Friday, August 26, 2011

Real Gross Domestic Income above Pre-Recession Peak

by Bill McBride on 8/26/2011 06:15:00 PM

There are really two measures of GDP: 1) real GDP, and 2) real Gross Domestic Income (GDI). The BEA also released Q2 GDI today as part of the second estimate for Q2 GDP. Recent research suggests that early releases of GDI is often more accurate than GDP.

For a discussion on GDI, see from Fed economist Jeremy Nalewaik, “Income and Product Side Estimates of US Output Growth,” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. An excerpt:

The U.S. produces two conceptually identical official measures of its economic output, currently called Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross Domestic Income (GDI). These two measures have shown markedly different business cycle fluctuations over the past twenty five years, with GDI showing a more-pronounced cycle than GDP. These differences have become particularly glaring over the latest cyclical downturn, which appears considerably worse along several dimensions when looking at GDI. ...

In discussing the information content of these two sets of estimates, the confusion often starts with the nomenclature. GDP can mean either the true output variable of interest, or an estimate of that output variable based on the expenditure approach. Since these are two very different things, using “GDP” for both is confusing. Furthermore, since GDI has a different name than GDP, it may not be initially clear that GDI measures the same concept as GDP, using the equally valid income approach.
The following graph is constructed as a percent of the previous peak in both GDP and GDI. This shows when the indicator has bottomed - and when the indicator has returned to the level of the previous peak. If the indicator is at a new peak, the value is 100%.

GDP and GDI as percent of previous peakClick on graph for larger image in graph gallery.

It appears that GDP bottomed in Q2 2009 and GDI in Q3 2009. Real GDP is still below the pre-recession peak in Q2 2011, but real GDI is finally above the previous peak. Also real GDI increased 2.7% annualized in Q1 (GDP increased only 0.4%), and real GDI increased 1.6% in Q2 (GDP increased 1.0%).

Note: Mark Thoma and Justin Wolfers mentioned this earlier today.

However, by other measures - like real personal income less transfer payments and employment - the economy is still far below the pre-recession peak.

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