Despite Higher Inflation, the U.S. Economy Continues to Boom: Gross Output (GO) Hits $50 Trillion!

Washington, DC (Thursday, September 30, 2021): For the first time in history, total spending in the economy, Gross Output (GO), hit $50 trillion 2021, based on the latest economic data release. 

Gross Output (GO) is the top line in national income accounting; GDP is the bottom line. Both are essential to understanding where the economy is headed. According to Steve Forbes, GDP is the X-ray of the economy; GO is the CAT-scan. 

On September 30, 2021, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released data for the second quarter 2021 Gross Output – the most comprehensive measure of total spending in the economy, including the supply chain. The data indicates that Gross Output continued to expand in the second quarter 2021 and its expansion outperformed GDP growth for the third consecutive period. 

Business-to-business (B2B) spending also is growing faster than consumer spending, another good sign. 

Many economists feared a long economic downturn and marginal growth in the aftermath of the sharp economic decline in the second quarter 2020. However, it appears that the second-quarter downturn was just a short term reaction to the 2020 economic slowdown caused primarily by government restrictions and business shutdowns in responses to the COVID-19 epidemic.

The 2021 economic data indicates that the U.S. economy is continuing full-steam ahead and is riding a steady growth trend. After robust expansions in Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 of 7.0% and 8.8%, respectively, GDP and GO continued the trend and expanded again in Q2 2021.

GDP rose 12.8% and GO grew 14.2% in nominal terms. In real terms, GDP rose 6.7% and outpaced GO’s expansion of 5.5% in the second quarter 2021. However, accounting for the full impact of gross wholesale and gross retail – which are included only as net figures in the GO reported by the BEA – the Adjusted Gross Output (GO*) advanced 7.4% in the second quarter 2021. The difference between in net and gross figures amounts to more than $9.6 trillion, which is missing from the government’s official GO figure.

Following the initial impact of the pandemic, GDP declined in Q2 2020 to its lowest level since Q2 2017. However, GDP has been recovering ever since then. After surpassing its previous high from Q4 2019 in the first quarter this year, GDP set another new high in Q2 2021. However, both GO and Adjusted GO (GO*) reached new milestones as well. Gross Output exceeded $40 trillion for the first time ever in Q2 2021, and Adjusted GO broke above the $50 trillion mark.

The latest set of positive growth figures affirms once more that the economic growth outlook remains positive. Even with potential concerns of the spread of the COVID delta variant, more states are lifting business restrictions and reopening their economies. This is just another factor that could offer people the needed confidence to resume normal economic activities, which will fuel economic growth further.

However, there are few concerns that might hinder the progress and dampen future economic growth. After years of deflation fears, inflation is rearing its ugly head once again. The currently reported rate of inflation of 5% is significantly higher than historical averages and many economists believe that it will get worse. Even the Federal Reserve is looking to revise its inflation target from 2% to 3%.

Furthermore, the U.S. Congress and the current executive branch are putting in a coordinated effort to implement higher taxes – especially higher corporate tax rates – increase minimum wages, and a slew of other policies that would stifle economic growth. You can read more about these concerns that could derail our economic recovery in today’s edition of Mark Skousen’s free weekly newsletter, Skousen CAFÉ. (https://www.markskousen.com/signups/skousen-investor-cafe/)

Another indication that the economic pullback last year was only a temporary event is the relationship between the GO and GDP decline during that period. Earlier stages of production are generally more sensitive and more volatile in their response to economic disruptions. Therefore, during past recessions, GO commonly declined significantly more than GDP, which captures only final outputs in the economy.

For instance, GO declined more than 26% during the last quarter 2008. In the same period, GDP pulled back less than 8%. The 2020 economic slowdown broke from this pattern and saw GO decline at similar rates as the GDP. Over the last three quarters, GO has been recovering and expanding faster than GDP.

This anomaly from the established historical pattern, provides another indication that the underlying business fundamentals are significantly stronger than originally anticipated, that government shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 epidemic might have been unnecessary. Those responses might have even amplified the initial economic contraction in the second-quarter 2020.

