The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has published its 2020 Strategic Plan, which identifies 15 objectives grouped under four goals: accuracy and reliability, relevance, customer service, and operational excellence. The plan is available at https://www.bea.gov/system/files/2020-07/bea-2020-strategic-plan.pdf
Specific data initiatives include:
Enhance Consumer Spending Statistics -- BEA, in collaboration with the Census Bureau, is exploring the use of private sector data to enhance and extend estimates of consumer spending. These data offer the potential for creating timely economic indicators at geographic levels customers demand but are not currently available or achievable through traditional survey methods.
Expand International Trade in Services Statistics -- BEA will continue to improve international trade in services statistics by: Accelerating the release of detailed annual statistics by country and by type of service by 4 months—moving the release from October to June each year. Publishing more detailed annual statistics for some of the most dynamic industries with high-value jobs, including research and development, cloud computing, and intellectual property transactions. Expanding the geographic detail published in BEA’s quarterly services measures—from 21 trading-partner countries to 72. Releasing industry-based statistics more broadly and on a more regular basis.
Increase the Coverage of the National and International Accounts -- Expand the capital account. Additions include sales and purchases of franchises and trademarks, government grants that are capital in nature, and new measures such as transfer agreements related to sports players. Account for illegal activities in the national accounts. Research alternative data sources, develop methods, and update presentations to move BEA’s accounts more toward international standards.
Accelerate and Sync GDP Estimates -- In the fall of 2020, BEA will publish for the first time near-simultaneous snapshots of quarterly GDP for the entire nation and GDP broken out by industry and by state (within a couple days of the “third” GDP estimates for the second quarter of 2020). At that time, BEA will also publish the results of the annual updates of the GDP by industry and GDP by state accounts—accelerating these releases by a few weeks compared with previous years. Moving forward, BEA will continue to speed up the publication of these statistics—ultimately issuing the quarterly GDP by industry and GDP by state statistics around the time of the “advance” GDP estimates.
Improve Housing Services Estimates -- BEA recently launched a Bureau-wide initiative aimed at improving its national and regional measures of housing services.
Continue Census Data Link Project -- BEA will continue to coordinate with the Census Bureau to link multiple datasets, including BEA data on multinational enterprises, data on international trade in goods and services, and establishment-level Census Bureau data, to develop new international trade statistics that support the analysis of globalization.
Continue BLS Data Link Project -- BEA will also continue to collaborate with BLS to combine BEA data on multinational enterprises with BLS data on employment and wages. Initial results of this initiative, released in 2019, provided, for the first time, information on average employment, types of occupations, and how much foreign-owned companies pay their employees compared to domestic companies in states, metropolitan areas, and counties. Ongoing efforts will allow the two agencies to publish more in-depth geographic, industry, and occupational detail on foreign direct investment in the United States for a longer time span.
Ascertain Bilateral Trade Asymmetries -- BEA will engage with statistical offices in other countries to identify and reduce differences in how the United States and its trading partners measure interrelated trade and investment flows. Understanding variations in concepts and methods that result in these statistical asymmetries will facilitate a better understanding of the economic ties between the United States and its trading partners.
Define and Measure the Digital Economy -- BEA plans to expand the information it provides on the digital economy, including developing statistics on the peer-to-peer transactions of the sharing economy (like the activity of ride-hailing companies), tracing the flows of digital services around the globe, valuing “free” digital content (like internet searches, online games, and social media posts), and developing prototype estimates for data as an asset.
Improve Prices of High-Tech Goods and Services -- In 2018 and 2019, BEA partnered with colleagues at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Federal Reserve Board to introduce new quality-adjusted prices for software, medical equipment, and cell phones. Moving forward, BEA will leverage external collaborations to expand this price index research to include cloud computing, ridesharing, and telecommunications services.
Update the Treatment of “Free” Content -- Estimating the value of “free” digital media will pave the way for alternative measures of GDP and productivity, allowing government officials, business executives, and consumers to track the growth and importance of the digital economy better and to identify shifting business models more quickly.
Measure Global Value Chains -- BEA will continue to work toward publishing “extended” supply-use tables that show how the activities of multinational and non-multinational firms differ and how those differences impact the economies in which they operate. BEA will also continue to develop more detailed statistics by linking interrelated datasets from trading partners to trace the flows of goods and services between countries.
Research the Use of Intellectual Property in Production by Multinational Companies -- BEA will explore the connections between the conduct of R&D and the movement of IP assets and how these activities affect the industry classification and location of production for multinational companies.
Develop Statistics on International Trade in Manufacturing Services -- BEA will continue to investigate options for implementing the new treatment of manufacturing services. Current efforts focus on preparing indirect measures of this activity, including profiling the types of firms, types of transactions, and types of goods associated with processing trade. In addition, BEA will continue to analyze responses to new survey questions on the value of manufacturing services and on the destination of goods for processing and will conduct research with the Census Bureau to produce estimates of manufacturing services.
Improve Information on International Financial Transactions -- BEA will expand and improve its measurement and presentation of international financial transactions to better serve the public and to aid analysts in the earlier identification of emerging trends. Efforts will include: Recognize cross-border implicit financial services. Compile statistics on the international investment position by currency. Update the treatment of special purpose entities.
Publish Official Income Distribution Estimates -- BEA is compiling a new set of statistics that takes one of its primary economic indicators—total U.S. personal income—and measures how it is distributed across households in different income groups.
Highlight Measures of Economic Well-Being and Growth -- BEA will repackage estimates from its core accounts with data from statistical agency partners in ways that provide new perspectives on economic well-being and the distribution and long-term growth of the economy, including: Growth in GDP and GDP per capita, household net worth as a share of disposable personal income over time, and inflation and employment trends. Real GDP growth by industry, real personal income per capita by state, and distribution of personal income across households. Trade balances and U.S. budget deficits over time, net saving and net investment as percentages of GDP, and trends in U.S. business cycles.
Improve Health Care Statistics -- Future improvements to BEA’s health statistics include: Accelerating the release of annual statistics for the Health Care Satellite Account. Closing coverage gaps (by incorporating claims data for the Medicaid population and expanding the account to include nursing home spending) and producing estimates that link spending by type of disease to spending by type of health care product. Improving regional price indexes by leveraging large claims databases. Move forward with research linking changes in the costs of treating diseases to improvements in the quality of treatment, including advances that lead to better health outcomes.
Point of contact for comments or questions: Lucas Hitt, BEA Communications Director Lucas.Hitt@bea.gov