Washington, DC (Thursday, November 2, 2017): Gross output (GO), the top line of national accounting and a leading economic indicator, grew at a slower pace than GDP in the second quarter 2017, indicating a sudden slowdown in economic activity.  Mark Skousen, editor of Forecasts & Strategies and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University, states, “My research shows that whenever GO grows slower than GDP, it suggests a potential decline in economic growth and if this trend persists, a recession could follow.  While GO grew at a slower pace, there is no still no evidence of a recession.”

Based on data released on Thursday, November 2, 2017 by the BEA and adjusted to include all sales throughout the production process, nominal adjusted GO (GO*) increased at an annualized rate of 2.9% in the second quarter of 2017, which is significantly lower than the previous quarter’s increase of 6.0%[1]. Nominal adjusted GO for the second quarter of 2017 grew at slower pace than the 4.0% nominal GDP growth and the 3.6% growth of the unadjusted GO reported by the BEA.

Real GDP, the bottom line of national income accounting, rose at an annualized rate of 3.1% in the second quarter 2017.  Real GO* generally grows at a higher rate than real GDP during an economic expansion.  However, in Q2 2017, real GO* grew at only 1.7%.

Skousen states, “By focusing solely on final spending and the end of the economic chain, GDP can sometimes be a misleading indicator of economic performance.  GO is a much better, more comprehensive view of total economic activity along the entire supply chain, and indicates a less positive outlook right now.”

In fact, according to a recent study by David Ranson, chief economist at HCWE & Co., GO anticipates changes in GDP by as much as 12 weeks in advance and thus serves as a new leading indicator: http://www.hcwe.com/guest/EW-0717.pdf

Skousen B2B Index Also Slows Dramatically

The Skousen B2B Index, a measure of business spending throughout the supply chain, increased at 2.6% in Q2, which is significantly less than the 8.1% growth rate from the previous quarter. This is the first slowdown after four consecutive quarters of strong B2B growth of 5% or more. In the second quarter, B2B transactions rose at an annual rate of 1.4% in real terms.

After four quarters of strong growth, the adjusted GO rose at slower pace, but still increased to reach $41.27 trillion. The current adjusted GO is more than double the size of GDP ($19.25 trillion), which measures final output only.

Supply Chain Activity Continues Increasing, But at a Slower Pace

Out of the 29 Industries and sectors defined within GO, 26 sectors rose compared to the previous quarter. The mining sector grew 8.3% in the second quarter 2017, the most of any sector, but this was relatively small compared to the 62.7% annualized growth in the first quarter 2017. Moreover, the mining sector accounts for just 1% share of total GO, which diminishes the impact of this small increase on the overall GO.  In contrast, the manufacturing sector is almost a fifth of total GO (18% share). Therefore, the 1.2% annualized growth of the manufacturing sector has a much greater impact on the total GO. With a 2.6% annualized growth rate, durable goods outpaced non-durable goods, which fell 0.2% compared to the previous quarter.

Another sector with an 18% share of GO is the finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing sector. In the second quarter, this sector grew at a 7.0% annualized rate in nominal terms, which is higher than the 6.7% increase in the first quarter 2017. The finance and insurance subsector, which accounts for 8% of total GO by itself, rose 11.1%.

Compared to the previous quarter, spending fell significantly in only two sectors. The largest drop of 4.8% is in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector. The Construction sector was down 5.7%. The aforementioned non-durables sector and the accommodation and food services sector were virtually flat with no change to the previous quarter. These four sectors combined account for a 17% share of the total GO. Therefore, the negative performance of these few sectors had a noticeable impact on the overall GO growth.

The other surprise in 2nd quarter GO was the dramatic slowdown in wholesale and retail trade. Compared to Q1, total retail trade rose only 0.3% and the Wholesale trade actually fell a marginal 0.1%.

Total government spending (11% share of total GO) increased 2.9% in the second quarter. This growth rate is marginally lower than last quarter’s 3% growth rate. The federal government grew at an annualized rate of 2.2% in nominal terms and state and local government grew at a slightly higher rate of 3.2%.


