Archive for the 'GDP' Category



New BEA Data Provide Insights on How Harsh Winter Impacted Industries in First Quarter

How much did the harsh winter weather affect the U.S. economy in the first quarter of this year?

We know that the economy, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), contracted at an annual rate of 2.9 percent over January, February and March, the first quarterly decline in three years. But how were different industries affected and was weather a factor? New data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis provide fresh insights on that front.

The economy’s downturn in the first quarter was widespread, with 19 of 22 major industry groups contributing to the drop in U.S. economic activity, the new BEA data show. Some of the leading contributors to the downturn included industries that were impacted by the unusually harsh winter weather that hit most of the United States, including “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting.”
Weather1_7_25_14Severe weather conditions can have both positive and negative (although mostly negative) effects on the Nation’s economic performance. For some industries this is intuitive, like “agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting” and “construction;” for other industries, like “mining,” and “nondurable-goods manufacturing,” the link may not be as intuitive.

Weather2_7_25_14Real value added —a measure of an industry’s contribution to GDP—for agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting declined 31 percent in the first quarter, reflecting a drop in the production of farm-type products, including livestock and dairy.

Construction fell almost 9 percent, reflecting a notable decline in nonresidential construction activity that began in January and continued through March; unusually cold and wet weather hampered construction activity.

Perhaps somewhat surprising, the utility industry also contributed to the decline in GDP in the first quarter. While demand for additional utilities, for example electricity generation, was evident with the severe winter weather, a surge in the costs of the inputs used by the utilities industry—things like energy, materials, and purchased services used in the production process—caused real value added to drop over 16 percent in the first quarter.

Real value added for mining fell 5.6 percent, driven in part by the weather. As with utilities, inputs played a critical role. Part of the increase in input costs in mining reflected increased demand for natural gas that was used to prevent ‘wellhead freeze-offs,’ of which the likelihood increases as temperatures fall.

As noted, the abnormally harsh weather did not have a negative impact on all industries. For example, consumer spending data released with the “third” GDP estimate on June 25th revealed that real household consumption of fuel oils increased in the first quarter, which is reflected in the growth for nondurable goods manufacturing, which includes the petroleum refining industry (nondurable goods manufacturing was up 15 percent).

In the first quarter of 2014 the weather—given the unusually harsh conditions—had a more significant impact than normal on U.S. economic activity. For some industries, the weather linkages are more apparent than in others. Yet even in these industries, it is not possible to explicitly identify impacts on the U.S. economy and industry performance from the weather. Still, many of the examples above illustrate the important features that the GDP by industry framework provides, enabling complete industry analysis on the sources of U.S. economic activity, including supply chain analysis.

Measurement of the U.S. Economy is a Job that Never Stops; Here’s Why GDP Numbers Get Revised

Like fireworks and baseball, BEA’s annual revision of GDP is a summer tradition. Toward the end of every July, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis incorporates previously unavailable sources of data for the past three years into its estimates of the U.S. economy’s performance.

This year we will release the results of the 2014 annual revision of GDP and its components on July 30, bringing in new and revised source data for the first quarter of 2014 back to 2011. As part of a “flexible annual revision,” we will also incorporate the results of the comprehensive restructuring of BEA’s international transactions accounts, resulting in revisions to GDP and select components back to the first quarter of 1999.

BEA also produces revisions to quarterly GDP numbers – three estimates for a given quarter. Each includes updated, more complete, and more accurate information as it becomes available. The first, called the “advance” estimate, typically receives the most attention and is released roughly four weeks after the end of a quarter. For example, the first estimate of GDP for this year’s January-to-March quarter came out near the end of April. The first estimate for the second quarter will come out July 30.

Once every five years, BEA produces a  “comprehensive” revision to its GDP statistics, incorporating changes to how the U.S. economy is measured as well as more complete source data all the way back to 1929.  Last year was one of those years.  New data, new methodologies, changes in definitions and classifications, and changes in presentations were all incorporated into 2013’s comprehensive GDP revision.

When we revise a major economic indicator, it’s not unusual for some to ask us, “Why didn’t you get it right the first time?”

