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What is the Bureau of Economic Analysis?

David Larson
David Larson

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is an integral part of the Department of Commerce. The BEA serves a complementary function together with another U.S. agency, the Census Bureau, in providing and analyzing statistical economic information for government, industry, and investors. The Bureau of Economic Analysis is generally concerned with the status of the nation’s economic output and trade relations with other countries, while the Census Bureau provides economic data pertaining to United States residents.

The BEA, through data generated by the national income and product accounts (NIPA), provides a report on the gross domestic product (GDP). GDP is a report on the annual quantity of goods and services produced in a given country. Through the GDP, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports on the market value of a country’s economic production, which generally correlates to the country’s standard of living.

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Various methods of calculating GDP are employed that are intended to lead to similar findings. To arrive at GDP, the product approach totals the output of all business activity. The assumption that market value is only established when a product or service is purchased is the foundation for the expenditure approach to gross domestic product, and the income of all producers is summed up to generate data for the income approach to establishing GDP.

As a part of reporting data on the health of the economy in the United States, the Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks consumer debt-to-income ratio or consumer leverage ratio. The consumer’s ability to purchase goods and services depends upon either credit or disposable income, and impacts the financial health of a country. The BEA reports on the ratio of debt to disposable income as a means of providing data for government, lending institutions, and businesses for effective planning and decision making.

Reporting on many of the factors involved in consumer leverage ratios falls to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information on housing starts, employment figures, and the current price of typical goods and services are analyzed to establish a cost of living profile or consumer price index (CPI). The CPI is a method of tracking the purchasing power of consumers, given inflation or price increases.

While CPI as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and GDP data as provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis relate to domestic economic trends and transactions, the BEA also reports on global enterprises and financial transactions by United States corporations. These reports are the gross national product (GNP) or gross national income (GNI), which tracks income for United States business or individuals in foreign enterprise. Through these reports, the Bureau of Economic Analysis provides data for use by business, government, and financial institutions when making the decisions necessary for sound national financial health.

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