Sunday, August 2, 2009

Government's Major Revision of Historical Economic Data

I think I found what the curious headline at Drudge Report on Friday (July 31) was about.

Drudge Report said on Friday:

"The government plans big revisions to historical economic data... Developing... "

There was no follow-up on the site.

Just now, I happened to open St. Louis Fed's FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data), and I saw this announcement:

"NIPA Revision Notice: On Friday, July 31st, 2009 at 8:30AM EDT, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will release their 2009 comprehensive revision to the National Income and Product Accounts (GDP & Corporate Profits). Annual revisions for monthly Personal Income and Outlays will follow on Tuesday, August 4th, 2009. This comprehensive revision, the first since 2003, will incorporate changes in definitions, classifications, statistical methods, source data, and presentation. **Please Note: The change in the reference year will move from 2000 to 2005.The BEA will NOT release full history all at once. Data Series will be processed as they are made available by the BEA. For further information regarding the comprehensive revision, please visit the BEA's web site: We are in the process of updating the units for these series to reflect the change to the reference year."

I followed the link to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and found out that the periods covered for this comprehensive revision were ALL periods since 1929.

According to slides made by BEA, the scope of this revision includes:

  • New concepts or definitions,
  • Changes in presentation,
  • Benchmark source data,
  • Improved source data and methodologies.

The description is too vague to even imagine the impact, if any, of the revision. However, the words like "new definitions", revision in "benchmark source data" don't quite inspire further confidence in the goverment statistics. (The net Birth/Death model used by Bureau of Labor Statistics comes to mind.)


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