SIC 9611

This group covers government establishments primarily engaged in promoting and developing economic resources of all kinds, including tourism, business, and industry. Included are establishments responsible for the development of general statistical data and analyses and promotion of general economic well-being.

NAICS Code(s)

926110 (Administration of General Economic Programs)

At the end of the 1990s, the five largest economies in the world were the United States, China, Japan, Germany, and India. The primary U.S. federal agency supporting general economic programs is the Department of Commerce (DOC). Established in 1931, the DOC encourages and serves the nation's international trade, economic growth, and technological advancement. In 1999, the DOC had a budget of $5.5 billion dollars and 47,200 (full-time equivalent) employees.

Within the context of fostering competitive free enterprise, the DOC administers a wide variety of social and economic programs. For instance, it conducts research for technological advancements, grants patents, encourages growth of minority-owned businesses, works to improve the utilization of natural resources, and promotes travel to the United States by foreigners. The Secretary of Commerce oversees more than 30 offices and bureaus.

In 1997, the DOC published its "Strategic Plan for 1997-2002," addressing its five-year priorities. In that Plan, it identified three basic areas of focus, which it referred to as "themes." Theme 1 of the Plan addressed the nation's economic infrastructure, and DOC's role in developing jobs to support our economy. Theme 2 focused on the promotion of science and technology, and their roles in contributing to a competitive global economy. Finally, Theme 3 outlined the DOC's responsibilities for the management of national resources and assets, such as intellectual property rights, the radio frequency spectrum, and ocean and coastal resources.

To better manage these objectives and responsibilities, the Department of Commerce is charged with the periodic conducting of the national census. In preparation for the 2000 census, an additional 80,000 (mostly temporary) employees were hired for the Bureau of the Census, bringing its total employment to 104,900 for the year. Its budget also jumped from $1.3 million in 1999 to $4.7 million in 2000.

The DOC's Economic Development Administration (EDA) was created to generate new jobs, to protect existing jobs, and to stimulate commercial and industrial growth in economically distressed areas of the United States. It provides loan guarantees, public works grants, land and resource planning grants, and specialized technical assistance and consultation programs. It particularly concentrates on rural and urban areas of high unemployment, low income, and severe economic distress. EDA's 2000 budget was $387 million, with approximately 270 employees.

Conversely, the DOC's International Trade Administration (ITA) promotes world trade and investments in the interests of the United States. It advises the president on international economic policy, enforces fair import trade practices, works to foster U.S. export competitiveness, and gathers data and conducts research. In 1999, ITA maintained several U.S. Export Assistance Centers, 99 domestic Commercial Service Offices, and 138 worldwide posts and commercial centers in 70 countries. Its biggest challenge, possibly to date, was the U.S.-China WTO (World Trade Organization) Accession Deal. The ITA's 2000 budget was $307.0 million, with 2,400 employees.

Other commerce responsibilities are administered under numerous offices, such as the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which advises the president on telecommunications policy and promotes U.S. communications interests globally, among other activities.

The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), also a responsibility of the Commerce Department, was created by the U.S. Constitution. It protects inventors' rights to the results of their creative efforts. In 1999, the PTO granted 169,154 patents, including 153,493 for inventions and 14,732 for design. Of these, 55.6 percent went to U.S. inventors, with California and New York claiming the highest numbers. The 2000 budget for the PTO was $115.0 million, with 7,200 employees.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology assists industry in developing technology to improve products and manufacturing processes. Several other DOC offices collect data, provide technical assistance to various industries, and work to increase minority commerce.

Like the DOC, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) strives to sustain the economic health of the nation. But its duties center around protecting the free enterprise system from monopolies, unnecessary trade restraints, and unfair or deceptive trade practices. Specifically, it regulates price-fixing, boycotting, and other competitive market influences; pricing discrimination; truth in advertising and labeling; and consumer credit policies. It also conducts research, enforces laws, and issues various trade regulations.

Besides the DOC and FTC, several smaller federal and state offices work to promote economic activity, protect consumers and businesses from fraud and negligence, and promote fair world trade. Within the Department of Energy, for instance, are several offices that work to develop energy programs, and to conserve resources for future economic goals.

Likewise, the U.S. International Development Cooperation Agency devises and coordinates international economic policy to ensure that development goals are considered in executive branch trade policies affecting less-developed nations, and provides strong direction for U.S. economic policies toward the developing world.

Similarly, the U.S. International Trade Commission furnishes studies, reports, and recommendations to the president, Congress, and other government entities regarding international trade and tariffs. It also conducts related investigations and public hearings.

Further Reading

"1999 Patent Statistics Announced." PTO Press Release, 2 March 2000. Available from .

"America Is Back, and More Inventive." New York Times, 25 March 1996, D10.

"Commerce Department, Moving Closer to Chopping Block." Los Angeles Times, 14 October 1995, D1.

International Trade Administration, 2000. Available from .

"The World's Fifty Largest Economies." The Political Reference Almanac, 1999. Available from .

U.S. Department of Commerce. Funding and employment data, 2000. Available from .

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