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Gross Domestic Product: September 2010 quarter
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  23 December 2010
Technical notes


Gross domestic product (GDP) is New Zealand's official measure of economic growth.

There are three different approaches that can be taken to calculate GDP; the production approach, the expenditure approach, and the income approach. The two approaches used to calculate New Zealand's GDP on a quarterly basis are the production and expenditure approaches. The production approach is available quarterly on a chain-volume basis, while the expenditure approach is available on a chain-volume basis, and in current prices. Chain-volume estimates have the effect of price change (inflation) removed from them.

The production approach to GDP measures the total value of goods and services produced in New Zealand, after deducting the cost of goods and services used in the process of production. This is also known as the value-added approach.

The expenditure approach to GDP (also known as GDE) measures the final purchases of goods and services produced in the New Zealand domestic territory. Exports are added to domestic consumption, as they represent goods and services produced in New Zealand, while imports are subtracted. Imports represent goods and services produced by other economies.

Conceptually, both the production-based and expenditure-based GDP series should produce the same growth rates, because what is produced by an economy should equal what is used. However, as each series uses independent data and estimation techniques, some differences between the alternative measures arise. The expenditure-based series has historically shown more quarterly volatility and is more likely to be subject to timing and valuation problems. For these reasons, the production-based measure is the preferred measure for quarter-on-quarter and annual changes.

For more information about GDP and the national accounts, go to the GDP landing page on the Statistics NZ website (

Quarterly gross domestic product: sources and methods

The sources and methods used in the compilation of quarterly GDP are presented in Quarterly Gross Domestic Product: Sources and Methods (Second edition) report. A free electronic version is available on the Statistics New Zealand website ( or contact the information centre (call toll-free 0508 525 525 or email for hard copies.

Series available online

To access more data from the GDP time series, go to Infoshare at, and choose:

Subject category: Economic indicators

Group: National Accounts

The time series can be downloaded in Excel or comma delimited format. More detailed GDP tables can be created using search files which are available on request. See the technical information contacts listed at the end of the commentary of this release.

More information about Infoshare.

Implementation of Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification 2006 (ANZSIC06)

The production measure of GDP is presented by industry. The industry classification that Statistics NZ uses is ANZSIC, and the version that is used for GDP is ANZSIC96. Statistics NZ is currently in the process of converting to the newer standard, ANZSIC06. For more information about the implementation of ANZSIC06, refer to Introduction to ANZSIC 2006 on the Statistics NZ website (

The System of National Accounts

The conceptual framework used in the compilation of New Zealand's national accounts and GDP is based on the System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA93). The SNA93 is jointly published by the United Nations, The Commission of the European Communities, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Bank.

The latest international standard for National Accounts compilation is the System of National Accounts 2008 (SNA08). So far Australia is the only country to have adopted SNA08. European countries are targeting 2015 for implementation of the new standard. Statistics New Zealand is likely to introduce SNA08 into the New Zealand accounts after 2012.

Use of Quarterly Employment Survey data

Hours worked data from the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) is used in the compilation of economic activity for the following industries:

  • cultural and recreational services
  • personal and other services
  • health and community services
  • business services
  • water supply.

The QES now uses the ANZSIC06 industry classification, while GDP is still calculated using ANZSIC96. For the industries in GDP that use QES as an indicator, forward estimates of ANZSIC96, based on ANZSIC06 survey data, are being used.

Chain-volume series expressed in 1995/96 prices

The series in this release are chain-linked and expressed in the average prices of the 1995/96 year. They are best described as annually reweighted, chained Laspeyres volume indexes. Series are expressed in 1995/96 dollars rather than as index numbers, since this has the advantage of showing the relative size of each component.

The chain-volume measures of GDP and expenditure on GDP are constructed by:

(a) compiling a Laspeyres volume index of the component in question, using the previous year's prices as weights; and then

(b) chaining the sequence of annual movements to produce a continuous time series.

This procedure is used at different levels within the accounts. For example, GDP is compiled by weighting together the individual industry value-added components to produce a Laspeyres volume index for each quarter, and then linking the resulting indexes to produce the GDP time series. Each industry component, such as transport and communication, is also a chained-volume series. At this lowest level, the 'elemental series' are not chained and are either single series in their own right or fixed-weight series comprising a number of components. Chaining is not adopted, either because the detailed information needed for annual weights is not available, or relative price changes are not considered significant.