GO and GDP are “Top Line” and “Bottom Line” of National Accounting

Gross output (GO) and GDP are complementary statistics in national income accounting.  GO is an attempt to measure the “make” economy; i.e., total economic activity at all stages of production, similar to the “top line” (revenues/sales) of a financial accounting statement.  In April 2014, the BEA began to measure GO on a quarterly basis along with GDP.

Gross domestic product (GDP) is an attempt to measure the “use” economy, i.e., the value of finished goods and services ready to be used by consumers, business and government.  GDP is similar to the “bottom line” (gross profits) of an accounting statement, which determined the “value added” or the value of final use.

GO tends to be more sensitive to the business cycle, and more volatile, than GDP. During the financial crisis of 2008-09, GO fell much faster than GDP, and afterwards, recovered more quickly than GDP. Still, it wasn’t until late 2013 that GO fully recovered from its peak in 2007. The fact that the adjusted GO has continued to grow faster than GDP (most of the time) is a positive sign.

Business Spending (B2B) Grows Slower Than Consumer Spending

We have also created a new business-to-business (B2B) index based on GO data.  It measures all the business spending in the supply chain and new private capital investment.  Nominal B2B activity increased 2.6% to $23.67 trillion.  Meanwhile, consumer spending rose to $13.3 trillion in the second quarter, which is equivalent to a 3.5% annualized growth rate. In real terms, B2B activity rose at an annualized rate of 1.4% and consumer spending rose 2.5%.


“B2B spending is a pretty good indicator of where the economy is headed, since it measures business spending along the entire supply chain,” stated Skousen.  “The fact that business activity has slowed down in the 2nd quarter is a bit surprising, given the pro-business legislation is that expected to become law soon.”

About GO and B2B Index

Skousen champions Gross Output as a more comprehensive measure of economic activity. “GDP leaves out the supply chain and business to business transactions in the production of intermediate inputs,” he notes. “That’s a big part of the economy.  GO includes B2B activity that is vital to the production process. No one should ignore what is going on in the supply chain of the economy.”

Skousen first introduced Gross Output as a macroeconomic tool in his work The Structure of Production (New York University Press, 1990). A new third edition was published in late 2015, and is now available on Amazon.

Click here: Structure of Production on Amazon

The BEA’s decision in 2014 to publish GO on a quarterly basis in its “GDP by Industry” data is a major achievement in national income accounting. GO is the first output statistic to be published on a quarterly basis since GDP was invented in the 1940s.

The BEA now defines GDP in terms of GO. GDP is defined as “valued added,” that is, “the value of the goods and services produced by the nation’s economy [GO] less the value of the goods and services used up in production (Intermediate Inputs or II].”  See definitions at https://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/industry/gdpindustry/gdpindnewsrelease.htm

With GO and GDP being produced on a timely basis, the federal government now offers a complete system of accounts. As Dale Jorgenson, Steve Landefeld, and William Nordhaus conclude in their book, A New Architecture for the U. S. National Accounts, “Gross output [GO] is the natural measure of the production sector, while net output [GDP] is appropriate as a measure of welfare. Both are required in a complete system of accounts.”

Skousen adds, “Gross Output and GDP are complementary aspects of the economy, but GO does a better job of measuring total economic activity and the business cycle, and demonstrates that business spending is more significant than consumer spending,” he says. “By using GO data, we see that consumer spending is actually only about a third of economic activity, not two-thirds that is often reported by the media. As the chart above demonstrates, business spending is in fact almost twice the size of consumer spending in the US economy.”

Note: Ned Piplovic assisted in providing technical data for this release.

