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Commerce Department Continues to Provide Up-to-Date Information on the Health of the American Economy


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., it has been more important than ever to get the most up-to-date information on the health of the American economy. The U.S. Commerce Department plays a vital role in producing some of the most closely watched economic statistics that affect decisions made by policy makers, business leaders, and the American public.

More than 100 surveys are conducted monthly, quarterly, or annually by Commerce bureaus providing a comprehensive and current picture of the U.S. economy. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and U.S. Census Bureau produce some of the Nation’s leading economic indicators including retail and food service sales, housing starts, and manufacturing and trade inventories and sales. These monthly economic indicators provide comprehensive data measurements for evaluating the health of the American economy.

Recent indicators include sales of new homes, measurement of the U.S. manufacturing industry, and consumer spending—which is a key driving force in the U.S. economy and accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity.

New Residential Sales

The real estate and the housing market play an important role in the U.S. economy. The U.S. Census Bureau reports monthly sales of new single-family houses in the United States. These sales are driven by factors such as household income, employment and interest rates. The U.S. Census Bureau has been collecting this data since 1959.

On September 24, the U.S. Census Bureau reported sales of new single-family homes increased by 46,000 units (4.8%) in August to 1,011,000 units at an annual rate, well above market expectations and the highest since 2006. The August strength in new and existing home sales shows a sector that has fully recovered from the pandemic shutdowns, and which has benefitted from low interest rates.

“Thanks to President Trump’s economic policies, more Americans continue achieving the dream of owning a home! Sales of newly-built, single-family homes increased 4.8% in August, well above market expectations and marking the highest month for demand since 2006.” – Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.                                     

Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories and Orders

The Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders (M3) survey is the only survey to provide  broad-based, monthly statistical data on economic conditions in the domestic manufacturing sector. Conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the M3 is based upon data reported from manufacturing establishments with $500 million or more in annual shipments. This survey provides statistics on manufacturers' value of shipments, new orders (net of cancellations), end-of-month order backlog (unfilled orders), end-of-month total inventory, materials and supplies, work-in-process, and finished goods inventories (at current cost or market value). The survey has been conducted monthly by the US Census Bureau since 1957.

On September 25, the U.S. Census Bureau released the monthly Advance Report on Durable Goods – Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories and Sales. New orders for manufactured durable goods in August increased $1.0 billion or 0.4 percent to $232.8 billion. This increase, up four consecutive months, followed an 11.7 percent July increase.

Personal Income and Outlays

The personal income and outlays report—produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)—tracks consumer earning, spending and saving—all important indications of current and near-term future economic trends. The monthly report helps gauge the strength of the U.S. consumer sector.

The most recent report from (BEA) reported consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was up 1.9percent in July, the third straight monthly increase, strengthening expectations for a sharp rebound in economic growth in Q3. Personal income rose 0.4percent in July, remaining above pre-COVID levels.

“Today, BEA reported increased consumer spending and personal income in July—both beating market expectations. Thanks to the economic policies of President Trump, our Nation continues to gain momentum towards a strong economic recovery.” – Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.