More importantly, as it did during the previous four periods, business spending continues to outpace consumer spending in the second quarter 2021.

Business – Not Consumers – Drives the Economy

Contrary to views of many academic economists and wide-spread media reports, consumer spending does not drive the economy, and does not represent two-thirds of the economy. Using GO as a better and a more accurate measure of total spending in the economy, the business sector (B2B spending) is almost twice the size of consumer spending. Consumer spending is the effect, not the cause, of prosperity (Say’s law).

Therefore, our business-to-business (B2B) index is very useful for gauging the economy’s underlying health and the readiness to rebound after economic downturns. The B2B Index measures all the business spending in the supply chain and new private capital investment. In the second quarter 2021, B2B activity and consumer spending increased at similar rates – B2B at 17.4% to $29. trillion and consumer spending at 18% to $15.7 trillion. However in real terms, B2B activity expanded at a faster annualized rate of 11.3% to $24.8 trillion than consumer spending, which increased 9.1% to $13.5 trillion.

Gross Output

“B2B spending is in fact a pretty good indicator of where the economy is headed, since it measures spending in the entire supply chain,” stated Skousen. “After rebounding 39% in the period immediately after the decline in the first half of 2020, business activity is continuing to expand at double digit rates in real terms, which is significantly higher than the low single digit average historical trend.”

Adjusted Gross Output Growth Continues to Outpace GDP Expansion in Second Quarter to Suggest Continued Economic Recovery

Despite significant declines in the first two quarters of 2020, Gross Output indicates robust long-term growth since then. Prior to what appears to be merely a short-term pullback, GO delivered steady quarterly growth over the previous 42 consecutive periods. Gross Output growth slowed in late 2019, which could have been an early sign of economic slowdown even before the pandemic and government shutdowns in early 2020.

However, GO’s continued and steady recovery over the last four periods indicates that, barring any new “black swan” events, the robust economic growth is likely to continue as we draw closer to the end of 2021. The next Gross Output data report for Q3, which is scheduled for release in late-December 2021, should provide early indications whether the recovery will continue into 2022, or whether rising inflation, taxes and interest rates will dampen the recovery. Gross Output is a leading indicator of what GDP will do in the next quarter and beyond. As David Ranson, chief economist for the private forecasting firm HCWE & Co., states, “Movements in gross output serve as a leading indicator of movements in GDP.”

The federal government will release the advance estimate for third-quarter 2021 GDP on October 28, 2021 and the full release of Gross Output, as well as the third estimate of GDP on December 22, 2021.  

Important Note:  We are hopeful that in the near future, the BEA will release GO at the same time as the first estimate of GDP for the quarter, not the third estimate. 

Report on Various Sectors of the Economy

After the general decline in the first two periods of 2020 and a robust recovery in the second half of that year, most sectors of the economy are continuing their expansion in the first half of 2021.

Following a rapid decline in the first half of 2020, the mining sector delivered its fourth consecutive expansion in Q2 2021. Driven by a 20% expansion of the Oil and gas extraction sub-segment, the mining sector expanded 13.1% in real terms. While comprising only a 1.8% share of the overall economy, the mining sector represents the earliest stages of production. Therefore, we watch the expansion and contraction of the Mining segment as early indicators of what other sectors further down the supply chain might do in subsequent periods.

The Agriculture sector followed a 5.7% contraction from Q1 with a 4.1% real-term decline in Q2. Manufacturing – which is the second largest segment of the economy with a 16.7% share – declined 1.7% after contracting 0.7% in the previous period. While accounting for more than half of the segment, Nondurable goods contracted nearly 1.3% and Durable goods declined 2.1%.

