The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will release its comprehensive revision of the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs) next week. Among other important changes to estimates will be how the statistical agency treats research and development (R&D) and calculates entertainment in measuring gross domestic product (GDP). The revision generally occurs every 5 years. Revisions to GDP estimates are not unusual; in fact, as better source data become available, BEA revises the NIPA series, including GDP, three times every year: for 2 consecutive months following each release, and annually. In addition, every 5 years, BEA comprehensively revises the data, in part tied to the updates of BEA’s input-output tables, which are based on the Census Bureau’s quinquennial Economic Census.
As part of this process, BEA often revises the underlying NIPA methods and definitions. On July 31, BEA will broaden the definition of GDP regarding R&D expenditures, which have long been viewed as similar to fixed assets—that is, an asset with defined ownership rights that is long-lasting and used repeatedly in the production process. BEA estimates that capitalizing R&D would have had a $300 billion impact on the economy in 2007. This change follows years of research, which included publishing a new framework for measuring intangible innovation and the development of better source data to measure accurately the amount of R&D activity. With this latest revision, BEA will also begin to treat entertainment, literary, and artistic originals, which are designed to generate many copies and can be usefully employed for more than 1 year, as investment rather than expenditures. BEA will be making other NIPA changes, too:
•Incorporating the benchmark input-output accounts for 2007, which are derived from the Economic Census and set to be released on their own later this year.
•Adding an accrual treatment of defined-benefit pension plans.
•Making statistical changes including improved measures of commercial banking services.
•Changing the reference year for price indices and inflation-adjusted series from 2005 to 2009.
•Changing intellectual property tables and adding new pension tables.
All told, this month’s NIPA revisions will be “comprehensive,” indeed!
Developers, are you looking for a way to bring some of the most closely watched economic data into your next app? You can now build apps using BEA economic statistics, thanks to BEA’s new application programming interface (API). The API provides direct access to gross domestic product (GDP) and related national economic statistics, along with regional economic statistics.
The BEA API allows developers to build a service to search, display, analyze, retrieve, or view BEA statistics. For example, you can create a “mashup” that combines BEA data with other government or private data sources to create new services or give your users a different perspective on their communities. Or you can design a tool that gives your users new ways to visualize economic data.
A beta version of the service launched in May and was featured during the National Civic Day of Hacking.
To use the API, you need to register here. Full documentation is available in the API User Guide.
Roughly every 5 years, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) releases comprehensive revisions of its major economic accounts. These revisions are generally more detailed than annual revisions, implementing changes in methods, statistics and definitions to better reflect an ever-evolving economy. In December, BEA will release the 2013 comprehensive revision of the Industry Economic Accounts (IEAs), which includes two main sets of statistics, the annual industry accounts and the benchmark input-output (I-O) accounts. That will follow the release in July of a comprehensive revision of the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs), or GDP accounts.
The upcoming comprehensive IEA revision will mark a significant milestone: the full integration of the IEAs with the NIPAs, which was first suggested in a March 2004 article in the Survey of Current Business and later amplified in other articles. This enhanced integration, which has long been recommended by economists, will allow for a higher degree of consistency among these widely followed accounts, offering a more consistent view of industry dynamics within the overall economy.
A preview of the 2013 comprehensive revision of the IEAs was published in the June 2013 issue of the Survey.