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Blog Category: Office of the Secretary

2011 Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Report

Cover: Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States Report

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released its report on Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States in 2011.

As we continue to fight back from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage report released today provides further evidence of how critical it is that we implement policies that benefit and create security for struggling families and our middle class—and not just the wealthiest Americans. 

Today’s report shows that while too many American families are still struggling, the nation’s poverty rate fell and the percentage of Americans with health insurance coverage rose in 2011. It is clear that had President Obama not taken swift and aggressive action to grow our economy and create jobs, today’s report would have shown much higher poverty rates, lower incomes, and a greater share of the population without health insurance. 

Though our poverty rate remains unacceptably high, this report shows that the poverty rate ticked down in 2011 after rising for several years in the wake of the Great Recession. Poverty fell for all age groups, including children, elderly, and non-elderly adults. A key reason for this decline was that 2.2 million more people had full-time jobs last year, in part because unemployment fell by 0.9 percentage points from December 2010 to December 2011. Government programs also continued to provide a vital safety net. 

Acting Secretary Blank cut the ribbon at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago

Acting Secretary Blank cut the ribbon at the International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago

Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Chicago, Illinois to deliver remarks at the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), hosted by the Association for Manufacturing Technology. Acting Secretary Blank discussed the importance of manufacturing to boosting U.S. economic growth, job creation and exports and highlighted the administration's continuing efforts to build things here and sell them everywhere.

Blank noted that President Obama has been committed to U.S. manufacturing since his very first day in office, and shared three key facts that show manufacturing is making a comeback. First, after a decade when America lost six million manufacturing jobs, we’ve now added more than a half million back since January 2010. These are good-paying jobs that strengthen economic security for the middle class. Second, our manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009–with big growth in areas like cars and car parts. Third, manufactured exports have increased in nearly all industry categories, jumping over 36 percent from 2009 to 2011.

After finishing her remarks, Blank toured the floor exhibits. She stopped by the Local Motors exhibition to hear about their crowd-sourced car. The Defense Advance Research Project Agency challenged Local Motors, a small company based in Chandler, Arizona to design a vehicle in four weeks and build it in three months. To meet this deadline Local Motors crowd-sourced the vehicle design, selected one of the over 162 high-quality designs that came in and then built it ahead of schedule.

Acting Secretary Blank departed IMTS and traveled to Cree-Racine in Racine, Wisconsin, a local manufacturer of energy-efficient LED lights. They recently formed a partnership with a distributor in India and last year won the President’s E-Award for their success in increasing exports. Because of that success, they’re expanding their facility and creating nearly 500 more jobs in Wisconsin.

Acting Secretary Blank then traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she spoke with local business leaders about steps that can be taken to grow the American economy and create jobs. Her remarks focused on the importance of increasing consumer spending, spurring innovation in manufacturing, increasing business investments in the U.S., and growing U.S. exports. She drew attention to a joint venture between five federal agencies, the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Commerce, the National Science Foundation, and NASA, and local manufacturers for a pilot project that is focused on additive manufacturing.   

Additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3D printing, is a new way of making products and components from a digital model, and will have implications in a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, and metals manufacturing. Like an office printer that puts 2D digital files on a piece of paper, a 3D printer creates components by depositing thin layers of material one after another using a digital blueprint until the exact component required has been created.  The Department of Defense envisions customizing parts on site for operational systems that would otherwise be expensive to make or ship. The Department of Energy anticipates that additive processes would be able to save more than 50 percent energy use compared to today’s "subtractive" manufacturing processes.

This pilot institute will set a research agenda, driven by private sector needs. It will encourage researchers and entrepreneurs to take risks, test prototypes, fail quickly and get back up to try again. This is a great public-private partnership, with funding from the Federal government, two states and many manufacturers. The Department is tracking this pilot closely, to learn how best to help fund and establish these sort of public-private collaborations all over the country.

