What is the Bureau of Economic Analysis?

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is an integral part of the Department of Commerce. The BEA plays a complementary role with another US 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 state of the country’s economic production and trade relations with other countries, while the Census Bureau provides economic data relating to US residents.

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

Various methods of calculating GDP are used with the aim of leading to similar conclusions. To arrive at GDP, the product approach totals the output of all business activities. The assumption that market value is only established when a product or service is purchased is the basis for the gross domestic product expenditure approach, and the income of all producers is summed to generate data for the income approach to establish the GDP.

As part of the report data on the health of the economy in the United States, the Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks the consumer debt-to-income ratio or consumer leverage ratio. A consumer’s ability to buy goods and services depends on credit or disposable income and affects a country’s financial health. BEA reports on the relationship between debt and disposable income as a means of providing data to government, credit institutions and companies for effective planning and decision making.

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Reporting on many of the factors involved in consumer leverage ratios falls to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Information on housing starts, job numbers, 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 consumers’ purchasing power, given inflation or price increases.

While the CPI, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and GDP data, provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, relate to domestic economic trends and transactions, the BEA also reports global companies and financial transactions by US corporations. These reports are Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross National Income (GNI), which tracks the revenue of US companies or individuals in foreign companies. Through these reports, the Bureau of Economic Analysis provides data for use by businesses, government and financial institutions in making the decisions necessary for sound national financial health.

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