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The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis is the center of the Eighth District of the Federal Reserve System. This District includes Arkansas, eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and Indiana, western Kentucky and Tennessee, and northern Mississippi.

Articles by FRED Blog

The industrial composition of recessions

1 day ago

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Every recession is different, affecting some industries more than others. Analyzing the composition of the recession may reveal how the recovery from the recession may progress, as jobs in some industries appear easier to fill than jobs in other industries. The recession that followed the Great Financial Crisis (GFC) resulted in a substantial downturn in construction, among other industries. Triggered by lockdowns associated with containing COVID-19, the 2020 recession had substantial effects on the travel and hospitality industries—restaurants, hotels, airlines, etc.
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The FRED graphs in this post show employment for four industries in thousands of persons, with the shaded gray bars indicating the period of recession. The first

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The federal budget balance as a fraction of GDP : Tracking data from two sources with two different calendars

5 days ago

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The FRED Blog has discussed how many weekdays there are per month, quarter, and year. (It may seem trivial, but when you work with data, you need to be precise about federal and local holidays and how weekends shake out in a given month.)
Today, we consider two data sources, each with its own calendar year.
The FRED graph above shows the balance of the federal government budget as a percent of GDP. To calculate the budget balance, we subtract the value of federal net outlays from the value of federal receipts. Because those receipts and outlays change with the overall level of economic activity, we divide their difference by GDP and multiply by 100 to show it at as annual percentage.
And here’s the rub: Federal receipts and net outlays are reported by the Office of

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Visualizing the Fed’s new monetary policy tools

8 days ago

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First, let’s introduce some of the monetary policy terms we’ll be using here:
Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC): The seven members of the Board of Governors; the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; and, on a rotating basis, the presidents of four other Reserve Banks. Nonvoting Reserve Bank presidents also participate in deliberations and discussion.
Federal funds rate (FFR): The interest rate at which depository institutions and Federal Home Loan Banks borrow and lend reserve balances to each other overnight.
Interest on reserve balances (IORB): Interest paid on reserves that banks hold in their accounts at a Federal Reserve Bank.
Overnight reverse repurchase agreement (ON RRP): An overnight transaction in which the Federal Reserve sells a

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Comparing the minimum wage with the average wage

12 days ago

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You’ve likely seen discussions about the minimum wage in the news and in the FRED Blog. We’ve discussed
its value across states
its inflation-adjusted value
its correlation with the shrinking fraction of the labor force earning it
the number of workers paid at or below it
and minimum-wage workers’ demographic profiles
Today, we approach the topic from a different perspective. In the FRED graph above, the blue line tracks the fraction of the average weekly earnings for a person working full-time at the prevailing federal minimum wage. In other words, it shows how the minimum wage compares with the average wage.*
The blue line shoots upward every time Congress raises the federal minimum wage. And we have added a dashed custom line (in purple) to represent the

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The growing share of spending on recreation : It’s not all fun and games, but there’s definitely more

19 days ago

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The FRED Blog illuminates interesting graphs from the growing library of FRED data. We often discuss heady and thoughtful topics, but we also showcase the fun side of data. And from the looks of today’s graph, we’re not alone in seeking out the sunny side of the street…
The FRED graph above shows the percent of real personal consumption expenditures devoted to recreational goods and services. Between 2002 and 2019, this share has almost constantly increased. (The sole exception being the dip between 2008 and 2009, during the Great Recession.) To be precise, the share of recreational expenditures has increased 57%, which is worth more than half a smile.
In a recent post, we saw that at least some forms of recreation were booming even during the pandemic in 2020.

