January 26, 2023

When the economy is slowing down, firms will accumulate unwanted inventories.   Those inventories still show up in GDP, but they are unsold.  Hence, GDP will be biased upwards.  Similarly, in good times businesses will reduce inventory levels to satisfy demand.  In this case, GDP growth will be understated.

To get a sense of the underlying pace of sales, economists will look at final sales which is GDP less the change  in business inventories. Final sales, which is GDP excluding the change in business inventories, rose1.4% in the fourth quarter after climbing 4.5% in the third quarter after climbing 1.3% in the second quarter.  Given a GDP increase of 2.9% and a 1.4% increase in final sales, inventories added 1.5% to GDP growth in the fourth quarter.

Stephen Slifer


Charleston, SC