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What is output?


Output is a measure of the production of goods and services, whether of a particular firm or industrial sector, of a nation as a whole or of the global economy. There are various methods of calculating output, and in general measurement becomes less precise the larger the entity whose output is being gauged.

Where have you heard about output?

At the level of the firm or business sector, you may have seen reference to output figures in the financial media or in the reports of companies whose shares you own. At the national or international level, economists, politicians, business people and commentators scrutinise economic output and try to forecast the rate at which it is growing.

What you need to know about output.

Output is the key measure of economic activity. It shows how much a country, an industry or even a single business is producing in terms of goods or services.

A company's output is reasonably easy to measure, whether in terms of numbers of products turned out by a factory or fees charged by a firm of professional advisers. Business-sector numbers are more problematic, as they tend to be derived from sampling of some but not all firms in the industry concerned.

Best-known are the attempts to measure output on a national scale. Gross domestic product (GDP) counts all economic activity in a country regardless of whether some of it ends up abroad, whereas gross national product (GNP) deducts profits repatriated to foreign owners but unlike GDP counts in profits brought home from foreign countries.

Find out more about output.

To learn more about the context in which output is measured, see our definition of economics.

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