternational travelers spent nearly $12 billion in the U.S. in September

According to newly released data from the Commerce Department, international visitors traveling to the United States pumped an estimated $11.7 billion into the U.S. economy during the month of September, up $1.7 billion compared to the same period last year.  This marks the fifth month of double-digit growth and ninth straight month of overall growth in U.S. travel and tourism exports.  Total travel and tourism-related exports have increased, on average, $1.2 billion a month in 2010. 

“Travel and tourism continues to be one of the bright spots in our economy,” Locke said.  “Continued growth in the tourism sector will help us achieve our goal of doubling exports over the next two years.” 

  • Travel Receipts: Purchases of travel and tourism-related goods and services by international visitors traveling in the United States totaled $9.0 billion during September, an increase of 15 percent when compared to last year. These goods and services include food, lodging, recreation, gifts, entertainment, local transportation in the United States, and other items incidental to foreign travel. 
  • Passenger Fare Receipts: Fares received by U.S. carriers (and U.S. vessel operators) from international visitors increased by nearly 27 percent to $2.7 billion for the month, an increase of $575 million when compared to September 2009.

International visitors have spent an estimated $100 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year to date (January through September), an increase of 11 percent when compared to the same period last year.

Americans have spent nearly $77.4 billion abroad year-to-date (up four percent)—resulting in a $22.6 billion trade surplus for travel and tourism through the first nine months of 2010.

Celebrating World Statistics Day, Oct. 20, 2010

The United Nations General Assembly designated Oct. 20, 2010, as the first-ever World Statistics Day to highlight the importance of official statistics and the many achievements of national statistical systems.  Statistical organizations throughout the world will celebrate World Statistics Day today at the national and regional level. The Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Economic Analysis and 12 other principal federal statistical agencies together have been collecting statistics about the nation’s people, economy and society since the first national census in 1790. Check out the Census Bureau’s Facts for Features special edition on World Statistics Day. 



Census Facts for Features | Facts for Features en español | World Statistics Day videos

Statement from Secretary Locke on August 2010 U.S. International Trade

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke issued the following statement on the release of the August 2010 U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services report by the Commerce Department’s U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Today’s report showed that U.S. exports in August 2010 increased by 0.2 percent to $153.9 billion from their July 2010 level. Imports in August increased 2.1 percent over July to $200.2 billion. U.S. exports so far in 2010 are up nearly 18 percent compared to the same period last year.  Report  |  Statement  |  Fact sheet