In addition to highlighting manufacturing, Blank outlined steps needed to grow the American economy and create jobs. She focused on the importance of increasing consumer spending, increasing business investments in the U.S., and growing U.S. exports. She also highlighted the need for U.S. investments in infrastructure and education to build an economy to last.

Doing More with Less: Taxpayers Will Save with Commerce’s New Adobe Contract

Doing more with less logo

Guest blog post by Commerce Chief Information Officer Simon Szykman             

Last summer, President Obama launched the Campaign to Cut Waste, saying, “No amount of waste is acceptable, not when it’s your money. Just as families are living within their means, government should too, so we can invest in the things that we know will create good jobs and grow the economy.” 

We’re doing just that at the Commerce Department.

This campaign is an administration-wide effort to make government more transparent and accountable to the American people. As part of this ongoing initiative, the Commerce Department is looking for new ways to boost efficiencies and to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. The Department’s fiscal year 2013 budget request identified a total of $176 million in savings through lower-cost acquisitions, reduced overhead expenses, and better management of facilities and vehicles. 

Today, we’re launching a blog series to highlight some of these Department-wide efforts to eliminate wasteful spending and support an economy built to last.

International Traveler Spending On Pace For a Record Setting Year

Happy tourist jumping in Glacier National Park

Guest blog post by Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar

Travel and tourism spending by international visitors is helping to boost the U.S. economy. The U.S. Department of Commerce released data yesterday showing that international visitors have spent an estimated $82.2 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services year to date, an increase of 11 percent when compared to the same period last year. Many people do not know that this boosts exports – when foreign citizens travel to America and buy goods and services from American companies, that counts as a U.S. export. The new data indicate that the first half of 2012 set a new record for U.S. travel and tourism exports, and, if these trends continue, international visitors could end up injecting close to $170 billion into the U.S. economy by year-end.

These increases help explain why the Obama administration is working hard to make the United States the top destination for international travelers. The U.S. Departments of Commerce and Interior are implementing the National Travel and Tourism Strategy, which they presented to the President in May. The National Strategy is a blueprint for expanding travel to and within the U.S., setting out the goal of attracting over 100 million international visitors annually by 2021, more than a 50 percent increase over the number expected this year. These international visitors would spend an estimated $250 billion per year, creating jobs and spurring economic growth in communities across the country.

Acting Secretary Blank Applauds Steamfitters’ Job Training as Key to Building a 21st Century Economy

    Acting Secretary Blank Applauds Steamfitters’ Job Training as Key to Building a 21st Century Economy

This morning, Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined U.S. Representatives Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz on a tour of the job training facilities of Steamfitters Local 420 in Philadelphia, where classes are held for apprentices and journeyworkers to develop and improve their skills so they can better serve clients and become qualified for a broader range of employment opportunities.

The rigorous training and education being offered at the facility has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of people throughout the region. The steamfitters local union 420 training center services the entire state and the work being done by members helps keep the region's infrastructure running smoothly, helping to make southeastern Pennsylvania an attractive place to do business.

Today's visit was an opportunity for local business leaders, workers and entrepreneurs to showcase all that they are doing to support manufacturing, train a 21st century workforce, and help the American economy recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

While there is still more work to be done, our private sector has now had 29 straight months of job growth, creating 4.5 million new jobs. Over the past two and one-half years, more than a half-million manufacturing jobs have been created in the U.S.— the strongest job growth in that sector since the 1990s.

Pennsylvania alone has gained over 10,000 new manufacturing jobs since January, 2010. And these manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay more than average and provide greater benefits.

During the visit, Acting Secretary Blank affirmed Commerce’s efforts to build a strong environment for manufacturing and innovation in the U.S. For example, the Obama administration recently announced the launch of a new public-private institute for manufacturing innovation as part of its ongoing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia "Tech Belt."

Though progress has been made, more work remains. This is why the Obama administration continues to call on Congress to pass legislation to give our companies a tax break if they move operations and jobs back. President Obama has also called for helping state and local governments hire or retain teachers, police, and firefighters; and putting construction workers by to work while repairing crumbling American infrastructure. These proposals would create a million new jobs, according to independent economists.