For More Information

The GO data released by the BEA can be found at www.bea.gov under “Quarterly GDP by Industry.” Click on interactive tables “GDP by Industry” and go to “Gross Output by Industry.” Or go to this link directly: http://www.bea.gov/iTable/iTable.cfm?ReqID=51&step=1#reqid=51&step=3&isuri=1&5102=15

For more information on Gross Output (GO), the Skousen B2B Index, and their relationship to GDP, see the new website, www.grossoutput.com (still in development), as well as the following:

Mark Skousen, “GO Beyond GDP:  Introducing Gross Output as the Top Line in National Income Accounting,” presented as the 2017 Schumpeter Lecture in Stockholm, Sweden, sponsored by the Swedish Entrepreneurship Forum:  http://entreprenorskapsforum.se/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/PS_Skousen_web.pdf

Mark Skousen, “At Last, a Better Way to Economic Measure” lead editorial, Wall Street Journal, April 23, 2014: http://on.wsj.com/PsdoLM

Steve Forbes, Forbes Magazine (April 14, 2014): “New, Revolutionary Way To Measure The Economy Is Coming — Believe Me, This Is A Big Deal”:


Mark Skousen, Forbes Magazine (December 16, 2013): “Beyond GDP: Get Ready For A New Way To Measure The Economy”:


Steve Hanke, Globe Asia (July 2014): “GO: J. M. Keynes Versus J.-B. Say,” http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/go-jm-keynes-versus-j-b-say

David Ranson, “Output growth data that the economy generates months earlier than GDP,” Economic Watch, July 24, 2017.  HCWE, Inc. http://www.hcwe.com/guest/EW-0717.pdf

Mark Skousen, “Linking Austrian Economics to Keynesian Economics,” Journal of Private Enterprise, Winter, 2015:  http://journal.apee.org/index.php?title=Parte7_Journal_of_Private_Enterprise_vol_30_no_4.pdf

To interview Dr. Mark Skousen on this press release, contact him at mskousen@chapman.edu, or Ned Piplovic, Media Relations at skousenpub@gmail.com.

# # #

[1] The BEA currently uses a limited measure of total sales of goods and services in the production process. Once products are fabricated and packaged at the manufacturing stage, the BEA’s GO only adds “net” sales at the wholesale and retail level. Its official GO for the 2017 2nd quarter is $33.2 trillion.  By including gross sales at the wholesale and retail level, the adjusted GO is $41.27 trillion in Q2 2017.  Thus, the BEA omits $7.8 trillion in business-to-business (B2B) transactions in its GO statistics.  We include them as a legitimate economic activity that should be accounted for in GO, which we call Adjusted GO.  See the new introduction to Mark Skousen, The Structure of Production, 3rd ed. (New York University Press, 2015), pp. xv-xvi.

2013 Global Financial Summit Report

I just returned from the Global Financial Summit in the Bahamas, where over 200 attendees came from all over the world to learn about new investment opportunities and market solutions to the world’s problems.  We were welcomed by the cabinet members of the Bahamian government, who emphasized how the Bahamas is a first-rate financial center and investment paradise.  It has no tax on income or investments (but does impose a high 42% import duty).   I visited Albany, a new development for the superrich such as Tiger Woods.  I am not surprised they are moving there in droves, given the huge tax increases imposed in 2013.

My family and I lived in the Bahamas in the mid-1980s and I saved enough in taxes to buy a flat in London (without giving up my citizenship).  My story can be found here.

Here’s a short summary (expect more detail in the March Forecasts & Strategies newsletter): [Read more…]

Big News! Stossel Coming to FreedomFest 2013

Big News! John Stossel Coming to FreedomFest!

Dear FreedomFest attendees,

Lots of news to report about this year’s big show.  First and foremost:

When we ask past attendees, what famous libertarian they want to speak at FreedomFest, John Stossel is their #1 choice – by far.

