The Office of Consumer Affairs
June 1998 Report
DOC Consumer-Related Activities
The following agencies are included in this report:
BUREAU OF THE CENSUS
-- In 1997, 89 percent of women and 86 percent of men had high school diplomas. At the college completion level, women led 29 percent to 26 percent.
-- The gap in high school completion between African Americans and Whites narrowed in the 25- to 29-year-old group over the past decade to the point where there was no statistical difference in 1997.
-- Alaska and Wyoming were the only states with high-school graduation rates that exceeded 90 percent. High-school completion levels were highest in the Midwest (85 percent) and lowest in the South (79 percent).
-- More than 1 in 5 (24 percent) of all adults had attained at least a bachelor=s degree in 1997.
For questions about the data, contact Jennifer Day (301-457-2464). For more information, see Educational Attainment in the United States: March 1997 (P20-505). For ordering information, contact Customer Services (301-457-4100). The Internet address is: http://www.bls.census.gov/cps/pub/1997/educ_att.htm
-- Revenues received by cable and other television pay services showed an increase of 14 percent to $38 billion.
-- Revenue of radio and television broadcasting services increased 9 percent to $38 billion.
-- Revenues from cellular and other radio telephone services continued to grow, increasing by 25 percent to $29 billion.
For questions about the data, contact Jeff Barnett (301-457-2823). The Internet address is: http://www.census.gov/ftp/pub/svsd/www/ascs.html.
U.S. Businesses Invested $762 Billion in Capital Goods in 1996:
-- Businesses with one or more employees spent $662 billion on new and used capital goods. Nonemployer businesses spent $100 billion on capital goods.
-- Businesses with five or more employees spent $643 billion on capital goods in 1996, 7 percent more than in 1995.
-- Manufacturing led all other industry sectors in capital goods expenditures, spending $191 billion, or 30 percent of the total for businesses with five or more employees. The services sector ranked second, spending $142 billion or 22 percent of the total for these employer businesses.
-- Expenditures in the utilities sector dropped to $37 billion, a decrease of 4 percent from 1995.
For questions about the data, contact Charles Funk or Donna Hambric (301-457-3324). For more information, see Annual Capital Expenditures: 1996, ACE/96. For ordering information, contact Customer Services (301-457-4100). The Internet address is: http://www.census.gov/agfs/www/aces.html.
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ECONOMICS AND STATISTICS ADMINISTRATION
Selected Consumer-Related Information
$ Consumer prices rose 0.1 percent in June following a 0.3 percent rise in May. Over the last 12 months consumer prices are up only 1.7 percent. The core rate of inflation (prices excluding food and energy) also increased 0.1 percent in May and 2.2 percent for the past 12 months. Over the same period energy prices dropped 5.9 percent and food prices were up only 2.2 percent.
$ Income after taxes increased 0.5 percent in May after increasing 0.4 percent in both April and March.
$ Consumer spending was up 0.6 percent in May following 0.4 percent gains in the two prior months. The acceleration of spending in May was due largely to increased outlays for durable goods.
$ Automobile sales increased an average of nearly 2.5 percent in April, May, and June following no change the two prior months. Light truck sales have increased an average of 3.9 percent since February and the level of these sales in June reached 94 percent of the volume of automobile sales.
$ Housing starts declined slightly in May following a revised 9 percent jump in April.
$ Mortgage commitment interest rates continued near the 7 percent level.
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OFFICE OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS (OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY)
OCA Honored: OCA was honored at the Direct Selling Education Foundation=s (DSEF) 25th anniversary celebration held in conjunction with the Direct Selling Association=s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. OCA, the only Federal government honoree, was among those recognized by the DSEF for having played a critical role in ensuring the success of DSEF consumer education programs and activities over the years.
Urban Technology Summit: Director attended the Urban Technology Summit sponsored by the National Urban League in partnership with the National Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. The objective of the summit was to inform policy makers, corporate leaders, educators, and others of the various issues, priorities, and opportunities related to the access and use of information and communications technologies by residents of urban communities.
1998 National Consumers Week: With the January 1998 closing of the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs, National Consumers Week is in jeopardy. Director along with several representatives from both the public and private sector participated in a brainstorming session to explore the possibility of continuing National Consumers Week. In the past, programs and activities focusing on consumer rights and responsibilities have been held across the country during the month of October.
Constituent Contacts: During June 1998, OCA responded to 132 requests from constituents.
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NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION
Electronic Privacy: The Commerce Department convened a 2-day summit to explore issues surrounding electronic-commerce privacy on June 23-24, 1998 at the Department=s headquarters in Washington, D.C. A survey by APrivacy and American Business@ and Price Waterhouse was released showing that consumers favor business self-regulation but think that legislation may be needed to protect consumers= privacy.
