Sunday, June 01, 2008

Don't be fooled by GDP revision in short term

Jim Hamilton suggests you look at GDP revision in a longer term. The bottom line is: don't be fooled by the recent 0.9% Q1 GDP number. The graph below shows it all.
I'd like to remind readers that GDP is a series subject to a lot of revisions (and in any case, NBER looks at a lot of other series). To that end, I depict below what we thought GDP was doing at the end of May 2001 [1], [2].
Figure 2: Real GDP (Ch.2000$, SAAR), annualized quarter-on-quarter growth rates from May 2008 release (blue), from May 2001 release (red), from July 2001 release (green). NBER defined recession highlighted gray. Source: BEA via FRED II, ALFRED, NBER, and author's calculations.
Note that even at the end of July 2001, we still thought 2001Q1 growth was positive, and thought the same of 2001Q2 as well... So I'm more in agreement with Jeff Frankel than with Carpe Diem.
The reason why many suspected a QI turning point in the first place is employment, which is virtually as important an indicator to the NBER BCDC as is GDP. Jobs have been lost each month since January. Total hours worked is my personal favorite, because in addition to employment it captures the length of the workweek, which firms tend to cut before they lay off workers. ...