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Initial Estimates Show Digital Economy Accounted for 6.5 Percent of GDP in 2016

March 15, 2018 by NTIA

This blog post was cross-posted on BEA's website.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis released, for the first time, preliminary statistics and an accompanying report exploring the size and growth of the digital economy. Goods and services that are primarily digital accounted for 6.5 percent of the U.S. economy, or $1.2 trillion, in 2016, after a decade of growing faster than the U.S. economy overall, BEA’s research shows. These new estimates are supported in part by funding from NTIA.

From 2006 to 2016, the digital economy grew at an average annual rate of 5.6 percent, outpacing overall U.S. economic growth of 1.5 percent per year.

In 2016, the digital economy supported 5.9 million jobs, or 3.9 percent of total U.S. employment. Digital economy employees earned $114,275 in average annual compensation compared with $66,498 per worker for the total U.S. economy.

BEA includes in its definition of the digital economy three major types of goods and services:

  • the digital-enabling infrastructure needed for an interconnected computer network to exist and operate
  • the e-commerce transactions that take place using that system
  • digital media, which is the content that digital economy users create and access.

Under this definition, that includes goods and services, such as computer hardware and software, telecommunications services, margins on retail e-commerce transactions, and subscriptions to online streaming services, to name a few.

Because of the limitations of available data, the estimates released today include only goods and services that are “primarily digital.” This means that some components of the digital economy, like peer-to-peer (P2P) e-commerce, also known as the sharing economy, are excluded from the initial estimates. P2P transactions such as ride-sharing services rely on internet-enabled devices to match supply and demand, but also have a non-digital component of in-person provision of services.

The estimates pull out information about the digital economy already embedded in BEA’s core statistics, such as GDP, and are the first step toward a future digital economy satellite account. Satellite accounts, like those for outdoor recreation or arts and culture, complement BEA’s core statistics by focusing on a specific industry or activity.

You can find the report and the data on the digital economy page at bea.gov. To submit comments or feedback or to ask a question about these new estimates, email DigitalEconomy@bea.gov. Feedback will help BEA refine and expand the digital economy estimates moving forward.