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Percent Change

Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding Percent Change in Excel

Last Updated November 2, 2023

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Percent Change

How to Calculate Percent Change in Excel?

The percent change measures the increase or decrease in the value of a specific metric, expressed in percentage form.

In practice, the percentage change is often used to compare the values of two figures, such as the growth rate in a company’s revenue across a two-year period, or the change in the pricing of a product.

  • Percentage Increase → If the percent change is positive, then the ending value grew relative to the beginning value (i.e. “upward trajectory”).
  • Percentage Decrease → If the percent change is negative, then the ending value declined relative to the beginning value (i.e. “downward trajectory”).

The percent change can be calculated using the following steps:

  1. Calculate the Difference Between the Ending and Beginning Value
  2. Divide the Difference by the Beginning Value
  3. Multiply by 100 to Convert the Decimal into Percentage Form

Conversely, a marginally easier method to calculate the percentage change consists of the following steps:

  1. Divide the Ending Value by the Beginning Value
  2. Subtract 1 from the Quotient
  3. Multiply by 100 to Convert the Decimal into Percentage Form

Percent Change Formula

The percent change formula is as follows.

Percent Change (%) = (Ending Value Beginning Value) ÷ Beginning Value

The difference between the ending value (i.e. current) and beginning value (i.e. original) can either be a positive or negative integer.

Increase / (Decrease) = Ending Value Beginning Value

Percentage Change Equation

The other method to compute the percentage change uses the following formula instead.

Percent Change (%) = (Ending Value ÷ Beginning Value) 1

If calculating the percentage change manually by hand, the resulting figure under either method must be multiplied by 100 to convert the rate into a percentage.

In effect, comparisons between industry peers or historical figures becomes much easier.

What is the Percent Change Keyboard Shortcut in Excel?

By default, Excel returns the computed fraction – i.e. the partial number – in decimal notation.

To convert the output in decimal notation into a percentage in Excel, there are four options:

  1. Click the “%” Symbol in the “Numbers” Group on the “Home” Tab
  2. Select “Percentage” in the Drop-Down List in the “Numbers” Group
  3. Press “Ctrl” + “Shift” + “5”
  4. Press “Alt” + “H” + “P”

Of the four approaches, the latter two do not require any usage of the mouse (and are thus more efficient).

While the difference might initially seem negligible, relying on keyboard shortcuts is far more convenient and results in time savings in the long run.

How to Calculate Percent Change in Excel

How to Format as Percentage in Excel?

There are built-in formatting features in Excel to automatically format a cell value as a percentage.

The final step in which the output is multiplied by 100 is unnecessary if using Excel, assuming the percentage formatting is properly applied to the cell.

By adjusting the settings in Excel, the formatting of cells can be changed into a percentage using the following steps.

  1. Press “Ctrl” + “1” to Open the “Format Cells” Dialog Box
  2. Click “Percentage” in the “Number” Category
  3. Enter the Number of Decimal Places to Display
  4. Press “Enter” or Click “OK” to Format the Selected Cell(s)

Note that the “Percentage” option is among the default selections in Excel, i.e. is part of the generic set of format styles.

Since practically all firms use custom formatting, we recommend becoming familiar with the guidelines around custom formats in Excel, such as displaying negative percentages in parentheses and spacing.

Percentage Format Cells in Excel

How to Change the Number of Decimal Places?

The number of decimal positions shown can be adjusted using keyboard shortcuts.

The option to decrease or increase the number of decimal places can be found in the “Number” group, however, usage of the mouse should be minimized.

To increase the number of decimal places shown, press the following keys.

Increase Number of Decimal Places → Alt + H + 0

On the other hand, to decrease the number of decimal places shown, press the following keys.

Decrease Number of Decimal Places → Alt + H + 9

Note: For the keyboard shortcuts that start with “Alt”, each individual key must be pressed one by one in the stated order, rather than all at once.

Percent Change Calculator

We’ll now move to a modeling exercise, which you can access by filling out the form below.

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1. U.S. GDP Historical Data

Suppose we’re tasked with calculating the percent change in the gross domestic product (GDP) of the U.S. from 2019 to 2022.

The quarterly economic data retrieved by FRED on the historical GDP of the U.S. over the four-year time frame – reported on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis – is as follows.

Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED)
Observation Date U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Q1-2019 $21,013 billion
Q2-2019 $21,272 billion
Q3-2019 $21,532 billion
Q4-2019 $21,707 billion
Q1-2020 $21,538 billion
Q2-2020 $19,637 billion
Q3-2020 $21,362 billion
Q4-2020 $21,705 billion
Q1-2021 $22,314 billion
Q2-2021 $23,047 billion
Q3-2021 $23,550 billion
Q4-2021 $24,349 billion
Q1-2022 $24,740 billion
Q2-2022 $25,248 billion
Q3-2022 $25,724 billion
Q4-2022 $26,138 billion
Q1-2023 $26,530 billion

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

2. Quarterly Percent Change Calculation Example

Starting off, we’ll determine the percentage change in the U.S. GDP on a quarterly basis.

The formula to calculate the quarterly percent change is the differential between the current quarter’s GDP and the prior quarter’s GDP, which is then divided by the prior quarter’s GDP.

For example, the quarterly percentage change in Q1-2023 was an increase of 1.5%.

  • Percent Change, Quarterly (Q4-2022 to Q1-2023) = ($26,530 billion – $26,138 billion) ÷ $26,138 billion = 1.50%

Once complete, we’ll repeat the same process for each quarter in our Excel spreadsheet.

3. Annual Percent Change Calculation Example

In the final section, we’ll measure the percentage change in the U.S. GDP on an annual basis.

The only adjustment to the formula to compute the percentage change is the preceding period input, i.e. the time in between the periods under comparison is now twelve months (or one year).

The matching period that coincides with Q1-2023 in measuring the annual percent change is Q1-2022, as opposed to Q4-2022, for instance.

The annual percent change in Q1-2023 comes out to 7.23%, which we determined using the alternative formula, i.e. “Percent Change (%) = (Ending Value ÷ Beginning Value) – 1″

  • Percent Change, Annual (Q1-2022 to Q1-2023) = ($26,530 billion÷ $$24,740 billion) – 1 = 7.23%

In closing, we arrive at the following figures for the historical quarterly and annual percent change in the GDP of the U.S.

U.S. GDP Economic Data
Observation Date Quarterly Percent Change (%) Annual Percent Change (%)
Q1-2019 NA NA
Q2-2019 1.23% NA
Q3-2019 1.22% NA
Q4-2019 0.81% NA
Q1-2020 (0.78%) 2.50%
Q2-2020 (8.83%) (7.69%)
Q3-2020 8.79% (0.79%)
Q4-2020 1.60% (0.01%)
Q1-2021 2.81% 3.60%
Q2-2021 3.29% 17.37%
Q3-2021 2.18% 10.24%
Q4-2021 3.39% 12.18%
Q1-2022 1.61% 10.87%
Q2-2022 2.05% 9.55%
Q3-2022 1.88% 9.23%
Q4-2022 1.61% 7.35%
Q1-2023 1.50% 7.23%

Percent Change Calculator

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