Visualizing GDP: An Inside Look At The Q3 ThirdEstimate

Note: The charts in this commentary have been updated to include the Q3 2018 Third Estimate released this morning.

The chart below is a way to visualize real GDP change since 2007. It uses a stacked column chart to segment the four major components of GDP with a dashed line overlay to show the sum of the four, which is real GDP itself. Here is the latest overview from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 3.4 percent in the third quarter of 2018 (table 1), according to the "third" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 4.2 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the "second" estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was 3.5 percent. With this third estimate for the third quarter, personal consumption expenditures (PCE) and exports were revised down, and private inventory investment was revised up; the general picture of economic growth remains the same (see "Updates to GDP" on page 2). [more here]

Let's take a closer look at the contributions of GDP of the four major subcomponents. The data source for this chart is the Excel file accompanying the BEA's latest GDP news release (see the links in the right column). Specifically, it uses Table 2: Contributions to Percent Change in Real Gross Domestic Product.

(Click on image to enlarge)

GDP Components

Note: The conventional practice is to round GDP to one decimal place, the latest at 3.4%. The GDP in the chart above is the real GDP calculated to two decimal places.

Here is a chart of the latest estimates.

Over the time frame of this chart, the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) component has shown the most consistent correlation with real GDP itself. When PCE has been positive, GDP has usually been positive, and vice versa. In the latest GDP data, the contribution of PCE came at 2.37 of the 3.36 real GDP, up from the previous revision and still a positive contribution to Q3 GDP.

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