Box: Questions That BEA's Economic Accounts Help To Answer

National income and product accounts (NIPA's)

The keystone of the NIPA's—gross domestic product (GDP)—measures the market value of the goods and services produced in the United States. From the product side, GDP is the total of final sales plus the change in business inventories (goods that have been produced but not yet sold). From the income side, it is the sum of costs, including compensation of employees and profits associated with producing GDP. The usefulness of GDP stems in part from providing answers about the output of the economy—its size, its composition, and its use.

This system of accounts also traces the principal economic flows among the major sectors of the economy. In this way, the system helps to answer questions about the process by which output is produced and distributed.

The NIPA's, sometimes described as the mainstay of macroeconomic analysis, are presented in a set of 132 quarterly and annual tables. They help to answer questions such as these:

Balance of payments accounts

The balance of payments accounts provide information on international flows of goods, services, investment income, international assistance, and capital. This system of accounts also provides integrated balance-sheet information on the U.S. international investment position. The accounts help to answer questions such as these:

Regional economic accounts

BEA's regional accounts provide estimates of gross state product and of total and per capita personal income by region, State, metropolitan area, and county. They help to answer questions such as these:

Other accounts and data

BEA also produces the following sets of statistics that are related to its best-known accounts.

Input-output accounts: These national accounts detail the interaction of industries. They allow users to track the effects of changes in resource costs, or changes in final demand, on specific industries, on the users of these industries' products, and on suppliers of labor and other products to these industries.

Wealth accounts: BEA produces estimates of the Nation's reproducible tangible wealth in the form of nonresidential structures and equipment, residential structures, consumer durable goods, and inventories. These accounts detail the U.S. capital stock by industry and by legal form of ownership.

U.S. direct investment abroad and foreign direct investment in the United States: This detailed data set on the operations of foreign-owned companies is used to estimate investment income and capital flows for the balance of payments accounts and holdings for the international investment position. By itself, it helps to answer questions such as these: