1. Determine the current and historical growth of U.S. real gross domestic product. Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 (that is, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter), according to the "advance" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter of 2011, real GDP increased 3.0 percent. The increase in real GDP in the first quarter reflected positive contributions from personalconsumption expenditures (PCE), exports, residential fixed investment, nonresidential fixed investment, and private inventory investment that were partly offset by negative contributions from federal government spending and state and local government spending. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased. The deceleration in real GDP in the first quarter primarily reflected decelerations in private inventory investment and in nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by accelerations in PCE, in exports, and in residential fixed investment and a deceleration in imports.
2. Identify the components of the measurement of the nation's gross domestic product. In the United States, the GDP and the national accounts estimates are fundamentally based on detailed economic census data and other information that is available only once every ﬁve years. The challenge lies in developing a framework and methods that take these economic census data and combine them using a mosaic of monthly, quarterly, and annual economic indicators to produce quarterly and annual GDP estimates. For example, one problem is that the other economic indicators that are used to extrapolate GDP in between the ﬁve-year economic census data—such as retail sales,...