Research Discussion Paper – RDP 2002-05 Real-time National Accounts Data


Quarterly national accounts data are amongst the most important and eagerly awaited economic information available, with estimates of recent growth regarded as a key summary indicator of the current health of the Australian economy. Official estimates of quarterly output are, however, subject to uncertainty and subsequent revision. Hence, the official estimates of quarterly national accounts aggregates, with which policy-makers must work, may in practice be an inaccurate guide to their ‘true’ values, not just initially but even for some time after the event.

In this paper we examine over 120 vintages of Australian GDP data to provide an historical assessment of the scale and persistence of real-time errors in the measurement of actual output. The issue of whether it is possible to obtain reliable real-time estimates of the output gap is addressed in detail in a companion paper (Gruen, Robinson and Stone 2002).