June 17, 2020

UPDATE: Prototypes previewing the structure of the upcoming trade in services tables are now available on the international services webpage. The international transaction account data tables have all been published. (Updated June 29, 2020)


Big changes are coming to BEA’s international statistics this month: More data, faster data, and a new data table that will make it easier to analyze trade in services and goods between the United States and 90 trading partners.  

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis is rolling out the improvements with this year’s annual update of the international transactions accounts on June 19 and the publication of new international services data on June 30.

Most of the changes are part of a multiyear plan to enhance our statistics on international services, such as travel, business consulting, financial services, and computer services. As part of this initiative, BEA expanded its surveys of companies that conduct international transactions. The results of the expanded surveys are being incorporated into our annual updates in June.  
We’re increasing from 38 to 90 the number of countries and other areas listed individually in our quarterly statistics on trade in services. We’re adding 30 new subcategories, such as software, education services, and health services, to our more-detailed annual statistics. And we’re moving up publication of the annual services statistics from October to June.
These changes are in addition to other improvements more typical of our annual updates, including methodological improvements and the incorporation of newly available or revised source data. We’re also making reclassifications in some categories to better align BEA’s data with international guidelines, providing consistent comparisons with economic data from other nations. 
BEA has been publishing prototype versions of new tables in our Interactive Data Tables over recent months. 
Highlights of the improvements:
Quarterly statistics
  • Services trade statistics for more countries

    In 2016, BEA increased the number of countries and other geographic areas in our annual trade in services statistics to 90. Beginning in June, we’ll publish statistics for all 90 areas quarterly, too. Statistics becoming available on a quarterly basis include services trade with Colombia, Peru, Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Vietnam. The statistics show U.S. exports, imports, and trade balance for each country. For the full list, see prototype International Transaction Table 3.3 in our Interactive Data.
  • Three new major services categories

    Following international recommendations, BEA will add new trade in services categories for construction and for personal, cultural, and recreational services to the international transactions accounts (ITAs). A third category – manufacturing services on inputs owned by others – will be added to tables as a placeholder for future statistics, showing no data for now. See the prototypes listed below the current ITA tables.
Annual statistics
  • Detailed annual statistics published earlier

    Our most-detailed statistics about the types of services traded with each country are published annually, traditionally in October. We are moving them up to June 30 this year and assessing the feasibility of publishing them with the ITA release each June starting next year.
  • Two new tables for ease of use

    Would you like to find countries buying lots of construction services from the United States? Interested in the types of goods and services imported from Peru? Want to see U.S. direct investment income by country? Two new tables will make it easier to find and analyze international transactions.

    Currently, the more-detailed statistics on trade in goods and services by country are spread across three different tables: ITA Table 2.3, ITA Table 3.3, and International Services Table 2.3. Responding to requests from data users, BEA is creating an annual table that combines BEA’s detailed services data with the U.S. Census Bureau’s goods data.

    The new ITA Table 1.5 will combine exports, imports, and trade balances for both goods and services, by country and by major subcategory. Just choose Peru, or any of 90 countries and areas, to see the details of trade in goods and services with the United States. Or download the entire table for analysis. Beginning next year, publication of this new annual table will move up to March.

    In the new ITA Table 1.4, you’ll be able to choose international transaction types – for example, exports of construction services or direct investment income – and see all the available data for that transaction by trading partner.
  • More detailed breakdown of services

    We’re adding 30 new subcategories to our annual trade in services statistics, including:
    • Computer software, including end-user licenses and customization
    • Cloud computing and data storage services
    • News agency services
    • Database and other information services
    • Customized and non-customized R&D
    • Sale of proprietary rights arising from R&D
    • Other R&D services, including testing
    • Market research and public opinion polling services
    • Waste treatment and de-pollution services
    • Audiovisual production services
    • Rights to use audiovisual products
    • Audiovisual originals
    • Health services
    • Education services

Before the June 30 international services release, BEA plans to post prototype international services tables 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3 showing the presentation of these subcategories.

  • More information about intellectual property transactions

    New information collected on BEA’s surveys will greatly increase our understanding of transactions involving intellectual property, such as computer software or digital books and music. For example, BEA’s statistics will be able to distinguish between a purchase of a license to use music (classified as audiovisual services) and the purchase of rights to reproduce and distribute that music (charges for the use of intellectual property). This affects the services statistics in several prototype ITA tables.
  • Other new details in services data for some countries

    Other more-detailed services data are also coming to the annual statistics. For example, you’ll see new geographic data for all types of travel services, including health-related travel; other personal travel; expenditures of seasonal, border, and other short-term workers; and other business travel.
All these improvements will be reflected in all release-related materials, including XLS files, and will be available in BEA’s interactive data tables and API.

For more information about the changes in June, see the article “Preview of the 2020 Annual Update of the International Economic Accounts” in the April 2020 issue of the Survey of Current Business