After contracting 4.2% in the previous period, Educational services, health care, and social assistance expanded 9.5% in Q2 2021. The largest segment of the economy, Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing segment, which accounts for nearly one-fifth of GO, followed a 10% growth in the last quarter with a more tepid increase of 1.5% in Q2. One of the reasons for this slow second-quarter growth is that the Finance and insurance sub-segment declined 1.2% after surging more than 17% in the previous period. On a positive note, after surging more than 20% in Q1, the Federal Reserve banks, credit intermediation, and related activities sub-segment contracted nearly 11%. While this might seem like a positive development, one concern is that the decline in Fed’s activity might be an early warning of a tightening money policy, which would push interest rates higher. 

After several periods of steady growth, the Construction sector reversed trend and pulled back 8.6% in Q2. While unable to maintain its growth rate of more than 17% in the previous two periods, the Transportation and warehousing sector still expanded in Q2, albeit at 4.2%. The sub-segment with the highest growth was Air transportation, which expanded 73.4% in Q2 after recording a 65% surge in the previous period. Alternatively, the Pipeline transportation sub-segment contracted nearly 47%, after a 68% first-quarter expansion.

After no expansion in Q4 2020 and modest 1.5% growth in Q1 2021, total government spending declined 1.6% in Q2 2021. While federal spending fell 6.6% for the period, government spending at the local and state levels expanded 0.8%. Since spending at local and state levels is nearly twice the federal spending, the small increase at the local and state levels offset the large federal decline and minimized the overall spending decline.

Gross Output
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 not quite the same as the “bottom line” (profit, or net income) of an accounting statement, but rather the “value added” or the value of final use. 

GO tends to be more sensitive to the business cycle, and more volatile, than GDP.

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, bigger than GDP itself. 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 “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.”

More Information about GO

Steve Forbes: What’s Ahead podcast. In this podcast, Steve Forbes discusses Gross Output with Mark Skousen on September 9, 2019:  https://www.forbes.com/sites/steveforbes/2019/09/09/were-using-the-wrong-measure-gdp-to-gauge-the-economys-real-health-mark-skousen/#35ff3d9a52fa

GO-Day podcast discussion panel hosted Mark Skousen that included Steve Forbes, Sean Flynn, Steve Hanke, and David Ranson, September 30, 2020: https://chapman.zoom.us/rec/share/KJ17YjuR_6zthmgOA5fNprv2e65F-jICOsf430bJvnu8qWzdPYPfTohPC48qRLe9.Q8rmnlXynnTN74Tv?startTime=1601488807000

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 following:

Mark Skousen, “If GDP Lags, Watch the Economy Grow,” Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2018:  https://www.grossoutput.com/2018/04/26/away-go-economy-growing-faster-expected/

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,” Economy Watch, July 24, 2017. HCWE & Co. 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 [email protected], or Ned Piplovic, Media Relations at [email protected]

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[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 2021 2nd quarter is $40.6 trillion. By including gross sales at the wholesale and retail level, the adjusted GO expands to $50.2 trillion in Q2 2021. Thus, the BEA omits more than $9.6 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.

Despite First Decline in More Than a Decade for Q1, Gross Output (GO) Might Still Offer Hope for a Robust Recovery in Late 2020

Washington, DC (Tuesday, July 7, 2020):  On July 6, 2020, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced that gross output (GO) – the most comprehensive measure of total spending in the economy, including the supply chain – slowed dramatically in the 1st quarter 2020.

Gross Output declined in the aftermath of current political unrests, as well as negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and government shutdown of the economy in response to the pandemic. However, GO might offer still some promise for a strong recovery, even over the short term. Business spending, which is a better indicator of economic recovery, declined significantly less than consumer spending. This might be an indication that the economy is more fundamentally sound than currently anticipated.

While some of the business spending was to fight the current epidemic, businesses also used a significant portion of that spending to transform and set up their operations for opening after government closing mandates are lifted. If that is correct, the economy might recover quicker than expected. The most recent jobs report also offered an indication that a relatively fast recovery is certainly a strong possibility.

After delivering steady increases over the past 42 consecutive quarters, first quarter 2020 Gross Output declined 4% in real-terms. Last time real GO declined — in the second quarter 2009 — was in the aftermath of the 2008 economic pullback. While still growing, GO had already slowed its growth rate to 1.1% in the fourth quarter 2019 from nearly 2.5% in the previous period.

