Technical Note
Gross Domestic Product
Fourth Quarter of 2008 (Preliminary)
February 27, 2009

*See the navigation bar at the right side of the technical note text for supplementary materials.

This technical note provides background information about the source data and
estimating methods used to produce the estimates presented in the GDP news
release.  The complete set of estimates for the fourth quarter is available on
BEA's Web site at; a brief summary of "highlights" is also posted
on the Web site.  In a few weeks, the estimates will be published in BEA's
monthly journal, the Survey of Current Business, along with a more detailed
analysis of the estimates ("GDP and the Economy").

Sources of Revision to Real GDP

Real GDP decreased 6.2 percent (annual rate) in the fourth quarter (that is, from
the third quarter to the fourth).  This estimate is a downward revision from the
advance estimate that was released last month, which showed a decrease of 3.8

*       Inventory investment was revised down, reflecting newly available
        Census inventory data for December and revised data for November.  The
        revision was primarily to manufacturing and wholesale trade inventories.

*       Exports were revised down, reflecting newly available Census goods data for

*       Consumer spending was revised down, reflecting newly available Energy
        Information Administration data on gasoline sales and natural gas usage
        for November, revised Census data on retail sales for November and December,
        and revised Bureau of Labor Statistics seasonally adjusted consumer price
        indexes that were used for deflation.

The price index for gross domestic purchases decreased 4.1 percent in the fourth
quarter, which was 0.5 percentage point less of a decrease than in the advance
estimate.  This revision reflected an upward revision to the price index for
personal consumption expenditures, which in turn reflected the revised BLS
consumer price indexes.

Revisions to Wages and Salaries and Disposable Personal Income

In addition to presenting preliminary estimates for the fourth quarter, today's
release also presents revised estimates of third-quarter wages and salaries,
personal taxes, and contributions for government social insurance.  Wage and
salary disbursements are now estimated to have increased $50.5 billion in the
third quarter, an upward revision of $11.7 billion.  These estimates reflect newly
available wage and salary tabulations for the third quarter from the Bureau of
Labor Statistics quarterly census of employment and wages.  These data are
more comprehensive than the monthly employment and earnings data that were
used for the earlier estimates--they include the pay of supervisors and irregular
pay, such as bonuses and gains from the exercise of stock options.

Real disposable personal income is now estimated to have decreased 8.5
percent in the third quarter and to have increased 3.4 percent in the fourth.  (By
comparison, the estimates that were available last month showed a decrease of
8.8 percent in the third quarter and an increase of 3.3 percent in the fourth.)  The
large decrease in DPI in the third quarter reflected the rebate payments to
individuals from the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, which added $311.6 billion
(annual rate) to second quarter current-dollar DPI.

Brent R. Moulton
Associate Director for National Economic Accounts
Bureau of Economic Analysis
(202) 606-9606