Business Survey Workshop Shares Best Practices, Insights

Central banks rely on an array of data to inform monetary policymaking. In addition to closely followed statistics such as the unemployment rate and gross domestic product (GDP), a growing number of central banks conduct business surveys to gather economic intelligence.

Survey practitioners gathered at the Atlanta Fed on October 28–29 to share best practices and insights related to central bank economic intelligence programs. The workshop, now in its fourth year, drew representatives from 20 central banks.

Although central banks differ in their survey designs and methodology, some common themes emerged. For one, survey practitioners face similar challenges in building strong relationships with business communities, interpreting survey responses and anecdotal data, and using the data to formulate monetary policy.

In addition to several panel discussions, the two-day event featured presentations on survey design and methods, data collection, and regional analysis. Elisabeth Kremp, a deputy director at the Bank of France (BdF), shared how the bank uses its network of regional branches to gather economic intelligence. The BdF conducts several business surveys, the results of which shed light on business sentiment and also help economists estimate current GDP.

Another presentation by the Reserve Bank of Australia’s David Orsmond described how that central bank collects anecdotal information from industry contacts and feeds that data into the policymaking process. In addition to filling in the gaps in the data, the economic intelligence they gather also helps economists better understand the real story behind the headline numbers, Orsmond explained.

The workshop also featured presentations on using data for forecasting, combining quantitative survey results and anecdotal information, and using surveys to measure inflation expectations.

To learn more about central bank business surveys from around the world, check out the Central Bank Business Survey Database. The database allows users to filter through nearly 100 surveys and find detailed information about each one.