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The following information should be used to ensure a clear understanding of the basics concepts that define the data provided in this product, of the underlying methodology, and of key aspects of data quality. This information will provide users with a better understanding of the strengths and limitations of the data, and how they can be effectively used and analysed.

Concepts and variables measured
Data sources and methodology
Data quality (accuracy)
Comparability of data and related sources

Concepts and variables measured

The National Balance Sheet Accounts (NBSA) are statements of the non-financial assets owned/used in the sectors of the economy and of the financial claims outstanding among the economic units in the sectors in the economy. They consist of the National Balance Sheet for the nation as a whole, as well as the underlying sector balance sheets.

At the core of the NBSA are assets and liabilities and the concept of wealth, or net worth. In nominal terms, wealth accumulates as the result of: economic and financial activity in the Income and Expenditure Accounts and Financial Flow Accounts, respectively; and, changes in the prices of assets and liabilities.

Sector balance sheets

The NBSA is an integrated set of balance sheets - non-financial assets, financial assets, liabilities and net worth - for the sectors of the economy. This comprises four major sectors of the economy: persons and unincorporated businesses, corporations, governments and non-residents. The non-resident sector is the detail on Canada's International Investment position. The corporate sector is broken down into a number of sub-sectors with the bulk of this detail comprising the balance sheets of the financial institutions, reflecting the importance of the financial system. The government sector assets and liabilities are available by level of government. In total, there are 30 unique sectors in the NBSA. Financial instruments covered include deposits, bonds, shares, short-term paper, trade accounts, consumer credit, mortgages etc. Users can access credit market debt of the sectors, gross and net debt of government sectors, the structure of household net worth, the composition of the assets of the large institutional investors to name some uses.

National wealth; National net worth

Sector balance sheets excluding the non-resident sector can be aggregated to produce the National Balance Sheet (NBS).

National Wealth is defined as the sum of the non-financial assets in the economy. The standard measure is comprised of produced assets (residential structures, non-residential structures, machinery and equipment, consumer durable goods, inventories) and land. A broader measure of wealth is produced annually which includes the value of natural resources – specifically, timber and major deposits of subsoil assets.

National economies are either net creditor or net debtors, with respect to their financial position vis-à-vis the rest of the world. National Wealth adjusted for the net international investment position yields National Net Worth, and this measure is equivalent to net worth on the (NBS).


All traditional assets and liabilities are in scope. Major natural resources are measured, but for certain others (e.g., diamonds, fish stocks) estimates are yet to be developed. NBSA currently excludes certain intangible assets, such as research and development. Human capital is currently out of scope.


Data are measured in current dollars, though constant dollar estimates of certain components of National Wealth will soon be available.

There are two sets of current dollar NBSA data which are published – a set at book values (published at the detailed sector level) and a set at market values (published at the 4 sector level with the corporate sector split between non-financial and financial corporations). Non-financial assets are at current values, in both sets. In the market value NBSA, only tradable securities (assets and liabilities) are estimated at market values.

Data sources and methodology

The NBSA measure financial positions on a quarterly basis and relies heavily on a wealth of information from various areas of Statistics Canada.


A very large amount of information from various survey divisions within the bureau, along with other data, are compiled, integrated and analysed as part of the process of producing balance sheet estimates for the Canadian economy.

Major suppliers of data within Statistics Canada include Agriculture Division, Investment and Capital Stock Division, Income Statistics Division, Balance of Payments Division, Industrial Organization and Finance Division, Public Institutions Division. There are also a number of external and administrative sources of data used.

General methodology

Assets and liabilities, by detailed categories, are compiled for the major sectors of the economy. Data are analysed for time series consistency, links to current economic events, issues arising from the source data, and finally with respect to coherence. Estimates are reconciled with data in the Income and Expenditure Accounts and Financial Flow Accounts.

For further details on definitions, concepts, sources and methods, please refer to Financial Flow and National Balance Sheet Accounts – Concepts, Definitions, Sources and Methods, catalogue no. 13-585E.

Seasonal adjustment

Quarterly NBSA data series are largely unadjusted for seasonal variation. However, selected quarterly aggregate data series are available on a seasonally-adjusted basis.


Statistical revisions are carried out in order to incorporate the most recent information from quarterly and annual surveys, taxation statistics, public accounts, censuses, etc.

Estimates for each quarter are revised when those for subsequent quarters of the same year are published and when those for the Second quarter of each of the next four years are published. They are not normally revised again except when historical revisions are carried out, usually once per decade. However, the conversion of the NBSA to quarterly frequency (2003) and incorporation of market value estimates (2004) have resulted in the accounts being open back to 1990 at the time of the Second quarter in June of 2003 and 2004.

Reference period

Data are released approximately 75 days after the reference period.

Data quality (accuracy)

No direct measures of the margin of error in the estimates can be calculated. The quality of the estimates can be inferred from analysis of revisions and from a subjective assessment of the data sources and methodology used in the preparation of the estimates.

Comparability of data and related sources

It is not possible to produce an equivalent to the National Wealth or National Net worth; nor is it possible to construct a balance sheet for the household sector, except periodically from household surveys. However, certain sub-sectors of the NBSA are largely comparable to estimates produced by source data divisions (e.g., pension funds, levels of government).