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Three regional economic business stories using BEA Data

July 27, 2016

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The United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis provides national, international and even regional data. The regional economic accounts show the geographic distribution of U.S. economic activity. Below are some regional economic accounts to look at and story ideas that could come from each one.

GDP by State and Metropolitan Area

Gross Domestic Product data is broken up into both state and metropolitan area. This data includes the distribution of the nation’s output produced in each state and the portion of each industry’s output by state and metro area. The figures raise the following questions for reporters:

  • How much does your state or metro area contribute to the national GDP? For example, the GDP information for Albany, Georgia reaches back to 2001 and is organized by industry.
  • Which industry contributes the most to the local GDP and overall national GDP?

Data is also organized by real GDP in chained dollars, per capita real GDP, subsidies, gross operating surplus and more. Real GDP is GDP adjusted for price changes like inflation or deflation. Quarterly GDP data is also available by state.

Other trends to consider each quarter include:

  • How states are affecting the real GDP? In the fourth quarter of 2015, real GDP increased in 41 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Which states saw the highest, or lowest, change in growth? In the fourth quarter of 2015, Indiana had the largest increase at 3 percent.
  • Why did this state see such an increase in real GDP?
  • Which industries contributed to this?
  • How has it affected the state economy?

State and Local Area Income

This data looks at the income for states, counties and metropolitan areas. States use this data to project tax receipts and set spending caps. Reporters can look at many data sets to look at under this category. For example, when looking at annual state personal income and employment, 12 different data sets exist. Reporters can find data for personal income, population and per capita income for every state dating back for decades. This data is good for trend stories. For example, Arizona’s personal income summary data dates back to 1929. To help readers visualize the figures for this or other states, you could make a graph of the per capita personal income from the start of the data until today, and see how that might correlate with the state economy’s performance. 

Regional Input-Output Multipliers

This data provides measures of the economy-wide impacts of changes in government regulations, policies or programs as well as in private-sector economic development plans. Business reporters can use this data to study the effects of natural disasters, terrorist attacks and fire relocation among other events. For example, if an economic development corporation plans for a long-term increase in tourism, they could study the local impacts of this event on their area beforehand. Reporters must order this data through the Bureau of Economic Analysis here. However, this insight could really add color and statistical evidence to a story on how a certain event could impact an area or industry in your region.

For more regional economic data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, click here. The BEA also provides a release schedule for regional statistics here.


  • Chloe Nordquist

    Chloe Nordquist is a national journalist for the E.W. Scripps Company. She has a passion for telling community stories and giving a voice to the voiceless. Chloe has had the opportunity to report across the world, as far as Milan and Berlin. Previous...

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