Measuring Real Manufacturing and Trade Industry Sales

Published: 04/01/2024
Updated: 04/02/2024

The real manufacturing and trade sales indicator provides early insights into the future direction of the economy

by Kristen Stephenson

Last year, GPEC launched the Economic Monitor, a comprehensive web tool designed to provide timely, actionable insights into the state of the economy. Through an exploration of key economic indicators, the Economic Monitor offers a concise picture of health at both national and regional levels.

Each month, I’m diving into one of the indicators from the Monitor to share in greater detail what the metric measures are, why it matters to the economy and what the current numbers tell us. This month we’re going to look at manufacturing and trade sales and what they tell us about the economy.

What do real manufacturing and trade industry sales measure?

This indicator measures the combined value of the manufacturing, wholesale trade and retail trade industries. The economic monitor tracks the “real” value, which includes inflationary effects, to understand the true impact on the economy. The data is reported on an annualized basis but is seasonally adjusted monthly and quarterly.

Real manufacturing and trade sales are part of the underlying detail tables that factor into the Bureau of Economic Analysis National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA), which report economic factors such as gross domestic product, personal income and expenditures, savings and investments, and income and employment.

Why do real manufacturing and trade sales matter?

Real manufacturing and trade sales are an indicator of whether production is increasing or decreasing. This tends to decline during recessions and increase during expansionary time periods, which provides early insight into the direction the economy is heading.

What do the current numbers say?

Data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis shows that real manufacturing and trade industry sales were estimated at $1,502 B annually for January 2024. This is down 1.4% compared to December 2023, when the indicator measured $1,524 B. All three components of the index were down, with manufacturing decreasing 1.3%, wholesale trade decreasing 2.1% and retail trade decreasing 0.8%

There was a small increase of 0.4% compared to the same time last year, when the indicator measured at $1,497 B. Within the various components, manufacturing is up 0.1% compared to last year, wholesale trade has increased 0.1% and retail trade increased 0.9%.

To monitor real manufacturing and trade sales in real time along with me, mapped alongside 13 other key indicators of health, visit We hope you find the Monitor a valuable tool in understanding the ever-changing economic landscape.

See Economic Monitor