First-Quarter GDP Revised Down: “Second” Estimate of GDP

Real gross domestic product (GDP) decreased 0.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, according to the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The growth rate was revised down 0.9 percentage point from the “advance” estimate released in April. In the fourth quarter of 2014, real GDP increased 2.2 percent.

GDP highlightsq2q real gdp may 29
The first-quarter decline in real GDP reflected declines in the following:

  • Goods exports, notably of capital goods and of autos and parts.
  • Business investment, notably in mining exploration, shafts, and wells.
  • State and local government spending.

Offsetting these contributions to the decrease in first-quarter GDP:

  • Consumer spending on services increased, notably on health care and on housing and utilities.
  • Nonfarm inventory investment also rose, notably in wholesale trade durable goods-related industries.

Revisions
The percent change in first-quarter real GDP was revised down, mainly reflecting an upward revision to imports and downward revisions to inventory investment and to consumer spending. Offsetting these revisions, residential investment was revised up. For more information, see the technical note.

Corporate profitsq2q corp may29
Corporate profits decreased 5.9 percent at a quarterly rate in the first quarter after decreasing 1.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014.

  • Profits of domestic nonfinancial corporations decreased 7.7 percent after increasing 1.4 percent.
  • Profits of domestic financial corporations decreased 0.6 percent after decreasing 2.7 percent.
  • Profits from the rest of the world decreased 6.0 percent after decreasing 8.8 percent.

Over the last 4 quarters, corporate profits increased 3.7 percent.

For more information, read the full report.

BEA’s New Data Tool Provides Fast Access to Trade and Investment Stats for Countries

unwieldlyA new data tool–International Trade and Investment Country Facts Application–on the Bureau of Economic Analysis website gives users a snapshot of statistics on trade and investment between the United States and another country by simply clicking on a world map.

These fast facts at your fingertips can include:

  • Total exports, imports and trade balance between the United States and the country you select.
  • The top five categories of goods and services the United States buys from and sells to that country.
  • Country level data on U.S. direct investment abroad and foreign direct investment in the United States and on the activities of multinational enterprises such as employment and sales.

The country snapshots, or factsheets, also contain charts and can be printed or downloaded to a spreadsheet. The new data tool pulls statistics from BEA’s international data sets on exports, imports, direct investment, and the activities of multinational enterprises into a single easy-to-digest resource. Similar to the BEA’s BEARFACTS regional factsheets for state and regional economic data, the new international factsheets can be used to quickly get up to speed for a business presentation, a news story, or a school research project.

Users select a country from an interactive world map or a searchable menu of countries. The tool generates a country factsheet with graphs and tables showing the latest data on U.S. trade and investment with that country. A PDF of the factsheet is available for easy printing. The tool also provides data tables containing more detailed statistics that can be downloaded in Excel format.

To access the new international data tool, visit http://bea.gov/international/factsheet/. For a video tour of the new data tool, visit https://youtu.be/xgLdKJV-g2g

This new data tool is just one of the ways that BEA is innovating to better measure the 21st Century economy. Some of the trade data used in the new tool comes from the U.S. Census Bureau, another Commerce Department agency, underscoring the how agencies within Commerce work together to make data even more accessible to the American public.

Providing businesses and individuals with new data tools like these – not only deepens their understanding of the U.S. economy – but also fulfills a strategic goal contained in the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.” And, that is to make data even more accessible and easier to use.

BEA Works to Mitigate Potential Sources of Residual Seasonality in GDP

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is working on a multi-pronged action plan to improve its estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) by identifying and mitigating potential sources of “residual” seasonality. That’s when seasonal patterns remain in data even after they are adjusted for seasonal variations.

Each spring, BEA conducts an extensive review–receiving updated seasonally adjusted data from the agencies that supply us with data used in our calculation of GDP. Most of the data the feeds into GDP is seasonally adjusted by the source agency, not BEA. At the same time, BEA examines its own seasonal factors for those series that BEA seasonally adjusts itself. All that work takes place in preparation for BEA’s annual revision to GDP and its major components, which will be released on July 30.

As a result of this ongoing work, BEA is aware of the potential for residual seasonality in GDP and its components, and the agency is looking for ways to minimize this phenomenon.

• One of the areas we’re currently reviewing is possible residual seasonality in measures of federal government defense services spending. Initial research suggests that the first and fourth quarter growth rates are lower on average than those of the third and second quarters. BEA is developing methods for addressing what it has found.
 • Time frame to implement: Improvement will take place with the release of second quarter GDP on July 30. Period covered: 2012, 2013, 2014, and forward.

• BEA also will begin adjusting certain inventory investment series that currently aren’t seasonally adjusted.
 • Time frame to implement: Improvement will take place with the release of second-quarter GDP on July 30. Period covered: 2012, 2013, 2014, and forward.

• Also as part of this year’s seasonal adjustment review, BEA is planning to seasonally adjust a number of series from the Census Bureau’s quarterly services survey that now have sufficient time spans to which seasonal adjustment techniques can be applied. Currently, these series are smoothed using a four-quarter moving average to attempt to smooth out seasonal trends in the data. While BEA’s review had not identified residual seasonality in the PCE services estimates, applying statistical seasonal adjustment techniques to these indicators will improve the accuracy of the underlying trends in PCE estimates.
 • Time frame to implement:  Improvement will take place with the release of second quarter GDP on July 30.  Period covered 2012, 2013, 2014, and forward.

• BEA will review all series entering the GDP calculations to identify, and where feasible, mitigate any residual seasonality within its existing seasonal adjustment methodologies.
 • Time frame to implement: Review will take place with the release of second-quarter GDP on July 30. Period covered: 2012, 2013, 2014, and forward.

• Longer term–beyond July 30–BEA will continue looking at components of GDP to determine if there are opportunities to improve seasonal adjustment methodologies.  Should BEA identify other areas of potential residual seasonality, BEA will develop methods to address these findings. If research suggests that residual seasonality originates with already seasonally adjusted source data, BEA will work alongside its source data agencies to determine the appropriate course of action.

Additional information will be available in an upcoming article in BEA’s Survey of Current Business that’s slated to be published in mid-June.