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Federal Mobile App Provides Real-Time Economic Stats

The U.S. Census Bureau’s first mobile app gives users a heads-up on the latest economic indicators and trends.

On the go but need a way to keep tabs on the latest U.S. economic trends? If so, the U.S. Census Bureau has a new mobile app that may fit the bill.

Called America’s Economy, the app provides real-time updates on 16 economic indicators, including gross domestic product, unemployment rate, international trade and construction spending. Released on Aug. 9, the app is currently available for Android mobile device users, with an Apple version set for release later this month.

“The America’s Economy app will empower anyone needing information about the U.S. economy with timely statistics right on their mobile devices,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves in a statement.

The app — the first mobile application released by the U.S. Census Bureau — took four months to develop and gives economists, researchers, planners and policymakers more convenient access to government statistics that can assist in business hiring, sales and production decisions.

The 16 economic indicators available on the America’s Economy mobile app:

U.S. Census Bureau

•    Advance Monthly Retail Sales
•    New Residential Construction
•    New Residential Sales
•    Construction Spending
•    International Trade
•    Advance Report Durable Goods
•    Business Inventories
•    Manufacturers’ Goods
•    Monthly Wholesale
•    Homeownership Rate
•    Quarterly Services Survey
•    QFR — Retail Trade
•    QFR — Manufacturing

Bureau of Economic Analysis

•    Gross Domestic Product
•    Personal Income and Outlays

Bureau of Labor Statistics

•    Unemployment Rate
The bureau didn’t start the project from scratch, however. The same data is available in the economic dashboard on the agency’s website. Users can click on various economic indicators and drill down for further information.

America’s Economy is an expansion of the Web tool’s content and scope. The program is also part of the Web Transformation Project, an ongoing effort that is revamping how the bureau’s information is accessed and viewed online.

“What we did with the mobile app was to enhance it a little bit by adding three additional indicators from two different organizations — the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis,” said Raul Cisneros, deputy director of the Center for New Media and Promotions at the U.S. Census Bureau, in an interview with Government Technology. “We took it to the next level by making this information available on mobile devices.”

Sapient Government Services, a technology, consulting and marketing services provider, created the app. The program cost $155,000 to design, develop and test. Cisneros explained that the cost included four versions — Android phone, Android tablet, iPhone and then iPad. He added that all four will have slightly different displays.

Cisneros revealed the bureau is working on two other mobile apps, including one that will deal with population statistics and less about the economy. He said because the agency had the economic indicators already available on the Web, it made sense to use that dashboard as a jumping point for America’s Economy.

In addition, while Cisneros said the app has been well received initially, the bureau isn’t resting on its laurels. Although he wouldn’t reveal a timetable, Cisneros said improvements for America’s Economy are already in the works that will add real-time stats from both the consumer price index and producer price index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.