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Spending on tobacco products and smoking supplies over time and across groups

22 days ago

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Last week, we used data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys to discuss changes in what people spend on reading materials. Here, we use the same data release to look at what people spend on tobacco products and smoking supplies.
Our first FRED graph shows that, between 1986 and 2019, overall spending on tobacco/smoking decreased for the sum total of all surveyed households. We’ve adjusted the annual dollar figures by the consumer price index for these products to account for their changing price over time. (FYI: The nominal figure for these expenditures in 2019 is $320 per household.)
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Last week, we sorted the survey data by age group; here, we sort them by educational attainment, shown in our second, colorful FRED graph.
The share of these

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What the young and old spent on reading materials: 2019 vs. 1984 : Naturally, reading the free FRED Blog doesn’t count

26 days ago

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FRED now has data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Surveys, which are used to keep the consumer price index (CPI) up to date with the current basket of goods and services bought by households. Here, we use that survey data to analyze spending on reading materials.*
The FRED graph above shows spending on reading for seven age groups in 2019. Hover over the pie chart slices to see how much each age group spent relative to the total for all age groups. In 2019, persons under 25 spent the least and persons over 75 spent the most.
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The second FRED graph shows the same age groups but from 1984. Back then, persons under 25 still spent the least, but persons 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 spent the most. Because the dollar figures for

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Gauging the recovery in retail sales at bars and restaurants

29 days ago

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The FRED Blog has discussed how, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, households cut back on eating out and increased food purchases to prepare meals at home. With data from the U.S. Census Bureau, we created a FRED graph with two lines to compare sales at restaurants and bars with sales at grocery stores.* Today, we use the same Census dataset to re-examine the topic from a different perspective.
The red line in our FRED graph today shows the value of retail sales at restaurants and bars as a fraction of retail sales at grocery stores. We added the black dashed line, with a constant value of 1, to make it easy to see when the two categories of retail sales are equal. And they were essentially equal from March 2019 through February 2020.
In March and April

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The state of the minimum wage : Comparing U.S. state minimum wages in 2010 and 2021

January 28, 2021

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The federal minimum wage has remained constant at $7.25 per hour since July 2009. The real value of this wage has declined over the past decade, and many people discuss if, when, and how this federal minimum should increase.
Not all U.S. workers earning minimum wage, however, have had a stagnant pay rate since 2009. Many U.S. states have increased their minimum wage rates to account for inflation and other changes in cost of living.
View on GeoFRED®
These GeoFRED maps display state minimum wage rates in 2010 and 2021. In 2010, 15 states (including Washington, D.C.) had minimum wage rates that exceeded the federal minimum. In 2021, 30 states do.
The 2010 map shows that a few states (AR, CO, GA, MN, WY) had minimum wage rates below the federal level. The 2021 map shows

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Service with a masked smile: How weaker demand reduced employment in 2020

January 25, 2021

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The FRED Blog has discussed how the COVID-19 recession reduced the demand for services and boosted the demand for goods, whereas in previous recessions it was the inverse. Today we examine the same dynamic from a different angle: how these changes in consumption patterns have affected industry-specific employment.
The FRED graph above shows the large initial declines in employment for goods-producing industries (e.g., construction and manufacturing) and service-providing industries (e.g., leisure and hospitality). We changed the units of the data into an index, with a base period set at the start of the latest recession, to make it easier to measure and compare changes over time. (This post from October 2020 also uses an index to track unemployment by age during

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A friendly warning: Data aren’t perfect : Graphing data can reveal issues that spreadsheets may not

January 21, 2021

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“The greatest value of a picture is when it forces us to notice what we never expected to see.” – John Tukey
FRED gives you the option of downloading data into a spreadsheet. Of course, it’s also common to present the data in graph form, which is much easier on the eyes. But plotting your data is exceptionally important for other reasons.
A graph can give the numbers a clear and convincing voice. And it can also reveal the unexpected. Because your eyes can quickly catch something that simply looks wrong, you may observe the existence of data issues on a graph that would not be immediately apparent when looking only at the numbers.
The FRED graph above plots three vintages of the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index from January 5 (blue), 6 (red), and 7 (green) of

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Changes in the U.S.-China trade deficit : Exports and imports before and after tariffs and the pandemic

January 14, 2021

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Many of the trade policies that began in 2018 were driven by the high and persistent U.S. trade deficit with China. For example, the U.S. announced tariffs on solar panels and washing machines from China in January 2018, which is marked by the first vertical line in the FRED graph above. Several rounds of U.S. tariffs followed, and China enacted retaliatory tariffs.
We start our graph in January 2016 to include data before and during the period when these trade policies were initiated.*
The basic story told by the graph is that U.S. exports to China (in blue) seem to be relatively stable over time, but U.S. imports from China (in red) are more variable and also much larger. So, the bilateral trade deficit (in green), which is the excess of imports over exports,

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What’s behind the recent surge in the M1 money supply?

