Enhancing Our Nation's Economic Strength 

For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, promoting economic vitality is not a slogan. It has been a way of life for nearly 200 years.

As the largest agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce, NOAA plays a vital role in supporting and enhancing our nation’s economic growth. In fact, NOAA’s products and services touch more than one-third of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Shippers delivering goods through our nation’s ports, energy companies making key resource decisions, and travel and tourism businesses are just a few of the organizations that rely on NOAA’s products and services to make sound business decisions and promote economic vitality.

NOAA’s roots are planted in America’s oldest scientific agency: the Survey of the Coast, created in 1807 by President Thomas Jefferson to provide nautical charts to the American maritime community for safe passage into American ports and navigating our nation’s waterways. This early agency laid the groundwork for a legacy of products and services that preserve and enhance our nation’s economic strength.

Commerce & Transportation

container ship.
Container ship.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

A key component of the U.S. transportation system, which supports our nation’s economy, is the Marine Transportation System — a network of navigable waterways, ports, and the hubs that link to rail, air, road, and pipeline systems. It is the world’s most extensive system for moving cargo and people safely and reliably. It also gives American businesses competitive access to suppliers and markets worldwide, making the U.S. the world’s leading maritime trading nation.

More than 78 percent of U.S. overseas trade by volume and 38 percent by value comes and goes by ship, including nine million barrels of imported oil daily. Waterborne cargo alone contributes more than $742 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product and creates employment for more than 13 million citizens. NOAA provides critical information for safe, efficient, and environmentally sound transportation.

aurora australis.
Aurora australis.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Weather & Climate

Weather and climate sensitive industries, both directly and indirectly, account for about one-third of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product ($4 trillion in 2005 dollars), ranging from finance, insurance, and real estate to services, retail and wholesale trade, and manufacturing.

NOAA provides weather and water data for analyses, predictions, and warnings for a range of conditions, including those relating to water supply, air quality, space weather and other natural hazards. Businesses, governments, and non-governmental organizations rely on these data to improve operational efficiencies, save money, and manage environmental resources.


key biscayne florida.
Key Biscayne, Florida.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

Billions of dollars in recreational and commercial activity depend on healthy coastal, ocean, and freshwater environments. In 2006, nearly 110 million trips were made by U.S. households to the beach. And those households spent an average of $850 per trip. California’s coastal industries alone contribute more than $17 billion and 370,000 jobs to the state’s economy. But pressures on these systems are increasing and in some cases have already caused severe effects such as fishery closures, harmful algal blooms, and degradation to coastal ecosystems. NOAA’s careful monitoring of this fragile ecosystem improves our understanding of these resources and helps ensure their continued prosperity.

As part of our efforts to promote environmental excellence as well as economic prosperity, NOAA’s dedicated scientists use cutting-edge research and high-tech instrumentation to provide citizens, planners, emergency officials, and other decision makers with reliable information they need when they need it. And the quality of these efforts is a critical determinant of our nation’s economic stability and of its success in a world of financial globalization.

To learn more, click on NOAA’s Economic Statistics for the latest report on NOAA’s effect on the economy. NOAA logo.