Your wish is our command:  We are happy to announce that John Stossel is coming to FreedomFest and will be taping a special edition of his Fox Business show, STOSSEL, at FreedomFest on the first day of the conference, Thursday, July 11, 2013 (just think 7-11). And you all are invited! [Read more…]

My First Book Review for Barrons – “Conscious Capitalism”

Here is my first book review on Barrons — on John Mackey’s new book, “Conscious Capitalism,” which I regard as revolutionary and encourage everyone to get a copy at either a Whole Foods store (always fun to visit) or on Amazon:


The Soul of the New Capitalism

A worthy successor to The Wealth of Nations

Reviewed by Mark Skousen

We tend to regard capitalism in these cynical times as the worst economic system, except for all the others. By contrast, in Conscious Capitalism, Whole Foods Market Co-CEO John Mackey and Bentley College marketing professor Raj Sisodia put forward what could be the most ambitious, indeed revolutionary, model for capitalism ever conceived. Had their application of higher consciousness been in the boardroom a generation ago, we might have avoided the suffocating regulations of Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, and the dire straits of companies like General Motors, Sears, Citibank, and even Enron.

Conscious capitalism, according to Mackey and Sisodia, is “a way of thinking about business that is more conscious of its higher purpose, its impacts on the world, and the relationships it has with its various constituencies and stakeholders.”

Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business

by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia
Harvard Business Press
368 pages, $27

Although they call free enterprise the source of “unprecedented prosperity for humanity,” they challenge the two celebrity philosophers of capitalism, Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. They reject the Randian notion that “selfishness” and “greed” are virtues, and deny the Friedman view that the only responsibility of capitalism is to maximize profits for its shareholders.

“Business is not about making as much money as possible,” the authors declare. “It’s about creating value for stakeholders.” Companies must develop sterling reputations to attract loyal customers, employees and suppliers, and generate community goodwill. If they do, superior returns can be achieved in earnings and stock price as a byproduct, not as a primary goal. [Read more…]

Report from AEA Meetings in San Diego: The FED = Inflation

I returned early this year from a productive trip to San Diego for the American Economic Association (AEA) meetings, where I met with several top economists, including Nobel Prize winners. One of the most popular sessions was a panel on the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve. The most shocking graph was presented by Ken Rogoff, a Harvard economist.

As the graph indicates, there was virtually no inflation prior to 1913, when the Federal Reserve was created (other than wars, which caused temporary inflation) and we went off the classical gold standard. Rogoff noted that since the Fed was created, prices have skyrocketed 30-fold, or 3,000%! This data confirms Murray Rothbard’s contention that the Fed was created to remove the barriers to inflation, not to control it.

Despite the fact that the Fed engineered all of this inflation, caused the Great Depression and failed to regulate the mortgage banks prior to the 2008 crisis, all of the panelists gave high marks to the Fed! (You can bet that won’t be the case at our special panel on the 100th anniversary of the Fed at FreedomFest!)

Another telling sign was the fact that the sessions with super Keynesian Paul Krugman were standing room only, while monetarists including Nobel laureate Bob Lucas had a small turnout.

What does this situation bode for the future? If Krugman has his way, it means greater deficits, more inflation, and higher taxes.

My Run In with the Irrepressible and Dangerous Paul Krugman in London

I’ve been in Poland and England on a very successful speaking tour — all SRO crowds.  In Poland, thanks for Jan Fijor, many of my books have been translated….In London I spoke at the Adam Smith Institute on “Austrian economics for Investors” and the Institute for Economic Affairs on “Hayek vs. Keynes:  Who’s On Top?”  Needless to say, in today’s crisis mode, Keynes and Keynesian economics are clearly on top.

Speaking of which……

This evening after my wife and I went to “Top Hat,” a fantastic new musical based on Irving Berlin’s film of the same name, we ran into Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize economist and foremost advocate of “crude” Keynesian deficit spending, who is here in London on a book tour.  I asked him a series of questions: [Read more…]

How Keynes Changed His Investment Philosophy and Died Wealthy

by Investment U Research
Friday, April 27, 2012: Issue #1761

John Maynard Keynes: The Contrarian Investor 

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” - John Maynard Keynes

As longtime subscribers and readers of my books know, I’m no fan of John Maynard Keynes as an academic economist. His legacy is the welfare state, trillion-dollar unfunded liabilities and uncontrolled deficit spending. (See chapter 13, The Keynes Mutiny: Capitalism Faces Its Greatest Challenge of my book The Making of Modern Economics.)

