GO Slow: New Leading Indicator Predicted Slowdown in GDP

by Mark Skousen
Presidential Fellow, Chapman University
Editor, Forecasts & Strategies

For the previous two quarters (Q2 and Q3, 2017) Gross Output, the new broader measure of the economy that includes the supply chain, was growing at a slower rate than GDP.  According to my research, that suggested a slowdown in GDP.

Today the Bureau of Economic Analysis released the advance estimate for Q4 2014 GDP.  After two consecutive quarters (Q2 & Q3) of 3%-plus growth in real terms, the GDP grew only 2.6% in Q4 — just as GO predicted.

For some time now, I’ve been arguing that gross output (GO), the top line in national income accounting, is a more accurate measure of total economic activity.  Because it includes business-to-business (B2B) transactions in the earlier stages of production, GO can anticipate changes in GDP (the bottom line) as much as 12 weeks in advance.

Since the first quarter of 2017, GO has been growing at slower rate than GDP.  In Q2, real GO rose at a tepid 1.7%, substantially less than 3.1% for GDP, and in Q3 2017, real GO accelerated at 2.7% growth rate, but still less than the 3.1% real GDP growth for the 3rd quarter.  I concluded in November, “Second quarter GO suggests potential slowdown in the economy, despite the currently rising GDP.”  Please reference the 2017 Q2 and 2017 Q3 press releases for more information.

The following chart provided by David Ranson, chief economist at HCWE & Co., shows the relationship between GO, II and GDP since the third quarter of 2016.


Data: Quarterly seasonally-adjusted chain-type quantity indices of intermediate inputs, gross output and gross domestic product (Bureau of Economic Analysis).


As David Ranson comments:  “In this chart we compare the growth of gross output (GO) and intermediate output (II) with the growth of GDP over the past year (all in real terms). The chart begins with the third quarter of 2016 because, prior to that, all three variables were moving in close parallel. At that point a substantial divergence opened up, as the growth of intermediate output (and GO) raced ahead of GDP growth. That implied an acceleration in GDP growth which we have been experiencing. Now, just-released third-quarter figures for GO and II suggest that a re-convergence has begun: in the second and third quarters of 2017 growth in GO and II has fallen below the growth rate of GDP. That implies that GDP will stabilize and possibly decelerate later in 2018.”


For more information on Gross Output (GO), the Skousen B2B Index, and their relationship to GDP, see the following:

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”: http://www.forbes.com/sites/steveforbes/2014/03/26/this-may-save-the-economoy-from-keynesians-and-spend-happy-pols/

Mark Skousen, Forbes Magazine (December 16, 2013): “Beyond GDP: Get Ready For A New Way To Measure The Economy”: http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/11/29/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.