The estimates of personal consumption expenditures (PCE) for most goods, the so-called "PCE control group," are prepared using the "retail control method." This method ensures that the PCE control group has the same growth rate as the "retail control" group, a measure based on the total sales for most kinds of business from the Census Bureau's monthly and annual retail trade surveys.

PCE category estimates within the PCE control group are derived by extrapolation using indicator series based on the Census Bureau retail sales data. (Estimates of PCE prescription drugs and PCE prerecorded and blank audio discs / tapes / digital files / downloads are derived using trade source data as an indicator series.)

The PCE categories within the PCE control group are then summed, and the growth rate (percent change) of this total is compared to the growth rate of the Census retail control group.

Any difference in these two growth rates is distributed proportionately among the detailed categories within the PCE control group.

For a detailed illustration of this method, see "Retail control method" in chapter 4 of the Concepts and Methods of the U.S. National Income and Product Accounts. A table showing the composition of the retail control and the PCE control group is shown in PCE retail control method.xls.