After visiting the steamfitters' training facilities, Acting Secretary Blank traveled to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to announce a grant to help local small manufacturers lower operating costs and create jobs. She was joined by Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, local business leaders, and entrepreneurs to highlight Obama administration efforts to help local companies and workers build things here so they can sell them everywhere.

Commerce Joins Announcement on New Public-Private Partnership to Support Additive Manufacturing Innovation

Acting Secretary Blank signs her name next to Secretary Chu's on a robot designed by a high school team from Knoxville, TN that was built via additive manufacturing (3-D printing).

Today, Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank joined White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, Undersecretary of Defense Frank Kendall, and other Obama administration officials to announce the launch of a new public-private institute for manufacturing innovation in Youngstown, Ohio as part of ongoing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and encourage companies to invest in the United States. This new partnership, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (NAMII), was selected through a competitive process, led by the Department of Defense, to award an initial $30 million in federal funding, matched by $40 million from the winning consortium, which includes manufacturing firms, universities, community colleges, and non-profit organizations from the Ohio-Pennsylvania-West Virginia "Tech Belt." The institute focuses on additive manufacturing, often referred to as 3-D printing, which will have implications in a wide range of industries including defense, aerospace, automotive, and metals manufacturing. In her remarks, Acting Secretary Blank discussed the role of American manufacturing in driving economic growth and creating good jobs in the United States.

Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding region knows what happens when manufacturing production declines. But in this area once known as the "rust belt," investments like this new pilot institute demonstrate the potential within a region to bring together the capabilities of America’s companies and universities, in partnership with the federal government, to invest in the cutting-edge technologies and skills our manufacturers need to compete. With this initiative, Youngstown is poised to become the epicenter of burgeoning new industries from its leadership in additive manufacturing or 3-D printing.

Acting Secretary Blank Talks Administration Support for American Manufacturing

Guest blog post by Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

I just returned from the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Manufacturing where I had an opportunity to hear from a group of American manufacturers—representing businesses of all sizes from across the country—about how the Obama administration can continue to support them as they build things here and sell them everywhere. As we have seen in recent months, manufacturing is one of the bright spots for our economy. Over the past two and one-half years, more than a half-million manufacturing jobs have been created in the U.S.—the strongest job growth in that sector since the 1990s. In fact, just last month, an additional 25,000 new manufacturing jobs were added.

In terms of production, manufacturing output is up 20 percent since 2009, and increased again in July. One manufacturing sector that has been consistently strong is the motor vehicles and parts industry, which has added 165,000 jobs since June 2009a sector that might not even exist in the U.S. today if not for the assistance this administration gave to the U.S. auto industry in 2009.

This matters because we know that manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay more than average and provide greater benefits. They strengthen economic security for middle class families.

There is a powerful link between America’s ability to make things and America’s ability to innovate, compete, and create good jobs. We have come to realize that you can’t separate innovation and production—they have to sit near each other. Manufacturers perform 70 percent of all private sector R&D, investing in and producing technological advances that accounted for 90 percent of U.S. patents.  Economic research indicates that innovation—in new products or new processes—was central to three-quarters of the nation’s economic growth since World War II and it is not an accident that the manufacturing sectors where America is most competitive are all advanced manufacturing, where new technologies, new products or new production processes are central to the success of specific firms.

U.S. Manufacturing Continues to Create Jobs in the U.S.

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Department of Commerce Chief Economist, Economics & Statistics Administration

Earlier today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a report showing that the private sector added 172,000 jobs last month, and overall employment rose by 163,000. While there’s more work to be done, the economy is creating jobs on a consistent basis. The economy has added private sector jobs for 29 straight months, for a total of 4.5 million jobs. In fact, since the beginning of the year, the economy has added over 1.1 million private sector jobs. Today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

Additionally, the BLS report also showed that the manufacturing sector continues to be a bright spot, which is especially important for middle class families, because these jobs pay high wages and provide high levels of benefits.

