Don't Ditch the GDP

Want to measure happiness? Great. Health? Swell. But don't ruin the best gauge we have of economic activity

Corbis

On the last day of April, the folks at the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis will announce how much they think the U.S. economy grew--or didn't--in the first quarter of this year. This "advance" estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) will stand as the clearest indicator yet of whether the U.S. has fallen into a recession.

Until May 29, that is, when Commerce releases a revised "preliminary" GDP number. On June 26 comes the "final" first-quarter GDP, but even that won't really be final: in a few years there will be a "benchmark revision" that changes everything yet again.

This...

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