It is important to note that chain-volume series are not additive (ie the chain-volume series for an aggregate will not equal the sum of the values of its components). For a full explanation, see the report Chain Volume Measures in National Accounts, available on the Statistics NZ website ( This report, published as a discussion document in 1998, contains a detailed discussion of the concepts and procedures used to compile chain-volume series.

In most cases, the industry 'elemental series' estimates that make up the production-based GDP are calculated by extrapolating value added, using indicator series that represent the quantities of output produced. The technique known as double deflation, by which volume value added is calculated as the difference between volume outputs and inputs, is not widely used. Double deflation is currently used for the agriculture and electricity industries on a quarterly basis, and for water transport, business services, cultural and recreational services, and personal and other services on an annual basis.

Implicit price deflators

Table 5.1 contains implicit price deflators (IPDs) for expenditure on GDP and its components. IPDs provide a broad measure of price change for total economic activity and each of the expenditure components. They are calculated by dividing the seasonally adjusted current price quarterly series by the equivalent chain-volume series, and consequently provide an estimate of price change between the base period and any other period, using the quantity weights in the latter period. Because weights change from period to period, a change in an IPD between any two periods, neither of which is the base period, reflects changes in both actual prices and weights or compositional changes. Significant compositional changes may result in the IPDs being an unreliable estimate of price change. This problem is more likely to occur in the gross national expenditure (GNE) and expenditure on GDP aggregates, because both include the change in inventories item, which is highly subject to compositional changes, including a change in sign.

Revisions policy

Revisions to the previously published series may be made each quarter. The frequency and cause of these revisions are as follows:

  • Quarterly: additional data becoming available for the latest quarters, which is used to replace existing estimates; revisions to quarterly data (eg revisions to the Balance of Payments or Retail Trade Survey), which will be incorporated as soon as possible to maintain consistency between published macro-economic statistics.
  • Annual: introduction of annual data following the release of the latest annual national accounts each year; annual updating of the weights used to link component series to totals and subsequent chaining (see revisions resulting from chain-linking below).
  • Irregular: for example, methodological changes. However, note that as far as possible, revisions of this nature are incorporated to coincide with the annual cycle of revisions outlined above or are discussed in a separate paper ahead of the changes.

In addition, each of the above causes for revision, and/or the addition of a new point in the actual quarterly series, has the potential to alter seasonal factors and therefore may lead to a revision in the seasonally adjusted series.

Revisions resulting from chain-linking

One of the key benefits gained through adopting chain-volume measures in place of fixed-weight series is that the relative weights of the component series are more up-to-date. This reduces the likelihood of introducing biases in the volume measures, which would otherwise become progressively unrepresentative as relative prices change. However, the disadvantage is that the annual reweighting introduces another cause for revision.

Reweighting is part of the annual revisions cycle and is usually timed to coincide with the introduction of other new annual data from the current price GDP accounts. These changes are normally incorporated in the September quarter release, which is published at the end of December.

The current price annual accounts provide the detailed component series needed for weighting the production-based series of GDP. There is usually a two-year time lag before these detailed series are available. The latest year for which up-to-date weights have been used for the production-based series is for the year ended 31 March 2007, and all subsequent quarters use these weights.

Current price data is available on a more timely basis for the components comprising the expenditure-based measure of GDP. As a result, the latest year for which up-to-date weights have been used for the expenditure-based series is for the year ended 31 March 2010, and all subsequent quarters use these weights.

When the weights are updated each year, this procedure results in revisions to all periods beyond the latest year for which detailed series are available (currently 2006/07 for the production-based measure and 2009/10 for the expenditure-based measure).

Direct and indirect seasonal adjustment

The level at which a series is seasonally adjusted is important, since it has the potential to affect the quality of that seasonally adjusted series. The individual component series of the main economic variables can be seasonally adjusted and then summed to derive totals. This is called an indirect seasonal adjustment. Alternatively, the main economic variables can be seasonally adjusted at the total level, independently of the seasonal adjustment of their components. The adjustment of the total of an aggregate series is called a direct seasonal adjustment. The indirect approach has the advantage of retaining additivity, but this applies only to the current price series. While the indirect approach conceptually also provides additivity for volume series, additivity is lost by chain-linking.

