Commerce Department

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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The Department of Commerce (DOC) is an agency of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH of the federal government that promotes international trade, economic growth, and technological advancement. It performs many activities related to business, trade, and technology. Its numerous divisions work to foster business growth and to create jobs; to prevent UNFAIR COMPETITION in foreign trade; to distribute economic statistics and studies for use by businesses, the government, and the general public; to support and conduct scientific, engineering, and technological research and development; and to promote foreign trade and U.S. exports. As part of its broad mission, the DOC administers the Bureau of the Census, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Weather Service, the U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and several other major government agencies.

Originally part of the Department of Commerce and Labor, which was created in 1903, the Department of Commerce was established as a separate entity by law on March 4, 1913 (U.S.C.A. § 1501). The secretary of commerce sits on the president's cabinet along with the secretaries of the 13 other executive agencies of the federal government and other selected executive officials.

Although the activities of the Department of Commerce are not always prominent in the American consciousness, the department's efforts in administering economic programs have a major effect on the average citizen. Under the administration of President GEORGE H.W. BUSH, the Department of Commerce has administered a number of programs designed to enhance economic growth and to stimulate economic progress in the wake of a recession.

Economics and Statistics Administration

The Economics and Statistics Administration, supervised by the undersecretary for economic affairs, advises the president on economic developments and macroeconomic and microeconomic policy. It also makes economic forecasts and presents current economic data to the public through the National Trade Data Bank and the Economic Bulletin Board. The office oversees the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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The Bureau of the Census was officially established as a permanent office on March 6, 1902 (32 Stat. 51). Its major duties are authorized by the Constitution (which requires that a census of the U.S. population be conducted every ten years) and by laws codified in Title 13 of the U.S. Code. By law, the census data collected from individuals must be kept confidential. However, statistics collected from the data are published for use by Congress, the executive branch, and the general public. The...

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