BEA will update 2020 statistics on gross domestic product, personal income, spending, saving, and other measures of the pandemic year’s economy on July 29, as part of our regular annual update of national statistics for previous years.
Each summer, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis uses newly available data, and often methodological improvements as well, to refine our previous quarterly and annual estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) and related statistics. These annual updates look back at least five years, and they sometimes extend much further to incorporate changes in methodology.
This year’s annual update of the National Income and Product Accounts will be issued at 8:30 a.m. on July 29, along with the advance estimate of GDP for the second quarter of 2021.
As usual, the 2021 annual update will incorporate more complete and more detailed source data than were available for earlier estimates, including data from the Census Bureau, Internal Revenue Service, Agriculture Department, and federal budget. It also will incorporate the results of BEA’s annual update of the international transactions accounts on June 23.
This year’s GDP update also will extend improved measures of international income flows and trade in services back to 1999. Improved measures of housing services, a large component of GDP, will be incorporated into statistics back to 2002.
BEA is improving our estimates of the rental value of housing, whether occupied by tenants or homeowners. The improved estimates of housing services, using unit-level microdata from the Census Bureau's annual American Community Survey, will result in more accurate and reliable data across BEA's accounts. For more information, see “Improved Measures of Housing Services for the U.S. Accounts” in the May issue of the Survey of Current Business.
The reference year for index numbers and chained-dollar estimates will remain 2012 in this annual update. For more detail about the update, see Information on Updates to the National Economic Accounts on bea.gov.
Results from the annual update of the Industry Economic Accounts, including updates to GDP by industry, will be issued Sept. 30, along with the third estimate of GDP for the second quarter of 2021.
Why does BEA go back and update previous estimates? To produce the most accurate statistics, while still allowing data users to compare economic trends across the years.
Each vintage of quarterly or annual GDP is based on the information available at the time it’s produced. The advance estimate of any given quarter’s GDP is akin to a snapshot. More complete source data that can sharpen the picture arrive weeks, months, and even years later. That’s why BEA follows a schedule of updates to continue improving our statistics.
In addition to annual updates, BEA performs comprehensive updates about every five years – the most recent was in July 2018. Comprehensive updates incorporate data from the Census Bureau’s once-every five-years economic census.
Here’s a guide to the cycle of each quarter’s GDP statistics, from the first estimate through the comprehensive update:
- About a month after a quarter ends
- A closely watched first look at the general economic picture
- About two months after the quarter ends
- Reflects more complete source data
- About three months after the quarter ends
- More data means less reliance on projections
- Every summer
- Includes a substantial influx of comprehensive data, such as annual surveys or tax data
- Also may reflect improvements in methodology
- Updates annual and quarterly estimates for the previous five years (and sometimes more)
- Updates the first quarter of the current year, too
- Typically once every five years
- Includes the most comprehensive available data, including from the economic census
- Captures changes in the production environment in the U.S. economy
- Incorporates changes in how the economy is measured
- Reflects changes in international statistical standards
- Recalculates annual statistics dating back to 1929
- Recalculates quarterly statistics back to 1947