This growth slowdown in the last period last year, and a decline in the first period 2020 offered a leading indication that the overall economy was already cooling. GO appears to have anticipated the pullback already in the first quarter even before the economy experienced the full effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and government-mandated shutdowns.

However, while gross output generally declines more than GDP during economic pullbacks, this period’s data presents an anomaly. Despite declining 4% on annualized basis, GO fell less than real GDP, which pulled back 5.1% in the same period.

One reason for this anomaly – and potential s positive sign pointing to a faster-than-expected recovery – is that business spending decreased at a slower rate than consumer spending. Businesses generally anticipate economic contractions and begin spending cuts earlier than consumers. Therefore, Gross Output, which includes business-to business transactions, generally offers earlier signs of pending economic contractions than GDP, which measures only final output.

While consumer spending fell 5.9% in the first quarter 2020, business spending contracted only 5.4%. Despite a relatively small magnitude, this is a significant margin as back-tested date indicates that business spending tends to decline at significantly higher rates than consumer spending during periods of “normal” economic contractions. The margin is even more significant in nominal terms where business spending fell just 4% compared to the 5.7% consumer spending decline. It appears that businesses anticipated the full impact of the COVID-19 epidemic based on just one month of information and adjusted their economic activity by reducing buying activities.

The disruptions in the domestic and global supply chain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as civic unrest in the U.S., have been in the news lately.  GO is the only macro statistic that includes the value of B2B spending and supply chain. “It deserves to be watched closely and updated frequently,” said Dr. Mark Skousen, presidential fellow at Chapman University and a leading advocate of GO as a better, more comprehensive indicator of economic performance.

 

Business — Not Consumers — Drives the Economy

Note:  Contrary to what the media says, consumer spending does not drive the economy, and does not represent two-thirds of the economy. Using GO as a better, more accurate measure of total spending in the economy, the business sector (B2B spending) is almost twice the size as consumer spending. Consumer spending is the effect, not the cause, of prosperity (Say’s law).

The continued business spending decline suggests that the economy began slowing down as a response to early signs that the COVID-19 epidemic’s impact could be significantly more serious than initially anticipated in December 2019. The U.S.–China Phase One trade agreement — signed on January 15, 2020, in Washington D.C. by China’s Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. President Donald Trump – went into effect on July 1, 2002.  However, there are accusations from both sides regarding the origin of the COVID-19 virus and new information that suggests Chinese government officials might have been aware that the epidemic began in China much earlier than they disclosed it in December 2019. Therefore this agreement might not have the intended economic impact as originally anticipated. Furthermore, protests and civil unrests in the U.S. create additional headwinds that the economy will have to overcome even after the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

GO is a leading indicator of what GDP will do in the next quarter and beyond. As David Ranson, chief economist for the private forecasting firm HCWE & Co., states, “Movements in gross output serve as a leading indicator of movements in GDP.”

Whenever GO is growing faster than GDP, as it did in most of 2018, it’s a positive sign that the economy is still robust and growing.  However, GO has grown at a slower pace than the GDP in the last three quarters, a sign that the economy was slowing down as it entered 2020.

The federal government will release the advance estimate for second-quarter GDP on July 30, 2020 and a full release of second-quarter GO on September 30, 2020.

 

Report on Various Sectors of the Economy

In the first quarter 2020, 17 of 22 industry sectors groups contracted to drive the overall GO contraction. The second largest sector – Manufacturing – contracted 7.1% on an annualized basis. This pullback marked a third consecutive contraction after the sector declined 1.2% and 1.5% in the previous two periods of 2019. However, a bigger concern is that manufacturing of Durable goods declined nearly 10%. Durable goods, which include capital expense items by businesses and have bigger impact on long-term economic activity, declined considerably more than Nondurable goods, which contracted just 4.5%, less than half the rate for Durable goods.

Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing – the largest segment that accounts for nearly one-fifth of total Gross Output – was one of just few bright spots in the first quarter. After expanding 1.3% in Q4 2019, this sector more than doubled its growth to 3.2% in the first quarter 2020. The Finance and insurance sub-segment advanced 3.5% and Real estate rental and leasing still grew at a respectable 3.0%.

After briefly breaking a streak of declining for three consecutive periods in Q4 2019, the Mining sector posted a 42% drop in the first quarter 2020. While an important sector among the leading indicators in the early stages of production, the Mining sector only accounts for approximately 1.3% of the overall GO, which minimizes the impact of the decline on the economy overall.

Similarly to the Mining sector, the Utilities sector delivered a single-period increase in Q4 after two negative periods. However, in Q1 2020, the Utilities sector pulled back more than 21%. The Transportation and warehousing sector also suffered a large decline of nearly 16% after expanding 4.7% in the previous period.

Another positive contributor was the Construction sector. After increasing its expansion rate from 2.5% in Q3 to 4.4% Q4 2020, this sector expanded nearly 14% in the first period 2020.

Several other sectors, such as professional, business, educational, health care and social assistance, contracted between 1% and 5%. Under the lockdown directives, the    Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services sector declined more than 40%.

Another sector that continued its steady expansion was Government spending, albeit at a slightly slower pace. After expanding more than 4% in the last period of 2019, overall government spending rose 1.8% in the first quarter 2020. The main driver was a 3.7% growth of Federal government spending. State and local government spending increased at relatively small 1%.

 

Gross Output

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. Until mid-2018, GO outpaced GDP, suggesting a growing economy.  However, since then GO has slowed dramatically, threatening the economic boom.

Consumer Spending Declined Significantly More Than Business Spending in Q1 2020, Which Could Indicate That the Economy Has Solid Fundamentals and is Ready to Bounce Back as Soon as the COVID-19 Pandemic is Under Control and Government Restrictions Mandates Are Lifted

Our business-to-business (B2B) index is also useful. It measures all the business spending in the supply chain and new private capital investment. Nominal B2B activity contracted 4% in the fourth quarter to $26.3 trillion. Meanwhile, consumer spending contracted 5.7% on an annualized basis to $14.6 trillion. In real terms, B2B activity decreased at an annualized rate of 5.4% and consumer spending declined 5.9%.

 

Gross Output

“B2B spending is in fact a pretty good indicator of where the economy is headed, since it measures spending in the entire supply chain,” stated Skousen. “After slowing its growth in the fourth quarter at the end of 2019, business activity declined 5.4% in real terms during the first-quarter 2020.

After the initial decline in early-2020, the stock market continues to experience volatility. However, since the mid-March lows, the markets have rebounded strongly and recovered most of those losses. The S&P 500 has risen 40% and has already recovered nearly 90% of its losses between the beginning of 2020 and its year-to-date low on March 23.

While lower than in the previous period, total business spending indicates that the overall economy might surge back in the second half of the year. One stumbling block for the economic recovery might be renewed and continued interference by government officials, such as Governor Sisolak’s (D-NV) decision to extend the current shutdown phase through the end of July in Las Vegas, which forced a cancellation of our FreedomFest conference for the first time since it began in 2007. Similar decisions might put additional pressure on businesses across the country and suppress economic recovery deeper into the year.”

 

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: BEA – Gross Output by Industry

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

 

To interview Dr. Mark Skousen on this press release, contact him at [email protected], or Ned Piplovic, Media Relations at [email protected]

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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 2020 1st quarter is $37.8 trillion. By including gross sales at the wholesale and retail level, the adjusted GO increases to nearly $46.1 trillion in Q1 2020. Thus, the BEA omits more than $8.2 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.

Gross Output (GO) Anticipated Slowdown in 2020 – Before the Deluge

Washington, DC (Monday, April 6, 2020): On April 6, 2020, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) announced that gross output (GO) – the most comprehensive measure of total spending in the economy, including the supply chain – slowed dramatically in the 4th quarter 2019.

