Some Basic Economic Indicators

There are a lot of economic reports and indicators that are announced and released every day on business news programs. These statistics are released by either education institutions, government agencies or by private investment research firms. This information never fails to make the stock market indicators go up or down [sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot]. In this and the next page we try to give you a basic overview of some of this information.


Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The textbook definition of GDP is the market value of all goods and services produced in a region during a period of time (usually measured quarterly or annually). This indicator is typically expressed as "Real GDP" because the Commerce Department adjusts the information to remove changes in price (inflation). This is a very good top-level guage of the overall health of an economy. This information [as well as other information] is used by the Federal Reserve to change monetary policy, like interest rates or the amount of money to be introduced into the economy.


This information is calculated by the US Department of Commerce on a quarterly basis typically within 30-40 days of the end of a quarter. There are typically 3 announcements for the quarterly GDP; Advance Estimates, Preliminary Estimates and Final Estimates. The Commerce Department can be accessed at:

Commerce Department

Bureau of Economic Analysis


Consumer Price Index(CPI)

This indicator is a statistic which measures the changes in cost of living in an urban area. The CPI measures changes in the prices for goods and services for a specified period (typically measured on a monthly basis). The CPI does not include EVERY item within the scope of goods and services but uses a sample of about 200 items in its measurements but does not include any taxes (except sales taxes) or investments in stocks, bonds, etc.

As you might already know, the CPI is a measure of inflation. More information on CPI is available at:

US Department of Labor

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Consumer Price Index Home Page


Producer Price Index (PPI)

The next indicator is very much related to the CPI, this is the PPI. This indicator is similar to the PPI, but measures the changes in the SELLING price of goods and services, which is a little different than the CPI which measures the purchase price. This is the business-side equivalent to the CPI which measures the consumer. The PPI reviews price changes in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, manufacturing, etc. The prices of over 20,000 firms are tracked.

The PPI is the first inflation measure available every month and also, this indicator measures the changes before they hit the consumer. For example, the PPI includes changes in the price of oil, which is one of the first items in the production chain and can be used to predict future changes in CPI.

More information on CPI is available at:

US Department of Labor

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Producer Price Index Home Page

There are a lot of economic reports and indicators that are announced and released every day on business news programs. These statistics are released by either education institutions, government agencies or by private investment research firms. This information never fails to make the stock market indicators go up or down [sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot]. In this and the next page we try to give you a basic overview of some of this information.


Current Employment Statistics (CES)

The CES is a set of data which provides information on civilian employment. The study uses data from 300,000 companies in over 500 industries. The information available within these statistics include civilian employment and unemployment rates. An employed individual is defined as a full or part time worker as well as temporary and intermittent employees who receive pay for a particular period of time. Also included as employed are individuals on vacation, sick or some other type of leave of absence as well as self-employed unpaid family members and volunteers.

Employment statistics are an early indicator of economic trends. Wage and income figures are indicators of changes in the cost of labor for businesses. The key statistic that is released regarding employment is the changes in total non-farm payrolls. This data is available at:

Bureau of Economic Analysis

Employment Statistics


S&P 500 Stock Index

This is a stock index reported by Standard and Poor's Corporation (a division of McGraw-Hill). A stock index is a market-value-weighted measure of the value of a group of stocks, in this case it is an index of 500 publicly owned stocks. The stocks in the index are chosed based on industry group representation, liquidity and market size. This index was designed to measure the nation's capital stock. Growth of this index indicates future business growth as well as the confidence level of consumers. Daily fluctuations in the index are significantly less telling than the long-term trends that the index can illustrate.

This data is reported at almost any investment or business web site as well as:

Standard & Poor's Corp

Yahoo Finance

Written byFinPlan

FinPlan was founded back in the early 1990s as a software development company, where we created personal financial planning software. Our work there naturally led to the web and 4 different redesigns later, here we are.