Recent decades have seen advances in using econometric methods to produce more timely and higher-frequency estimates of economic activity at the national level, enabling better tracking of the economy in real time. These advances have not generally been replicated at the sub–national level, likely because of the empirical challenges that nowcasting at a regional level presents, notably, the short time series of available data, changes in data frequency over time, and the hierarchical structure of the data. This paper develops a mixed– frequency Bayesian VAR model to address common features of the regional nowcasting context, using an application to regional productivity in the UK. We evaluate the contribution that different features of our model provide to the accuracy of point and density nowcasts, in particular the role of hierarchical aggregation constraints. We show that these aggregation constraints, imposed in stochastic form, play a key role in delivering improved regional nowcasts; they prove to be more important than adding region-specific predictors when the equivalent national data are known, but not when this aggregate is unknown.
In the US, income and expenditure-side estimates of GDP (GDPI and GDPE) measure "true" GDP with error and are available at a quarterly frequency. Methods exist for using these proxies to produce reconciled quarterly estimates of true GDP. In this paper, we extend these methods to provide reconciled historical true GDP estimates at a monthly frequency. We do this using a Bayesian mixed frequency vector autoregression (MF-VAR) involving GDPE, GDPI, unobserved true GDP, and monthly indicators of short-term economic activity. Our MF-VAR imposes restrictions that reflect a measurement-error perspective (that is, the two GDP proxies are assumed to equal true GDP plus measurement error). Without further restrictions, our model is unidentified. We consider a range of restrictions that allow for point and set identification of true GDP and show that they lead to informative monthly GDP estimates. We illustrate how these new monthly data contribute to our historical understanding of business cycles and we provide a real-time application nowcasting monthly GDP over the pandemic recession.