Economic indicators need to record the current and future economic activity as quickly and accurately as possible, both globally and for the various sectors and regions separately. This economic activity typically evolves in a fluctuating movement, where periods of growth alternate with periods of decline. This succession of upward and downward movement is called the business cycle.

Politicians, enterprises and citizens require accurate and timely information on the business cycle to be able to make correct decisions. The determining factors in this context are the turning points, the moments when the movement turns from upward to downward or vice versa.

Economic indicators therefore need to be measured as frequently and quickly as possible: usually on a monthly basis and at the latest within a few months after the reference period. The challenge of combining this tight schedule with maximum precision often requires a sophisticated methodology.

Different types of economic indicators are to be distinguished. Leading indicators try to predict future activity; others measure economic activity, market demand, costs, wages and salaries, prices, and the use of several factors of production (the most important of which is labour supplied) during the reference period. In addition there are a number of indicators with merely monetary and financial relevance.


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