Even casual observers of business news have likely noticed that the federal government spews out information about the nation's economy and its people at a seemingly unstoppable pace.
From weekly reports on initial claims for jobless benefits to monthly reports on prices, employment, goods production and more to the decennial census, an army of government workers toil daily to provide analysts, politicians and everyday Americans with the information they need to make decisions that govern every aspect of their lives.
All that information and data has its roots in the U.S. Constitution. According to the Census Bureau, the nation's chief compiler of the nation's data, the Founding Fathers understood the importance of accurate data in ensuring citizens had proper representation in Congress and advising lawmakers on the number of military-age men in the country.
But the census, which has been conducted every 10 years since 1790, is more than simple head count. The agency says it has "charted the growth and composition of our nation." People today use the data for myriad purposes, including locating pools of skilled workers.
For example, information gathered for the 2010 census helped determine how more than $400 billion in federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services, such as:
- Job training centers
- Senior centers
- Bridges, tunnels and other-public works projects
- Emergency services
For more on America's data-gathering machine, check out the infographic below from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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