Friday, August 2, 2013

How GDP Revisions Change Our Picture of the Great Recession: The Story in Charts

On July 31, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released revised data for US national income accounts. The revised data give us a new view of the Great Recession that began at the end of 2007. It still merits its name as the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s, but the contraction now looks a little shallower than previously thought and the recovery a little more robust.

The following chart compares the old and revised real GDP data over the past six years. The old and new data series are not directly comparable. Not only was the old series stated in 2005 dollars and the new in 2009 dollars, but there are numerous statistical and methodological differences as well, as discussed below. For easier comparison, then, the chart displays both the old and new data in the form of an index with the peak of the previous cycle, Q4 2007, equal to 100.

Several features stand out in the chart. First, the contraction from peak to trough was not quite as deep as reported earlier. Instead of falling by 4.7 percent, real output fell by 4.3 percent. Beginning from the trough, which came in Q2 2009 in both series, the expansion is somewhat stronger according to the new data, especially in 2011. From Q1 2011 to Q1 2012, the economy is now seen to have grown by 3.3 percent rather than the previously reported 2.5 percent. By Q1 2013, real GDP was 3.9 percent above the previous peak, rather than just 3 percent, as reported earlier. >>>Read more and view the rest of the charts

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