The Economic Outlook database is a comprehensive and consistent macroeconomic database of the OECD economies, covering expenditures, foreign trade, output, employment and unemployment, interest rates and exchange rates, the balance of payments, outlays and revenues of government and of households, and government debt. For the non-OECD regions, foreign trade and current account series are available.
Scope and coverage
|Number of series:||7,500|
|Number of countries:||30|
|Data history:||1960 to present|
The OECD Economic Outlook add-on database contains yearly and quarterly data for the historical period. It also contains yearly and quarterly data for the projection period. For this period, quarterly data are only available for the G7 countries and the OECD regions, while yearly data are available for all OECD countries and for non-OECD regions. Quarterly series are seasonally adjusted.
A great number of the projected variables are published in the Outlook in the Annex Tables that covers developments over a decade or so including the projection period.
Variables are defined in such a way that they are as homogenous as possible over the countries. Breaks in underlying series are corrected as far as possible. Sources for the historical data are publications of national statistical agencies and OECD statistical publications such as the Quarterly National Accounts, the Annual National Accounts, the Quarterly Labour Force Statistics, the Annual Labour Force Statistics and the Main Economic Indicators.
What do the projections cover?
Projections of domestic demand components and output (GDP) are made in ‘real’ terms, i.e. adjusted to eliminate the effect of inflation. Labour market developments are summarized by the unemployment rate and inflation is measured by the so-called ‘GDP deflators’, a broader measure of domestically generated inflation but projections of the often cited consumer prices are also provided. As already mentioned, particular attention is given in the projection exercise to ensuring the consistency of international trade volume and price projections, trade representing a principal channel through which developments in one country affect other economies. The current account balance measures a country’s external trade and payments position. It includes trade in goods and services as well as the balance on foreign investment income and official transfers. A vast number of other important variables are projected as well, including among other things, government, business and household accounts, supply potential and output gaps, labour market flows and stocks, short and long term interest rates and monetary aggregates, indicators of competitiveness, foreign trade flows (goods and services) and current external balances.
What differentieates OECD projections from other forecasts?
With so many economic forecasts being published, what are the distinguishing features of the OECD projections? Most importantly, the OECD projections and the accompanying analysis have a clear focus on framing the policy debate in member countries. Moreover, the OECD projection exercise distinguishes itself by a number of special features which are absent in most other forecast:
Who is responsible for the projections and analysis?
The discussions between the OECD and national policy makers are valuable because they harness Member countries' knowledge and expertise. However, while being given due consideration, comments and suggestions from Member countries are not automatically reflected in the final version of the Economic Outlook. In the end, the published projections and analysis reflect the independent assessment of economic conditions in the world economy by the OECD staff economists. The Economic Outlook is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General.
Are OECD projections accurate?
OECD projections are just that, projections and not predictions. Analysis enriches the projections and provides a framework for evaluating outcomes and recommending policy changes. As to the risks, analysis can only point to them, it cannot say precisely which ones will occur or when. Economics is not an exact science. It deals ultimately with human behavior, which changes based on experience and expectations. And it must strive to adapt as economies and economic systems evolve. The OECD regularly reviews its projections for accuracy. A main purpose of these reviews is to isolate whether errors are due to data revisions, to the non-realization of underlying assumptions or to judgmental mistakes about economic conditions and forces shaping the outlook. Indeed sometimes projections show current policies leading to unsatisfactory outcomes, which may lead to policy changes, in turn showing up as (desirable) projection errors. Large projection errors typically occur around major turning points in economic activity. The reasons for this are subject to debate. They may be due to lapses in judgment or a decline in the predictive power of the information available at cyclical turning points.
What are the critical variables and relationships?
The performance of an economy reflects the interaction of many economic variables and underlying relationships. The main economic relationships examined may be summarised as follows:
Projections of private consumption typically take into account real disposable income, household wealth, changes in the rate of inflation, monetary and financial conditions, and leading indicators of consumer confidence and retail sales. Business fixed investment is mainly assessed in relation to non-financial indicators (sales, output and capacity utilisation) and financial variables (cash flow and interest rates). Business survey information is also taken into account. Projections for residential construction take account of demographic trends, housing stocks, real income and financial conditions, and also draw on cyclical indicators for the construction sector. Projections of stockbuilding are usually made with reference to relevant stock-output and stock-sales ratios.
EMPLOYMENT, WAGES AND PRICES
Employment and other labour market trends are generally assessed on the basis of actual and projected output. Important additional elements relate to productivity trends, capacity constraints and costs. Unemployment rate projections are derived from employment and labour supply projections, with the latter assessed on the basis of demographic trends and participation rate assumptions. Wage and earnings assessments take into account a number of key factors, such as the pattern of current wage settlements data as a leading indicator. Labour market demand pressures, productivity rates and the terms of trade also influence the overall projection for real wages and real compensation per employee. The assessment of domestic prices and inflation trends depends crucially on unit costs, the strength of demand and output gaps and foreign prices.
The output gap is measured as the percentage difference between actual GDP in constant prices and estimated potential GDP. Output gaps are difficult to estimate and subject to margins of substantial error. Potential output is based on a production function approach, taking into account the capital stock, changes in labour supply, factor productivities and underlying "non-accelerating inflation rates of unemployment" (NAIRU) for each Member country.
FOREIGN TRADE AND BALANCE OF PAYMENTS
Particular attention is given in the forecasting exercise to ensuring the consistency of international trade volume and price projections, since trade represents a principal channel through which developments in one country affect other economies. The initial projections for aggregated import volumes of goods and services are derived from activity (expenditure) and lagged competitiveness positions. Aggregate goods and services export volume projections are based on developments in export markets and competitiveness positions. Projections for export prices (deflated for goods and services as measured in national account basis) are based initially on movements in unit labour costs, import prices, and competitors’ export prices while import prices are derived as weighted averages of foreign costs and domestic prices. Investment income receipts and payments reflect returns on stocks of external assets and liabilities.