Archive for the 'BEA News' Category

Coming in July: BEA to Launch New Tools for Analyzing Economic Growth

The Bureau of Economic Analysis plans to launch two new statistics that will serve as tools to help businesses, economists, policymakers and the American public better analyze the performance of the U.S. economy. These tools will be available on July 30 and emerge from an annual BEA process where improvements and revisions to GDP data are implemented. BEA created these two new tools in response to demand from our customers.

Average of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross Domestic Income (GDI)

  • BEA will launch a new series that is an average of GDP and GDI, giving users another way to track U.S. economic growth.
  • BEA will present a nominal (or current-dollar) measure of the series and an inflation-adjusted (or chained-dollar) measure of the series.
  • For current dollars, the new measure will be a simple, equally weighted average of GDP and GDI for any given quarter or year.
  • For chained dollars, the new measure will be the current-dollar value deflated by the GDP price index.
  • The new series will be available back to 1929 on an annual basis and to 1947 on a quarterly basis.
  • The new series not only provide users with another barometer on the U.S. economy but also make available series that several independent experts have recommended using in their analysis of the nation’s economic growth.
  • The new series could help account for known measurement inconsistencies between the two statistics. Those may include timing differences, gaps in underlying source data, and survey measurement errors.
  • The new statistics will be available in BEA’s interactive database as well as in the GDP news release tables.

Final Sales to Private Domestic Purchasers

  • BEA will launch a new series called “final sales to private domestic purchasers,” giving users a new tool for tracking consumer and business (or “private”) demand in the domestic economy.
  • BEA will present current-dollars, chained-dollars, quantity indexes, and price indexes for the new series.
  • The series will be derived in current dollars as the sum of consumer spending and private fixed investment, and will be derived in chained-dollars, quantity indexes, and prices indexes using BEA’s standard chain-type index calculations.
  • Statistics will be available back to 1929 on an annual basis and to 1947 on a quarterly basis.
  • Because the new series excludes the more volatile components of GDP, such as inventory investment, net exports, and government spending, it will track the more persistent movements in spending by consumers and businesses.
  • The new statistics will be available in BEA’s interactive database as well as in the GDP news release tables.

This new data tool is just one of the ways that BEA is innovating to better measure the 21st Century economy and provide business and households better tools for understanding that economy. Providing businesses and individuals with new data tools like these is a priority of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”

BEA’s Brent Moulton to Receive 2015 Julius Shiskin Award


Brent Moulton, Associate Director for National Economic Accounts of the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), has been selected to receive the 2015 Julius Shiskin Memorial Award for Economic Statistics. The award recognizes unusually original and important contributions in the development of economic statistics or in the use of statistics in interpreting the economy.

Dr. Moulton is recognized for his leadership in implementing major innovations into the U.S. national accounts, international standards for national accounts, and expanded integration of U.S. statistical programs. He is also recognized for his work at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in developing innovations that improved the reliability of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Dr. Moulton is the 43nd recipient of the Award; he will be honored at events hosted by the three sponsors of the award: the Washington Statistical Society, the National Association for Business Economics, and the Business and Economics Section of the American Statistical Association.


At BEA, Dr. Moulton was responsible for the incorporation of innovations into the U.S. national accounts that have kept them up-to-date to the changing U.S. economy. In these and other areas, policymakers, business economists, and academics have applauded Dr. Moulton for providing significantly more accurate and relevant information for monetary policy, tax policy and projections, fiscal policy, and business planning. The innovations incorporated into the accounts included the following:

  • Treating research and development (R&D) as an investment rather than as an expense, recognizing its increasingly important contribution to economic growth and productivity. This change added 3% to the official measure of U.S. GDP.
  • Expanding BEA’s efforts to extend the incorporation of “intangibles” into the national accounts by recognizing artistic originals as capital assets.
  • New methods for measuring the implicit services provided by the banking and insurance industries, providing more comprehensive measurement of output for these industries.
  • Quality-adjusted price measures for communications equipment and other high-tech equipment to better capture the rapid improvements in their performance and quality.

Dr. Moulton is recognized for his leadership in the developing improved international standards for national accounts. He was one of the initiators of the 2008 update of the System of National Accounts (SNA), the handbook for GDP measurement prepared by the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, and the European Union.

BEA Continues to Explore Reliability of Successive Vintages of Real GDP Estimates

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis finds that early estimates of real Gross Domestic Product are reliable, with evidence indicating only minor improvements to accuracy from advance to second to third quarterly estimates, as measured by mean absolute revisions or standard deviations (see Fixler, Greenaway-McGrevey, and Grimm, “The Revisions to GDP, GDI, and Their Major Components,” Survey of Current Business, August 2014).  BEA estimates GDP quarterly in three monthly vintages, with the “advance” estimate 30 days following the reference quarter, the “second” estimate 60 days following and the “third” estimate 90 days following. Annual revisions occur each year for a three-year period, with comprehensive revisions across the entire time series occurring in years ending in three and eight. BEA regularly tests the reliability of each successive vintage of GDP estimates.

BEA’s Alyssa Holdren (see Holdren, “Gross Domestic Product and Gross Domestic Income Revisions and Source Data,” Survey of Current Business, June 2014) illustrates that successive vintage estimates of real Gross Domestic Product contain increasing amounts of quality source data covering the components of GDP. More than three-fifths of the initial, or advance, estimate of GDP is based on trend projections or indirect indicators, and only two-fifths are based on direct indicators. With each successive quarterly vintage the portion of quality data increases, with slightly more than one-half of the second estimates and two-thirds of the third estimates based on data rather than proxies.

With respect to the annual revisions, the three current annual vintages contain still greater amounts of increasingly high quality annual-frequency source data. Reflecting the better data, the correlations between the successive early vintage estimates and the latest estimates increase from 0.78 for the advance estimates to 0.96 for the third annual estimates, with reasonably smooth increments between successive vintages. This pattern indicates a gradually tightening relationship, with no apparent jumps with later vintages.

GDP 93 thru 2013

The relationship between the advance and the latest estimates may also be visualized in a scatter diagram.

scatter spreadsheet

The scatter portrays a reasonably tight relationship. This suggests that the early estimates, which contain much more judgmental inputs, are not particularly less reliable than the latest estimates, which contain all available source data and thus relatively little judgment. As such, the early estimates should be viewed as generally accurate and not substantively less reliable than later vintage estimates.

The various estimates reflect a balance between timeliness of early estimates to inform policy and business investment decisions, and the accuracy accrued with the incorporation of increasingly quality source data. The relationships between the earliest estimates and the latest suggest an appropriate balance, although continuing to improve the reliability of the earliest vintages remains a priority for BEA.