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NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY
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NIST Training on Price Scanning Accuracy Benefits Consumers: To help improve the accuracy of price scanning by supermarkets, drug, department and home improvement stores, NIST weights and measures experts recently completed training for officials from 46 states. Consumers across the country will benefit by seeing fewer overcharges at checkout, while retail businesses will lose less revenue due to undercharging. From June 14-16, 1998, the NIST Office of Weights and Measures trained state weights and measures inspectors in procedures for determining the accuracy of price scanners.
In 1996, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), NIST and the states conducted a study that found wide variations in accuracy and suggested how retailers could improve accuracy and how consumers could ensure that they pay the proper price at checkout. The FTC and state inspectors advised the retail industry that there would be a follow-up study due to the problems detected and that a reasonable period of time would be given to allow industry to take corrective actions.
In preparation for the second study, NIST invited representatives from all state weights and measures offices to participate in training, and staff from 46 states accepted. The FTC provided assistance in the three-day training, which involved classroom instruction and hands-on activities. The first session was held at NIST in Gaithersburg, Maryland; the second was held in Nashville, Tennessee.
Industry, Government Team Up for Seamless, Secure E-Commerce: NIST and 16 leading companies in the electronic commerce (e-commerce) arena recently banded together to ensure their products can communicate easily while providing a high level of security.
The group, formed as part of a cooperative research and development agreement, held its first technical meeting this month, bringing together computer security experts from NIST and its private-sector partners, including leading software, telecommunications, computer security, and credit card firms.
The collaboration marks an intensified effort to support a Apublic key infrastructure@ (PKI) that will make e-commerce more secure. PKI is expected to bring the advantages of cryptography to consumers and businesses who do business over the Internet.
The current project builds upon previous work by NIST and industry partners to develop technical specifications that enable a variety of e-commerce PKI products and services to communicate seamlessly in the same way that telephone and Internet services offered by different companies can utilize a common network. The previous effort focused primarily on digital signatures, which can be used to verify the identity of parties involved in e-commerce. Digital signatures are critical to the growth of e-commerce because consumers and businesses alike want to Aknow@ the parties they do business with and the signatures help each party to recognize the other one electronically.
The partners are focusing on issues such as enhancing the confidentiality of e-commerce PKI transactions and interoperability, which assures that products and services produced by a variety of companies can communicate over a common network. Participating companies are AT&T Corporation, CertCo, Certicom Corp., Cylink Corp., Digital Signature Trust Co., DynCorp Information & Engineering Technology Inc., Entrust Technologies Inc., Frontier Technologies Corp., GTE, ID Certify, MasterCard International, Microsoft Corp., Motorola Inc., SPYRUS Inc., VeriSign Inc., and Visa International.
Be It Ever So Humble, There=s No Place Like NIST=s New Home Page: If you=re a regular user of the NIST site on the World Wide Web, http://www.nist.gov, there=s a pleasant surprise in store on your next visit. And, if you haven=t tried out the site before, now is a great time to get acquainted.
An improved, more customer-friendly NIST home page is now in operation. The home page=s new features include a site index, an upgraded search engine, a Ahot news@ section, a link to NIST atomic time and up-front connections to NIST=s four major programs--the Measurement and Standards Laboratories, the Advanced Technology Program, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, and the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Program.
A special section, ANIST and You,@ helps online visitors explore the agency=s nearly 100-year-old history, get answers to frequently asked questions, take a Awalk@ through the world of timekeeping and learn how NIST is connected to everyone=s daily life (ANIST in Your House@) and community (ANIST and Your City@).
Finally, the new home page links users to the latest information (usually including special web sites) about the more than 100 major conferences and symposia held at NIST each year.
NATIONAL TECHNICAL INFORMATION SERVICE
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TDPMIS: The joint Commerce/NTIS and Defense Department technical data package material information system (TDPMIS) was successfully launched at the Defense Supply Center annual conference in Richmond. This is the first system that will allow contractors to electronically access and download, for a fee, all the technical data, engineering drawings, and private sector standards needed to complete bids on Defense Department spare part procurements.
Energy, Science, and Technology Database: Access to the most comprehensive source of worldwide energy-related information, the Energy, Science, and Technology Database (EDB), is now available through the GOV.Research_CenterJ, a new on-line subscription service available from NTIS. The entire database contains more than 3 million bibliographic records and is updated every two weeks. Included in the EDB are scientific and technical research results of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration and its contractors, other agencies, universities, and industrial and research organizations. EDB also contains more than 900,000 bibliographic records of the Nuclear Science Abstracts--a comprehensive abstract and index collection of the international science and technology literature for the period 1948 through 1976. For more information about the EDB database, as well as other well-known databases such as the NTIS Database, AGRICOLA, AgroBaseJ, Federal Research in Progress, and NIOSHTIC7, visit the GOV.Research_CenterJ home page at http://grc.ntic.gov.
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