The Commerce Department unveiled plans Wednesday for a new economic indicator designed to keep better track of revenues from software publishers, broadcasting firms and other businesses in the broad services industry.

The Quarterly Services Survey (search) is the first new economic indicator in nearly four decades from the department's Census Bureau (search), Commerce undersecretary Kathleen Cooper said at a news conference.

The first results from the new survey, to be released Monday, cover the last three months of 2003 and the first half of 2004. Initial data will focus on high growth areas and industries sensitive to changes in the business cycle, including telecommunications, software companies and media and employment services.

Plans call for the survey to expand next year to cover hospitals and nursing and residential care facilities.

The survey will eventually help improve government reports on gross domestic product, which measures the total value of goods and services produced within the United States and is considered the best barometer of the economy's health, federal economists have said.

Previously, data on the services sector was updated just once a year, but Cooper said the increasing importance of such firms in the economy led to a need for more timely statistics.

Cooper brushed aside suggestions that the new data might offer positive economic news for President Bush, who is in the midst of a tight re-election campaign. The results to be released Monday won't be seasonally adjusted and therefore can't be compared to data from previous years, she said.