The 1.1% real-term growth in the fourth-quarter 2019 was substantially lower than the 2.5% expansion in the previous period, and much slower than 4th quarter real GDP (2.1%).  This growth slowdown at the end of last year indicated that the overall economy was cooling already coming into 2020.

Furthermore, after surging more than 4% in the second quarter and rising 2% in the third-quarter 2019, business-to-business (B2B) in the supply chain declined 1.7% in the last quarter of the year.

It appears that the businesses anticipated the full impact of the COVID-19 epidemic based on just one month of information and adjusted their economic activity by reducing buying activities.

The disruptions in the global supply chain have been in the news lately.  GO is the only macro statistic that includes the value of B2B spending and supply chain.  “It deserves to be watched closely and updated for frequently,” said Dr. Mark Skousen, presidential fellow at Chapman University and a leading advocate of GO as a better, more comprehensive indicator of economic performance.

After growing faster than the GDP in the first three periods of the year, GO growth of 1.1% in real terms underperformed substantially the 2.1% GDP growth rate for the fourth quarter. Total spending on new goods and services (adjusted GO) [1] increased to above $46.45 trillion. While GO still managed to expand, albeit at a slower pace than in the previous period, B2B spending declined 0.8% (-1.7% in real terms). Additionally, consumer spending growth slowed for the second consecutive period 3.2% (1.9% in real terms) for the current period.

 

Business — Not Consumers — Drives the Economy

Note:  Contrary to what the media says, consumer spending does not drive the economy, and does not represent two-thirds of the economy. Using GO as a better, more accurate measure of total spending in the economy, the business sector (B2B spending) is almost twice the size as consumer spending. Consumer spending is the effect, not the cause, of prosperity (Say’s law).

The business spending decline suggests that the economy began slowing down amid early signs that the COVID-19 epidemic might have a bigger impact than initially anticipated in December 2019. China’s Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. President Donald Trump signed the U.S.–China Phase One trade agreement on January 15, 2020, in Washington D.C. However, this agreement might not have the intended economic  impact in the midst of accusations from both sides regarding the origin of the COVID-19 virus.

GO is a leading indicator of what GDP will do in the next quarter and beyond. As David Ranson, chief economist for the private forecasting firm HCWE & Co., states, “Movements in gross output serve as a leading indicator of movements in GDP.”

Whenever GO is growing faster than GDP, as it did in most of 2018, it’s a positive sign that the economy is still robust and growing.  However, GO has grown at a slower pace than the GDP in the last three quarters, a sign that the economy was slowing down as it entered 2020.

The federal government will release the advance estimate for first-quarter GDP on April 29, 2020 and second-quarter GDP on July 30, 2020.  Both are expected to show a sharp drop in GDP growth and another recession.

 

Report on Various Sectors of the Economy

The second largest sector – Manufacturing – contracted 1.2% on annualized basis. However, this fourth-quarter contraction was actually lower than the 1.5% pullback in the previous period. However, a concern is that manufacturing of Durable goods declined 3%. Durable goods, which include capital expense items by businesses and have bigger impact on long-term economic activity, declined considerably while Nondurable goods still expanded at 0.8%.

Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing – the largest segment that accounts for nearly one-fifth of the total gross output – expanded at just 1.3%. The tempered growth rate was driven by a 2.2% contraction in the Finance and insurance subsegment.

After declining for three consecutive periods, the Mining sector reversed trend and delivered a 1.4% expansion in the fourth quarter. While an important sector among the leading indicators in the early stages of production, the Mining sector only accounts for approximately 1.5% of the overall GO, which minimizes the impact of the decline on the economy overall.

Reversing direction after two negative periods with a 2.7% expansion in the third quarter, Utilities expanded again 1.4% in the fourth-quarter 2019. Transportation and warehousing expanded 4.7%. Construction improved its growth rate from 2.5% in Q3 to 4.4% for the last period of the year. Alternatively, Professional and business services, which accounts for more than one tenth of GO, grew only 2.9% in the fourth quarter after surging 6.9% in the preceding period.

