Economic Statistics:

Status Report on the Initiative to Improve Economic Statistics

GGD-95-98: Published: Jul 7, 1995. Publicly Released: Jul 7, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the actions taken by federal agencies to implement the Economics Statistics Initiative (ESI), focusing on: (1) the Council of Economic Advisers' (CEA) recommendations that comprise ESI and the context of their development; (2) the agencies' ESI implementation plans and the associated budget resources requested and received for fiscal year (FY) 1990 through FY 1994; (3) ESI implementation actions through May 1994; (4) other completed or ongoing major program improvements outside of ESI; and (5) FY 1995 budget resources requested and received for economic statistical improvements and the agencies' views on what is needed to make further statistical improvements.

GAO found that: (1) CEA made 38 near-term ESI recommendations to address well-known problems in economic statistics, particularly in measuring output and quality improvements to goods and services in a rapidly changing economy; (2) the federal agencies responsible for ESI implementation made plans to implement most of the ESI recommendations and requested more than $95 million and received about $50 million from FY 1990 through FY 1994 to implement their plans; (3) as of May 1994, most of the agencies' implementation plans were still in progress and agencies cited budget limitations for delaying their development; (4) some agencies considered other ongoing nonESI efforts to improve economic statistics responsive to ESI and did not make new plans; (5) the agencies believed further efforts were needed to improve economic statistics, since ESI was never meant to address all the problems with economic statistics and many ESI plans were not completed; (6) the agencies have requested $38 million for additional statistics improvements in FY 1995 and, as of December 1994, $18 million in appropriations had been approved; and (7) senior policy officials believe that more funding and better leadership is needed to further improve economic statistics.

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