The direct approach will often give better results if the component series show similar seasonal patterns. At the most detailed level, the irregular factor may be large compared with the seasonal factor and therefore may make it difficult to perform a proper seasonal adjustment. In a small country such as New Zealand, irregular events can have a strong impact on particular data. However, if the component series show the same seasonal pattern, aggregation often reduces the impact of the irregular factors in the component series. This is particularly relevant for New Zealand, where many economic series are affected by seasonal fluctuations in the primary industries.

Statistics NZ has analysed both the direct and indirect approaches for the two quarterly GDP aggregates: production and expenditure on GDP. The direct approach has been chosen as the preferred method because the resulting series are smoother and more stable.

The residual between the seasonally adjusted components and the aggregates is referred to as the balancing item (see tables 1.2 and 1.3). The balancing item will often show significant seasonal variations. This is to be expected, as it captures the undetected seasonality in the component series.

The level at which seasonal adjustment is applied to quarterly GDP series may differ from other Statistics NZ surveys (eg the Economic Survey of Manufacturing and the Wholesale Trade Survey). These may contribute to differences in the aggregate seasonally adjusted series.

Broad industry groups

In tables 2.1 and 2.4, industry groups are combined to form the following broad groupings, based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC):

  • primary industries (agriculture; fishing, forestry, and mining)
  • goods-producing industries (manufacturing; electricity, gas, and water; construction)
  • service industries (wholesale trade; retail, accommodation, and restaurants; transport and communications; finance, insurance, and business services; government administration and defence; personal and community services).

As well as these industrial groupings, there is an 'unallocated' category, which includes the nominal industry and unallocated taxes on production and imports (import duties, GST and taxes on capital transactions).

Final consumption expenditure

Private final consumption expenditure is the sum of household outlays on consumer goods and services, and the expenditure on non-capital items by private non-profit organisations serving households. General government final consumption expenditure includes both central and local government, as well as health and education.

Annual percentage changes

When using annual percentage changes, care should be taken to ensure that the measures used are correctly understood. Those in tables 2.4, 2.5, and 3.3 compare the level of economic activity in the latest quarter with the level of activity in the corresponding quarter 12 months earlier. Tables 2.7 and 3.5, on the other hand, display the percentage change in the level of GDP and expenditure on GDP, respectively, for the annual period each quarter, compared with the same period 12 months earlier. Annual measures are calculated by summing the series for each four-quarter period, dividing by the sum of the series of the preceding four quarters, and then expressing this as a percentage.

Real gross national disposable income

Gross national disposable income (GNDI) is the income received (less income payable) by New Zealand residents, from both domestic and overseas sources, after taking account of income redistribution by way of international transfers, or gross national income (GNI) plus international transfers.

Real gross national disposable income (RGNDI) measures the real purchasing power of national disposable income, taking into account changes in the terms of trade, and real gains from net investment and transfer income with the rest of the world. Effectively, it is a measure of the volume of goods and services New Zealand residents have command over.

RGNDI is calculated as follows:

chain-volume measure of gross domestic product (production-based measure)
plus a terms of trade effect (trading gain/loss)
equals real gross domestic income
plus real value of total net investment income
equals real gross national income
plus real value of total net transfers
equals real gross national disposable income

where the terms of trade effect is defined as:
current price exports deflated by an imports implicit price index
less chain-volume measure of exports

and the real value of total net investment income equals:
investment income credits
less investment income debits
all deflated by an imports implicit price index

and the real value of total net transfers equals:
transfers credits
less transfers debits
all deflated by an imports implicit price index.

A per capita measure is simply the series in question divided by the projected population of New Zealand. From the March 1991 quarter onwards, the definition used is the 'estimated resident population of New Zealand'. This is defined as New Zealand residents currently in New Zealand plus those temporarily overseas. Overseas tourists visiting New Zealand are excluded from this measure. Before March 1991, the definition used was the 'de facto' population, which excludes New Zealand residents temporarily overseas and includes overseas tourists in New Zealand.

More information

For more information, follow the link to the Statistics NZ website.


Information obtained from Statistics NZ may be freely used, reproduced, or quoted unless otherwise specified. In all cases Statistics NZ must be acknowledged as the source.


While care has been used in processing, analysing and extracting information, Statistics NZ gives no warranty that the information supplied is free from error. Statistics NZ shall not be liable for any loss suffered through the use, directly or indirectly, of any information, product or service.


Timed statistical releases are delivered using postal and electronic services provided by third parties. Delivery of these releases may be delayed by circumstances outside the control of Statistics NZ. Statistics NZ accepts no responsibility for any such delays.

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