The good news is that the U.S. manufacturing sector’s recovery continues: 532,000 new manufacturing jobs have been created over the past 30 months, with 25,000 being added in July. In terms of production, manufacturing output is up 19.8 percent from the trough reached in June 2009.

A part of manufacturing that has been consistently strong is the motor vehicles and parts industry, which has added 165,000 jobs since June 2009. Further, production of cars and trucks in the U.S. reached 10.5 million units at an annual rate in June, a sharp contrast to the shockingly low level of 3.7 million units witnessed in January, 2009.  To continue the revival in manufacturing jobs and output, it is crucial that we implement President Obama’s proposals providing tax incentives for manufacturers, supporting training for the workforce, creating manufacturing hubs, and ending tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas and provide tax incentives for companies bringing jobs back to the United States.

Acting Secretary Blank Speaks at White House Business Council Forum on Travel and Tourism

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined business leaders from across the country earlier this week at the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Travel and Tourism

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank joined business leaders from across the country earlier this week at the White House Business Council American Economic Competitiveness Forum on Travel and Tourism to discuss the administration’s actions to help grow travel and tourism and support the millions of jobs associated with the industry. Travel and tourism is a bright spot for the American economy, leading the recovery with growth that has outpaced the growth of the overall economy by almost 800 percent and on pace for another year of record high international visitors to the U.S. 

Since even before the passage of the Travel Promotion Act in 2010, the Administration has been focused on the importance of travel and tourism.  The President recognized the importance of developing the travel and tourism industry and issued an Executive Order last January that created a new inter-agency Task Force co-chaired by the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior and charged them with developing a National Travel and Tourism Strategy to increase both domestic and international travel throughout the United States, with the goal of increasing the United States’ market share of worldwide travel. The Task Force included representatives from every agency and department whose mission intersects with the travel and tourism industry. The Task Force released the National Strategy in May with an ambitious goal of attracting 100 million international visitors ($250 billion in spending) to the U.S. annually by 2021 -- a 60% increase above the 62 million international visitors in 2011.

The National Travel and Tourism Strategy laid out a blueprint for reaching that goal by focusing on five areas:

  • Promoting the United States
  • Enabling and enhancing travel and tourism to and within the United States
  • Providing world-class customer service and visitor experiences
  • Coordinating across government
  • Conducting research and measuring results

Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank’s Trip to St. Louis Highlights American Manufacturing, Insourcing and Exports

Acting Secretary Blank continued her trip through Missouri today. She traveled to St. Louis to attend a roundtable breakfast with business owners from a range of industries hosted by Helix Center Biotech Incubator, an innovation facility owned and operated by the St. Louis County Economic Council. She was joined by St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and St. Louis County Executive Charley Dooley.

Acting Secretary Blank wrapped up her trip with a visit to Wilco Molding, Inc. a third-generation family-owned custom plastic injection molder as well as a tool and mold machine shop. There, Dr. Blank was joined by Wilco’s President, Kim Williams, along with Denny Coleman, President & CEO of St. Louis County Economic Council, and Tom Dustman, Director of International Sales for Sunnen Products. Acting Secretary Blank reiterated President Obama’s commitment to support manufacturing, to promote U.S. exports, and to encourage American businesses to bring jobs back or to expand operations in America—also known as insourcing She also discussed the importance of building on America’s insourcing trend by bringing more jobs back to states like Missouri. She also highlighted President Obama’s plan, released today, to extend the middle class tax cuts for families making under $250,000. In Missouri, this would help approximately 2.1 million families by preventing a tax increase of about $2,200 for the typical family of four.

During her visits to Missouri manufacturers, Acting Secretary Blank discussed Administration efforts to create good jobs by investing in American manufacturing. The President continues to press Congress to pass legislation that rewards businesses who hire American workers and eliminates tax incentives for companies to ship jobs overseas. The Commerce Department also continues to support the resurgence of American manufacturing and ongoing efforts to provide U.S. companies with the tools and resources they need to sell their products and services in the global marketplace.