January 11, 2021

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While the terms “money” and “wealth” often mean the same thing in everyday parlance, economists define money more narrowly as the component of wealth consisting of “transaction balances.” That is, if you can use it to buy goods and services and to settle debts, then it’s considered to be money.
Money is distinct from other forms of wealth that first need to be liquidated—that is, converted into money—before their value can be spent. According to this definition, physical currency and checkable bank deposits constitute money. And, indeed, these objects make up the definition of what economists label as the M1 money supply.
Because money is valued as a payment instrument, people are willing to hold a fraction of their wealth in money form for the sake of convenience,

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Houses sold, newly started, and for sale: Cycles in housing activity

January 7, 2021

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The FRED Blog has discussed how mortgage interest rates affect decisions in the housing market and how the construction of new housing slowed down after the 2007-2009 Financial Crisis. Today we examine the cycles in sales and new construction.
The FRED graph above shows the percent change from the preceding year in the quarterly number of new single-family houses sold (the orange bars) and in the number of housing starts (the blue bars), which represent new single-family homes under construction. You do not see much of a difference between the two sets of bars because growth in house sales frequently coincides with new housing construction—a.k.a, housing starts. That suggests that a booming (or contracting) housing market rapidly increases (or decreases) new

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Measuring the stress in the rental industry : Census data show a drop, a big drop, then some recovery for rental space

January 4, 2021

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The pandemic has tormented many sectors of the economy. The sector we highlight today is rental companies, whose income is captured in the Quarterly Services Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau.
This survey covers only a sample of the rental sector: businesses that employ workers but not, for example, individual landlords. Also, the space being rented may be apartments, residential houses, or commercial real estate. But these data can still be a good proxy for the entire real estate rental industry.
What’s clear from the FRED graph above is that income in this sector has dropped considerably during the pandemic. It was obvious that there would be effects from the nationwide eviction moratorium for unpaid rent. It is unclear, though, whether this is the only mechanism

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Pandemic-related initial claims for unemployment assistance

December 28, 2020

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FRED now offers data on pandemic-related initial claims for unemployment assistance. An initial claim is filed by an employee with the state employment agency after losing her/his job. A pandemic-related initial claim is filed by an employee covered under the expanded eligibility criteria specific to the pandemic.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program is funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which temporarily expanded unemployment insurance eligibility to workers not usually eligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits: e.g., self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers impacted by the pandemic.
The number of these claims varies dramatically from week to

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In mid-2020, the least wealthy gained the most net worth

December 21, 2020

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The FRED Blog has discussed how the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic reduced the net worth of households. To recap: Your net worth is the difference between the value of your assets and the value of your liabilities. When the value of your assets decreases while the value of your liabilities stays constant, your net worth becomes smaller.
The FRED graph above shows that the largest reduction in household net worth during the first quarter of 2020 occurred the wealthiest 1% of households. The high volatility of financial markets during that period and the differences in the distribution of total assets across different classes of households can help explain that.
The same FRED graph also shows that, during the second quarter of 2020, household net worth increased all

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How staying at home in 2020 affected the transportation industry: Part 3 : Debt as a life raft

December 17, 2020

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We covered transportation equipment in Part 1 of this series and petroleum and coal products in Part 2 [[ ]]. Census Bureau data show that, as their incomes dropped, companies in these industries took out new, long-term debt. And that’s what we discuss here, in Part 3.
The FRED graph above shows “Long-Term Debt Due in More Than 1 Year: Other Long-Term Loans” data for both the transportation equipment manufacturing and petroleum and coal products manufacturing industries. And the graph lets us compare these industries’ debt levels now with their levels during the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
In the second quarter of 2020, transportation equipment manufacturers increased long-term debt by $30.8 billion, up from $250.2 billion in the first quarter of 2020. Petroleum

