September 29, 2023
Vipin Arora Official Portrait

A blog post from BEA Director Vipin Arora

I recently bought a pair of shorts that fit just right. They were so good that I bought a pair of jeans from the same brand. Somehow—and we've all been here—the jeans fit tighter than the shorts, even though they were made by the same company. This isn't too different from what I sometimes go through as a data user.

More than once, I've been working on a problem and have found a data series that "fit" just right. I then found a related series from the same source. Yet it turned out that the two series couldn't be used together because of differing methods, or inconsistent classifications, or because they covered different time periods. Ideally, however, I would have liked to use those statistics together—they would have "fit" the same.

Users of BEA data have sometimes faced similar challenges when comparing across our national, industry, and regional statistics.

Until now.

This year's comprehensive update of the national, industry, and regional accounts, which we began releasing on Sept. 28 and 29, marked the end of a multiyear journey to achieve consistency across these critical statistics, including gross domestic product. Data users now have a consistent and fuller view of the U.S. economy and its geographic and industry underpinnings. We had already achieved such consistency for our quarterly GDP releases in 2020 and our annual updates in 2022, and with this comprehensive update we closed the loop. (In case you were wondering, comprehensive, or benchmark, updates to the numbers occur roughly every five years and incorporate new and revised source data, methodological improvements, and other changes.)

Now, for example, those who want to understand how different states or industries contribute to gross domestic product can do so seamlessly. In the past, the industry and state data were released at different times from the national GDP data, and sometimes covered different periods. Now, for any given update, the series updated cover the same periods, use the same vintages of underlying source data, and are based on comparable methods and classification frameworks.

In short, the national, industry, and regional statistics are completely "harmonized."

This monumental achievement was ambitious in its scale, audacity, and complexity. I hope you'll join me in congratulating the hundreds of BEA staff—past and present—who played a role in making this possible.

As we like to say at the Bureau—we've got your number. And now, we've got your harmonized number.