BEA Focuses on Data Users With Innovations in 2017, New Projects Ahead

2017-end-of-year-imageAs we charge into 2018, it’s a fitting time to remember innovations over the past year that advanced the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ quest to produce the most accurate, timely, and objective statistics that promote better understanding of the nation’s economy.

BEA joined forces with the Census Bureau again this year to feed even more data into our early estimates of quarterly gross domestic product. BEA estimates each quarter’s GDP three times over three months, using more complete data each time. As of February 2017, BEA receives some of the service sector data from Census faster, so the data can contribute to the second estimate of GDP for each quarter, instead of only informing the third estimate. BEA’s work with the Census Bureau to incorporate more source data into early readings of quarterly GDP has enhanced the accuracy of BEA’s signature economic measure.

BEA also improved the timeliness of state-level statistics. Economists found ways to move up the release of quarterly and annual state GDP statistics by two to three weeks, getting the data into users’ hands more quickly.

Other highlights of 2017:

  • For the first time, BEA in April produced statistics on arts and cultural employment and compensation for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. These new state-level statistics were released along with national data on the arts and cultural economy.
  • The Bureau moved ahead on a new project to measure the impact of outdoor recreation activities in the U.S. economy. BEA plans to release national data on jobs, spending and the production of goods and services related to outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, skiing and more in early 2018.
  • BEA also offered customers a quick new way to find data about industries. Industry Facts, a new data tool introduced this fall, compiles BEA’s data about an industry category in one place. The tool covers 31 industry groupings, such as mining, information, and retail trade, and pulls from multiple BEA tables to give you the lowdown on each industry. Whether you’re following your favorite industry or curious about which industries drive the nation’s growth, Industry Facts provides instant reports that are easy to export, download or print. There’s a nifty charting tool, too.

BEA also worked in 2017 toward creating a better understanding of the economic effects of fast-changing digital technologies. A closer look at computer infrastructure systems, e-commerce, and digital media will help BEA estimate output, value added, consumption, and employment.

Another innovative effort pairs BEA with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop statistics on ocean-related economic activity. Work will continue on both the ocean and digital economy projects into 2018; we don’t yet know when statistics will be ready for public release.

On the international statistics front, BEA added more country-by-country and industry data to statistics on services supplied internationally through majority-owned affiliates. Data users can now find information for more countries whose multinational companies are delivering services to U.S. customers through their U.S. subsidiaries along with more information about foreign markets that U.S. multinationals are serving through their foreign subsidiaries.  In July, BEA released new statistics about planned expenditures for “greenfield” investments—that is, when a foreign parent company builds a new operation in the United States. The new data can help users track differences between planned and actual costs for multi-year projects and note project completion.

BEA’s commitment to helping the American public and businesses better understand our economic statistics was in focus this year. The Bureau launched new phases of its “We’ve Got Your Number” campaign, rolling out a new quick guide and series of videos highlighting some of the wide-ranging data that BEA produces. Watch for more explanatory features to come.

What else is in store for 2018? Mark your calendars — summer brings the once-every-five-years comprehensive update to GDP. This process of updating GDP numbers to reflect more complete data, and sometimes improved methodologies, can stretch back to statistics for 1929 on an annual basis and 1947 on a quarterly basis. This update will also include BEA’s first rollout of GDP figures that aren’t seasonally adjusted, to be published alongside estimates of seasonally adjusted GDP.

To follow along, read the BEA Blog and scroll through our Twitter feed for the latest data and news.


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