It’s not that the earlier estimate was wrong. Rather, it’s the result of a delicate balancing act BEA performs to simultaneously achieve the two most important qualities of its estimates—accuracy and timeliness.

The public wants accurate data and wants it as soon as possible. To meet that need, BEA publishes early estimates that are based on partial data. In most quarters, these early estimates capture the direction and trends of various components of the economy, thereby providing an “early read” that is timely enough to be relevant to business and government decision makers.

The advance, quarterly estimate of GDP offers the first comprehensive picture of how the economy is performing in a given quarter and provides a picture of whether the economy is slowing down or speeding up and which components of spending are responsible for those changes. It tells us the pace at which shoppers are shopping and what they are buying. It also tells us what businesses are producing and investing in, what government is spending, and how much we are buying and selling abroad. It also tells us about trends in key variables, like saving and inflation.

When BEA calculates the advance estimate, we don’t yet have complete source data, with the largest gaps in data for the third month of the quarter. In particular, the advance estimate lacks complete source data on inventories, trade, and consumer spending on services. Therefore, we must make assumptions for these missing pieces based in part on past trends. As part of this process, we publish a detailed technical note that lays out the assumptions we made for a particular estimate. We also publish detailed materials on the standardized procedures and methods used in the various vintages of the GDP estimates.

As new and more complete data become available, we incorporate that information into the second and third GDP estimates. About 45 percent of the advance estimate is based on initial or early estimates from various monthly and quarterly surveys that are subject to revision for various reasons, including late respondents that are eventually incorporated into the survey results. Another roughly 14 percent of the advance estimate is based on historical trends.

By the second GDP estimate, we have new data for the third month and revised data for earlier months. By the third estimate, a lot more data is available so that only 17 percent of the GDP estimate is based on information from the first set of monthly and quarterly surveys.

Even though GDP estimates are revised over time as more complete and accurate data become available, studies show that the general picture of economic activity does not change:

  • The overall pattern of change in GDP over business cycles is little changed by revisions.
  • Revisions to long-term growth rates are small, averaging less than 0.1 percentage point for average growth rates between 1985 and 2009.
  • There are no substantial revisions—as measured by shares of GDP—in key measures such as investment, government spending, or the national saving rate.

Measuring GDP for the U.S. economy is always a work in progress. Because BEA faces so many challenges in measuring GDP, our estimates are informative, but never really final. Our advance estimates strike a good balance between accuracy and timeliness, given the data available at the time. Successive revisions reflect BEA’s commitment to incorporate both more complete source data when they become available and improved methods for measuring a rapidly changing economy.

More information on the 2014 Annual Revision can be found on BEA’s website.

GDP Decreases in First Quarter

Real gross domestic product (GDP) decreased 2.9 percent in the first quarter of 2014, according to the “third” estimate released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2013, real GDP increased 2.6 percent.

First-quarter highlights

The decline in real GDP was largely accounted for by significant declines in nonfarm inventory investment and in net exports.

In addition, state and local government spending, business investment, and housing investment also contributed to the real GDP decline.

In contrast, consumer spending increased, notably in services (mainly home utilities).quarter to quarter gdp

Revisions

The first-quarter real GDP growth rate was revised down 1.9 percentage points from the second estimate released in May, based on newly available source data.

  • Consumer spending was revised down, primarily reflecting a downward revision to services, mainly to health care.
  • Exports of goods were revised down, reflecting revisions to industrial supplies and materials and to foods, feeds, and beverages. Exports of services were also revised down.
  • Imports of goods were revised up, mainly non-auto capital goods as well as vehicles, engines, and parts. Imports of services were also revised up, mainly travel services.

Corporate profits

BEA’s featured measure of corporate profits declined 9.1 percent at a quarterly rate in the first quarter, after increasing 2.2 percent in the previous quarter, according to updated estimates. The decline was the largest since the fourth quarter of 2008.corporate profits

  • Profits of nonfinancial corporations fell 8.0 percent after rising 1.5 percent.
  • Profits of financial corporations fell 15.1 percent after rising 1.3 percent.
  • Profits from the rest of the world fell 5.8 percent after rising 5.5 percent.

Over the last 4 quarters, corporate profits fell 2.2 percent.