But when it comes to Keynes the investor, it’s a different story, and the man deserves credit for being an outstanding stock picker during a period of war, uncertainty and depression… [Read more…]

Making of Modern Economics #2 in Ayn Rand Institute’s Top-Ten Must Read Books in Economics

Good news.  My book, The Making of Modern Economics, now in its second edition, won recognition from the Ayn Rand Institute, which published its first “top ten must-read books in economics,”  The Making of Modern Economics was ranked second, right behind Henry Hazlitt’s classic Economics in One Lesson. I’m not complaining, since Steve Mariotti, president of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), recently wrote that “Mark Skousen is the Henry Hazlitt of our time who can explain complex issues in a clear way.”

My book tells the bold story of economics, with free-market economist Adam Smith as the heroic figure who comes under attack by the Marxists, socialists and Keynesians, but triumphs in the end with the help of the Austrians, Chicagoans, and supply-siders. It recently won the Choice Book Award for Outstanding Academic Title, and is highly popular among students and intelligent laymen who love a good story with lots of anecdotes and pictures. As John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, says, “I’ve read Mark’s book three times. It’s fun to read on every page.”

It is available on Amazon, including an audio version, but you can get the book cheaper by calling Eagle Publishing at 1-800/211-7661. The price is only $49.95 for hardback (code ECONH3), $29.95 for paperback (ECONP3), plus $5 for shipping and handling ($10 if outside of the United States).

Hillsdale College Lecture: Will the Real Adam Smith Please Stand Up?

Was Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, a libertarian, conservative, or radical democrat? Traditionally, free-market economists such as Milton Friedman, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek, have defended Smith as a great free-market economist, while Emma Rothschild, Gordon Brown, and yes, even Murray Rothbard, have demurred, suggesting that Smith was an interventionist who should not be considered a hero of free markets.

Who’s right?

Recently I was invited to Hillsdale College for its annual Center for Constructive Alternatives conference on “Adam Smith, Free Markets and the Modern World.” The other speakers were P. J. O’Rourke, Nicholas Phillipson, James R. Otteson, Roy C. Smith, and John Steele Gordon. My lecture was entitled “The Centrality of Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand.” Click here to read the lecture and see how I come down on the debate on Adam Smith and how the debate influenced my work “The Making of Modern Economics.”

I present my case for the centrality of the invisible hand in Adam Smith's work at Hillsdale College in January 2012

Click here to read the lecture “The Centrality of the Invisible Hand” by Mark Skousen

The Centrality of the Invisible Hand

By Mark Skousen
Lecture, Center for Constructive Alternatives
Hillsdale College, January 31, 2012

“Adam Smith had one overwhelmingly important triumph: he put into the center of economics the systematic analysis of the behavior of individuals pursuing their self-interest under conditions of competition.”– George Stigler[1]

A major debate has flared up recently about Adam Smith. Was he the father of free-market economics and libertarian thought, or some kind of radical egalitarian and social democrat?

Adam Smith as a Free-Market Hero

The traditional view, held by Milton Friedman, is that the Scottish philosopher was “a radical and a revolutionary in his time–just as those of us who preach laissez faire are in our time.”[2] He lauded Smith’s metaphor of the “invisible hand,” the famous Smithian idea that “by pursuing his own self interest, [every individual] frequently promotes that of the society.”[3] According to Friedman, “Adam Smith’s flash of genius was his recognition that the prices that emerged from voluntary transactions between buyers and seller — for short, in a free market — could coordinate the activity of millions of people, each seeking his own interest, in such a way as to make everyone better off.”[4] Other defenders of free-enterprise capitalism describe the invisible hand as “gentle,” “wise,” “far reaching,” and one that “improves the lives of others.”[5]

[Read more…]