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Since the 1980s, BEA has relied on a set of computer programs to identify which statistics must not be published publicly to protect the confidentiality of business records for individual companies.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Our testing indicates that the new system will consistently result in 33 percent fewer unpublished values in the final public statistics on the economic activity generated by metropolitan areas.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.