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How staying at home in 2020 affected the transportation industry: Part 2 : Less travel, less fuel

December 14, 2020

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We continue our series on recent developments in the transportation industry by looking at petroleum and coal products. Like transportation equipment manufacturing (from Part 1 in the series), petroleum and coal products have been affected by the pandemic’s travel reductions. Unlike transportation equipment manufacturing, looking at net income/loss after taxes doesn’t tell the whole story.
To understand the effects that travel reductions have had on petroleum and coal products, it’s important to compare net income/loss after taxes with another measure: net sales, receipts, and operating revenues.
The FRED graph above shows the petroleum and coal industry’s net income after taxes as well as net sales, receipts, and operating revenues (a.k.a. “sales”). Petroleum and

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How staying at home in 2020 affected the transportation industry: Part 1 : Profit losses

December 10, 2020

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In 2020, millions of Americans suddenly altered their travel habits, canceled vacations, and worked and learned from home. Data from the Census Bureau’s most recent Quarterly Financial Report (QFR) can help identify some of the effects from these sweeping changes. And in this three-part series, the FRED Blog looks at how Americans’ stay-at-home measures affected profits for two industries:
transportation equipment manufacturing (NAICS 336), which includes
aerospace products and parts manufacturing (NAICS 3364) and
motor vehicles and parts manufacturing (NAICS 3361, 3362, 3363)

petroleum and coal products manufacturing (NAICS 324).
The FRED graph displays data on the net income or loss (after taxes) for the transportation equipment manufacturing industry. In the

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A history of European exchange rates : Data during and after the Bretton Woods system

December 7, 2020

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The Bretton Woods agreement, signed by 44 nations in 1944, established an international monetary system that
instituted the convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold
set fixed exchange rates with respect to the dollar
and made the dollar the currency of reference.
The graph above shows the exchange rates for the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain between 1950 and 2017 with respect to the U.S. dollar. (By the way, the data for the euro area countries are calculated in euros using the official conversion rate for the years before the euro.)
It’s easy to see that, during the Bretton Woods era (1950-1971), the exchange rates were fixed, with the exception of a few managed adjustments.
The dashed black line in 1971 marks the year President Nixon

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COVID-19 and job posting trends

December 3, 2020

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Labor market conditions often follow the movements of the business cycle: Demand for labor rises during an expansion and falls during a contraction. So it’s not surprising that the COVID-19 recession has had an impact on firms’ hiring decisions and job posting trends. What might be surprising, however, is how the pandemic has affected the availability of jobs at different income levels.
The FRED graph here shows the impact of the COVID-19 downturn on job postings: Specifically, it covers the indexed trends on Indeed.com for three different wage tiers. (A previous blog post has more information on these data, if you’re interested.)
Middle- and low-wage occupations saw steeper declines in job postings early in the pandemic, plunging by 41.6% and 40.4%, respectively.

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Where retail sales have been booming : Sporting goods, home project supplies, and groceries are way up

November 30, 2020

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We recently discussed how some areas in the retail sales sector have suffered dramatic declines during the pandemic. Today, we highlight three areas where sales have actually been booming.
FRED just added monthly state retail sales data from the Census Bureau, and we can enlist the help of GeoFRED to show the details. In the first map, we see that sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores have been doing remarkably well across the nation. From July 2019 to July 2020, national sales increased 18.7%, with a range of 7.7% to 29.1% across states. People have curtailed some activities during the pandemic, but they added new ones to spend their time on.
View on GeoFRED®
The second map shows building material and garden equipment stores, and it looks like

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Let’s talk turkey prices : …as well as prices in Turkey

