New Classifications for Personal Consumption Expenditures (Wonky)

Today, we get the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)  comprehen­sive, or benchmark, revision of the national income and product accounts (NIPAs). The last such revision was released in December 2003. ture components of gross domestic product (GDP) and some of the income components.

For those of you who want more info, consider the following sources:

Floyd Norris does a nice job providing an overview of the impact of the benchmarking:

Revisionist History, by the Numbers
Floyd Norris
High and Low Finance, July 30, 2009, 5:32 PM

The WSJ’sReal Time Economics notes that

GDP Revisions: Deeper 2008-09 Contraction, Milder 2001 Recession The latest recession, it turns out, is even worse than previously reported. And the 2001 downturn that plagued the job market for years? It now barely registers as a sustained contraction in economic output.

The update moves the current recession past the late-1950s downturn as the worst (in GDP terms) since the Great Depression. (Of course, the 2009 data could be revised next summer so you can’t say for sure.) The BEA now says inflation-adjusted GDP increased just 0.4% in 2008. Earlier estimates had put the growth at 1.1%. GDP is now shown dropping in last year’s first quarter (reported earlier as a gain), posting a smaller gain in the second quarter than shown earlier, a larger drop in the third quarter and a slightly-less-large tumble in the fourth quarter. From the fourth quarter of 2007 to fourth quarter of 2008, real GDP is shown dropping at a 1.9% annual rate compared with the earlier estimate of 0.8%.

The BEA explains its own 2009 revision in (agonizing) details:

On July 31, 2009, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) will release the results of a comprehensive, or benchmark, revision of the national income and product accounts (NIPAs).  The comprehensive revision will incorporate the results of the 2002 benchmark input-output (I-O) accounts as well as changes in definitions, classifications, statistical methods, source data, and presentation.

Advance information about the comprehensive revision will be posted here as it becomes available.

A few white papers detail the changes

Preview of the 2009 Comprehensive Revision  of the NIPAs Statistical Changes by Clinton P. McCully and Steven Payson describe the statistical changes being made. (BEA, May  2009)

Preview of the 2009 Comprehensive Revision of the National Income and Product Accounts by Clinton P. McCully and Teresita D. Teensma provides de­tailed explanation of the new classification system. (BEA, May  2008)

Preview of the 2009 Comprehensive Revision of the NIPAs Changes in Definitions and Presentations by Eugene P. Seskin and Shelly Smith discusses  major changes in definitions and classifications (BEA, March  2009)

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