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An in-depth analysis by CNBC of the government's reports on gross domestic product suggests large and persistent errors that should give investors, business executives and policymakers pause in relying on the data for key decisions.
CNBC looked at each quarterly report going back to 1990 and found an average error rate of 1.3 percentage points. So an initial report of 2 percent growth on average later would be revised to 3.3 percent or 0.7 percent.
The research does not show any systematic overstatement or understatement of growth, just persistently large revisions.
CNBC also found:
The errors have potentially important policy implications. On April 30, 2008, with the Great Recession just gathering steam, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by one-quarter point to 2 percent. That same day, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the agency that produces the GDP report, announced that the economy was growing an anemic 0.6 percent but still growing.