Why The Times Is Resuming its Emphasis on Annualized Figures for GDP

When the pandemic first disrupted the U.S. economy — and economic data — in 2020, The New York Times changed the way it reported certain government statistics. Now, with the pandemic shock no longer producing exceptional economic gyrations, it is changing back.

On Thursday, with coverage of the Commerce Department’s preliminary estimate of U.S. gross domestic product for the fourth quarter of 2022, The Times is again emphasizing the annualized rate of change from the prior quarter, rather than the simple percentage change from one period to the next.

In the United States, G.D.P. figures have traditionally been reported at an annualized rate, meaning the amount the economy would have grown or shrunk if the quarter-to-quarter change had persisted for an entire year.

Annual rates make it easier to compare data collected over different periods, allowing analysts to see quickly whether growth in a quarter was faster or slower than in 2010, for example, or in the 1990s as a whole.

But annual rates can also be confusing, particularly during periods of rapid change. When shutdowns crippled the economy early in the pandemic, G.D.P. contracted at an annual rate of nearly 30 percent. To nonexperts, that might sound as if economic output had shrunk by nearly a third, when in reality the decline was less than 10 percent.

As a result, The Times decided to emphasize the quarterly change in its coverage, a decision explained in detail at the time. (The Times continued to provide the annualized figures as well.)

But now — despite ongoing disruptions tied to the pandemic and new challenges, like high inflation — economic data is beginning to look more normal. So The Times is returning to its practice of reporting G.D.P. and related statistics as annualized rates.

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