November 23, 2020

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If you know this blog, you may have been expecting a holiday-themed post this week. We did our best, but—spoiler alert—it’s a bait and switch. We don’t have any recent price data on turkey meat. What we do have are recent price data on meat in Turkey. And, as you can see from the FRED graph above, that nation suffers from chronically high price inflation. (FYI: FRED has over 2,000 series of Turkish data.)
This year, Thanksgiving is more challenging in the U.S. not just for travelers but also for statistical agencies. The data-collection process for many of the series available in FRED has been disrupted by the pandemic, as agencies scramble to change their procedures to accommodate health guidelines and changing economic practices.
One example is the price of

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The state of decline in retail sales : Using new Census data to compare U.S. states

November 19, 2020

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FRED recently added more new data from the Census Bureau: 11 categories of retail sales for U.S. states. A previous post looked at national declines in retail sales, and national data continue to show the pandemic’s damaging effects on this sector.
As with most economic measures, though, the effects aren’t equally distributed across the nation. So let’s use GeoFRED maps to examine individual state experiences—specifically, July 2020 sales compared with July 2019 sales for (1) electronics and appliance stores, (2) gas stations, and (3) clothing and clothing accessories stores.
The first map covers electronics and appliance stores. National data show a decline of 4.7% year over year, which would be even more concerning in normal times but is not the worst downturn

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Replicating economic research…on gasoline affordability

November 16, 2020

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Here at the FRED Blog, we believe it’s important to be able to replicate economic analysis, which begins by identifying the data used in that analysis. That’s why FRED Blog posts include a list of the data series used to build the graphs. Moreover, all FRED data series themselves include a suggested citation.
The FRED graph above can help us reproduce some research published in our Economic Synopses series: “Gasoline Affordability.” The essay, published in 2004, compares wages with gasoline prices. To replicate the analysis, we searched for the two series mentioned in the essay: the CPI index for the price of gasoline and the average hourly wage rate of production workers.
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The second FRED graph helps us test the robustness of the analysis by

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Are we still in a recession? : What to expect from the NBER business cycle dating committee

November 12, 2020

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The Downturn and Rebound
April 29, 2020: In its advance estimate, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that real GDP for the first quarter of 2020 fell at a 4.8% annual rate.
May 8, 2020: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that nonfarm payrolls fell by 20.5 million in April—the largest one-month percentage decline on record (dating back to 1939).
June 8, 2020: The National Bureau of Economic Research Business Cycle Dating Committee (NBER BCDC) announced that the 128-month expansion (the longest in U.S. economic history, dating back to 1854) ended sometime in February 2020.
Since then, the U.S. economy has rebounded sharply, posting large increases in real GDP and nonfarm payroll employment and a large decline in the unemployment rate. But the NBER

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From inflation targeting to average inflation targeting : The Fed’s new long-run monetary framework

November 9, 2020

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Since 1996, it has been understood among Fed policymakers that the (undeclared) target for inflation was around 2%. In January 2012, Chairman Ben Bernanke made this implicit inflation target explicit and official, thereby aligning the Fed’s inflation target with that of all the major central banks. In this framework, when inflation has approached or exceeded the traditional 2% target, even temporarily as it did in 2018, the FOMC has responded by raising the baseline federal funds rate to combat rising prices.
In August 2020 at the online Jackson Hole conference, Chair Jay Powell announced a revision to the Fed’s long-run monetary policy framework by re-framing this goal as an average inflation target (AIT) of 2% over the long-run. With this new framework, the FOMC

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How to read Indeed job posting data

November 5, 2020

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Tracking the availability of new jobs is no easy task. But FRED recently added online job postings data from Indeed. These data are presented in an interesting way, so some explanation is in order.
First, the data cover a 7-day moving average of job postings on Indeed.com as well as other online platforms. Indeed makes every effort to remove duplicate job postings from these counts, but doesn’t include job postings that are not found online. The proportion of online postings has been steadily increasing, and this brings us to our second point.
If you measure only some of the job postings—in this case, online only—and know that this proportion is increasing, it’s unrealistic to compare the data from previous years with the data from the current year without making

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