Another troublesome indicator is that Government spending increased again after declining briefly in the third quarter. Overall government spending increased 4.1%. Federal spending led with a 4.6% growth over the previous period. State and local government spending increased 3.9%

Gross Output

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 attempts 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. Until mid-2018, GO outpaced GDP, suggesting a growing economy.  However, since then GO has slowed dramatically, threatening the economic boom.

 

While Consumer Spending Continued to Advance in Q4, Business Spending (B2B) Began Contracting at The End of 2019 in Anticipation of the Current Economic Downturn.

Our business-to-business (B2B) index is also useful. It measures all the business spending in the supply chain and new private capital investment. Nominal B2B activity contracted 0.8% in the fourth quarter to $26.6 trillion. Meanwhile, consumer spending rose to $14.8 trillion, equivalent to a 3.2% annualized growth rate. In real terms, B2B activity decreased at an annualized rate of -1.7% and consumer spending rose at 1.9%.

Gross Output

“B2B spending is in fact a pretty good indicator of where the economy is headed, since it measures spending in the entire supply chain,” stated Skousen. “After slowing considerably in the first-quarter 2019, business activity picked up the pace and expanded 1.1% in real terms during each of the two subsequent periods. However, business spending reversed direction and contracted 1.7% in real terms for the last period of 2019. The stock market continued to advance and the overall economy appeared to maintain its upward trajectory in October and November 2019. However, private businesses gleaned enough information from the early stage of the COVID-19 outbreak in December to reduce their overall buying on concerns that the mild outbreak could turn into a full pandemic. Overall business spending trend continues to be an early indicator that anticipates the direction that the overall economy will take over the subsequent few quarters.”

About GO and B2B Index

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 “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.”

 

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: BEA – Gross Output by Industry

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

 

To interview Dr. Mark Skousen on this press release, contact him at [email protected], or Ned Piplovic, Media Relations at [email protected]

# # #

________________________________________
[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 2019 3rd quarter is $38 trillion. By including gross sales at the wholesale and retail level, the adjusted GO increases to more than $46 trillion in Q3 2019. Thus, the BEA omits more than $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.

U.S. Economy on the GO: Total Spending Accelerates

Washington, DC (Thursday, January 9, 2020):  On January 9, 2020, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released the “top line” measure of total spending at all stages of the economy, known as gross output (GO), for the 3rd quarter 2019.

Real GO rose 2.5%, 25% than the 2.0% growth in the previous period, and faster than real GDP (2.1%).

The latest GO data suggests that the overall economy continues its growth at a slightly faster pace than it did in the first half of 2019. However, after surging more than 4% in the previous period, business-to-business (B2B) in the supply chain advanced just 2% in the third quarter.

After trailing GDP growth for two consecutive periods to begin 2019, GO growth has accelerated toward the end of 2019, and implies continued growth into 2020.  Total spending on new goods and services (adjusted GO) [1] increased to above $46 trillion for the first time.  While GO expanded at a faster pace than in the previous period, B2B spending advanced just 2% (1.3% in real terms), which was only half the growth rate from the previous period. Additionally, consumer spending growth slowed as well from 6.9% (4.4% real) in the second quarter to 4.6% (2.8% real) for the current period. (4.4% in real terms).

 

Business — Not Consumers — Drives the Economy

Note:  Contrary to what the media says, consumer spending does not drive the economy, and does not represent two-thirds of the economy. Using GO as a better, more accurate measure of total spending in the economy, the business sector (B2B spending) is almost twice the size as consumer spending. Consumption represents only about one-third of total economic demand.  Consumer spending is the effect, not the cause, of prosperity (Say’s law).

The renewed increase in business spending suggests that the economy is likely to continue expanding at a moderate pace. Strong corporate earnings, prediction that the Federal Reserve is likely to maintain current interest rate levels for 2020 and reliable indications that government representatives of China and the United States will sign phase-one trade deal as early as next week might be drivers of the continued business spending.

In addition to an overall GO growth of 2.5%, most of the individual sectors expanded as well. Just like in the previous period, only two sectors contracted in the third quarter. Furthermore, after a 5.4% expansion in the previous period, government spending growth cooled slightly to “only“ 3.5%.

