Know The Bureau of Economic Analysis –

Understanding national and international economics is important for business owners and citizens of any state – Texas, Nevada, Kansas – alike. Business owners, in particular, know that keeping abreast of domestic and international market conditions and economic trends help them manage cost and risk and increase profits. News savvy individuals have become increasingly aware of the role international economic situations play on their pocketbooks, and how domestic economic policy affects their future.

Last year’s debt ceiling crisis and the upcoming fiscal cliff are just two examples of why it is imperative that citizens be informed on economic issues. Although daunting for the novice, learning about the economy does not require an economics career. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has a variety of resources to help the average citizen understand the economy and leverage economic data to their best advantage.

Glossary of Economic Terms

Economic Indicators: Statistics about the economy that help with understanding it and making predictions about it in the future.

Employment Projections: Estimates of what the U.S. labor market will look like 10 years in the future.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP): The production (output) of goods and services made by labor and property in the United States.

Consumer Price Index: A percentage of the monthly change in the price paid for a representative basket of typical consumer goods.

Unemployment Rates: Information on joblessness, compiled monthly and available for the nation, for each state and even for local areas.

Using the BEA

The BEA offers reams of data that cater to a variety of interests. News media have long relied on the solid economic statistics compiled and made available by the BEA in their business, finance and economic reporting. Similarly, academics, researchers and analysts have used this data when interpreting the current state of the economy, upcoming trends and making forecasts, both national and state-based.

Savvy citizens and business owners have also depended upon the reliable data produced by the BEA when deciding whether or not to take out a loan, hire help or support a candidate for office. For quick information, many go to the U.S. Economy at a Glance page where the most-requested, up-to-date information is found. Providing the macro view, individuals will find large economic indicators like the percentage growth in GDP, personal income and industries.

Another useful page is BEA’s Newsroom; although designed for media professionals, curious individuals find interactive tables, state and local economic information and answers to common questions. Novice users can quickly find the latest important economic information just by reviewing the most recent press releases.

The BEA is the sole source for some of the key economic indicators used by people when making decisions about their financial future. These include the balance of payments, which shows the condition of international trade, corporate profits, the GDP (including for states and large cities), personal income, outlays and consumption.

To make good economic decisions, individuals as well as business owners must understand the state of the economy. Although confusing at first, by spending a little time surfing with economic data at helpful sites like BEA, anyone can quickly develop a sufficient mastery of economic terms and data to be able to speak intelligently about our economy.

Other Useful Resources

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps track of employment information and produces the Unemployment Rates. BLS also makes employment projections and maintains the Consumer Price Index

The Census Bureau also compiles a number of economic indicators including, of course, population, median income, community-level information and the 10-year census. Every five years, the bureau also creates a detailed economic census of the national and local economies.

The Council of Economic Advisors prepares a monthly publication of Economic Indicators for the U.S. Congress’ Joint Economic Committee that is a useful resource for individuals and researchers alike.

The Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA) collects12 economic indicators from several different sources, including the Census Bureau and the BEA. These indicators include Advance Monthly Retail Sales, Advance Report on Durable Goods, Construction Spending, GDP, Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories, and Orders, Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales, New Home Sales, Personal Income and Spending, U.S. Trade Balance and Wholesale Trade.

The Federal Reserve Board manages U.S. monetary policy with an eye toward maximizing employment, keeping prices stable and moderating interest rates. Its economists conduct interesting research and produce data on financial issues such as consumer credit and cash reserves.