Machine learning vs. traditional forecasting methods - an application to South African GDP

March, 2019
by Lisa-Cheree Martin


This study employs traditional autoregressive and vector autoregressive forecasting models, as well as machine learning methods of forecasting, in order to compare the performance of each of these techniques. Each technique is used to forecast the percentage change of quarterly South African Gross Domestic Product, quarter-on-quarter. It is found that machine learning methods outperform traditional methods according to the chosen criteria of minimising root mean squared error and maximising correlation with the actual trend of the data. Overall, the outcomes suggest that machine learning methods are a viable option for policy-makers to use, in order to aid their decision-making process regarding trends in macroeconomic data. As this study is limited by data availability, it is recommended that policy-makers consider further exploration of these techniques.

Download SA-TIED Working Paper #45