GO is a leading indicator of what GDP will do in the next quarter and beyond. As David Ranson, chief economist for the private forecasting firm HCWE & Co., states, “Movements in gross output serve as a leading indicator of movements in GDP.”

Whenever GO is growing faster than GDP, as it is now doing, it’s a positive sign that the economy is still robust and growing.

The federal government will release the advance estimate for fourth-quarter GDP on January 30, 2020. If 3rd quarter GO serves as a good forecaster, GDP is likely to grow faster than 2.1%.

 

Report on Various Sectors of the Economy

The mining sector declined now for the third consecutive period. Additionally, the pullback of nearly 26% is significantly higher than the 7% contraction in the previous period. Fortunately, while Mining is a very important sector in the early stages of production, the segment only accounts for approximately 1.5% of the overall GO, which minimizes the impact of the decline on the economy overall.

The second sector that contracted in the third quarter was manufacturing. While manufacturing is the second largest sector with a 16% share, the sector contracted just 1.5%. Despite the segments size, the 1.5% contraction had a smaller effect on the overall economy than the Mining sector’s pullback. Some positive news would be that the 1.9% Non-Durable goods contraction represents nearly 60% of manufacturing’s overall decline. Durable goods, which include capital expense items by businesses and have bigger impact on long-term economic activity, declined just 1.2%, which is lower than the 4.2% decline in the previous period and the 11.7% pullback in the first-quarter 2019.

Similarly, utilities continued to move in the positive direction. After contracting 13.6% in the first quarter and 4.2% in the second quarter of the year, utilities expanded 2.7% in the third-quarter 2019. Transportation remained virtually flat compared to previous period.

After pausing growth and remaining flat in the previous period, construction expanded 2.5%.  Professional and business services, which accounts for more than one tenth of GO, delivered annualized growth of 6.9%, which was the highest growth rate of any sector this period. However, while slightly lower at 6.6%, the growth of the finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing sector was a bigger driver of economic expansion on the account of the largest share of the economy at 16%.

Government spending at all levels increased at an annualized rate of 3.45%. The growth was well balanced between the federal level which expanded at 3.41% and the state and local level growth of 3.49%. However, a positive sign is that government expansion overall and at each individual level was lower than in the previous period. In the second quarter overall government grew 5.4%, 4.6% on the federal level and 6.7% locally.

 GO

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. Lately, GO has outpaced GDP, suggesting a growing economy.

 

Business Spending (B2B) Continues to Advance at a Slower Pace Than Consumer Spending in both Nominal and Real Terms.

Our business-to-business (B2B) index is also useful. It measures all the business spending in the supply chain and new private capital investment. Nominal B2B activity expanded just 2% in the third second quarter to $26.4 trillion. Meanwhile, consumer spending rose to $14.7 trillion, which is equivalent to a 4.6% annualized growth rate. In real terms, B2B activity rose at an annualized rate of 1.3% and consumer spending rose at 2.8%.

GO“B2B spending is in fact a pretty good indicator of where the economy is headed, since it measures spending in the entire supply chain,” stated Skousen. “After slowing considerably in the fourth-quarter 2018 and first-quarter 2019, business activity picked up the pace in the second quarter and third quarters. While lower than in the previous period, business spending still expanded 2% in the third-quarter 2019, which indicates that the economy might still have enough momentum to maintain a moderate expansion trend, unless prevented by negative developments in trade or monetary policy.”

 

About GO and B2B Index

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 “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.”

 

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: BEA – Gross Output by Industry

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

To interview Dr. Mark Skousen on this press release, contact him at [email protected], or Ned Piplovic, Media Relations at [email protected]

# # #

________________________________________
[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 2019 3rd quarter is $38 trillion. By including gross sales at the wholesale and retail level, the adjusted GO increases to more than $46 trillion in Q3 2019. Thus, the BEA omits more than $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.

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.

GO

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 [email protected], or Ned Piplovic, Media Relations at [email protected]