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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

In poor countries, no richer but living longer? : World Bank data on life expectancy and GDP in low-income vs. high-income countries

3 days ago

The World Bank has many data series that allow comparisons among countries over time, and today’s FRED graph reveals some trends in life expectancy and national income.
Lower life expectancy in low-income countries has been catching up. In 1982, life expectancy at birth in low-income countries was about 66% of what it was in high-income countries. Then life expectancy increased at a faster pace in low-income countries, and the value rose to 78% by 2018. This rising longevity, especially in relation to longevity in high-income countries, is remarkable because it doesn’t coincide with an improvement in relative economic performance.
In 1982, real GDP per capita in poor countries was 2.8% of what it was in rich countries. In 2018, it was 1.8%. Despite poor countries losing ground to

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Workers with a disability : A closer look at disability in the U.S. civilian labor force

7 days ago

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law 31 years ago. The FRED Blog has used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to show that the fraction of people outside of the labor force because of disability is approximately constant. Today we revisit the general topic by looking at the percentage of people with a disability inside the labor force.
As a reminder, the civilian labor force is made up of workers who either (i) have a job or (ii) don’t have a job but are actively looking for one. And like it sounds, the civilian labor force doesn’t count those in the armed forces.
Our FRED graph above shows the percentage of workers with a disability who are in the labor force: Men are in green and women are in purple. The shares of these men and women are

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How COVID shocked state and local revenue : BEA data track the ups and downs of federal grants-in-aid and local tax revenue

10 days ago

State and local governments receive two major sources of revenue: transfers from the federal government and their own tax receipts. Each of these series (since 1960) is plotted in the FRED graph above in billions of dollars at a seasonally adjusted annual rate. Both series trend upward over the past 70 years, as each has grown with the U.S. economy overall.
The graph shows the pandemic’s effect on the economy. First, the CARES Act, signed into law in March 2020, allocated hundreds of billions of dollars to state and local governments to fight the pandemic. The blue line spikes in the second quarter, with the surge in federal grants-in-aid to state and local governments, such as $150 billion through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. In the next two quarters, grants-in-aid remained above

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A new measure of economic health : New FRED data decomposes the evolution of monthly GDP

14 days ago

FRED just added a new family of data that can help us get a read on the U.S. economy.
The BBKI (Brave-Butters-Kelley Indexes) draw on about 500 indicators and search for some commonality among them, thanks to a technique called dynamic factor analysis. This analysis allows for an estimate of monthly GDP and decomposes it into different components. (GDP measures are typically quarterly, and this innovation is meant to be more timely.)
The graph above shows the monthly GDP estimate along with the coincident and leading indicators for a period spanning the past two recessions. Clearly, the leading indicator was able to accurately determine the direction of the changes in this current and strange recession. Anticipating the turning points, of course, is very difficult in forecasting.

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Who’s online? Mapping Internet use around the world : World Bank data on national income and Internet use

17 days ago

The FRED Blog has looked at the speed of Internet adoption in a few countries: the U.S., China, Korea, Germany, and India. Today, we use World Bank data to widen our view and map Internet use rates around the world. Then we connect those rates to countries’ per capita GDPs.
Our first GeoFRED map identifies the number of Internet users per 100 people in each country. In countries colored blue, over 80% of the population uses the Internet: Liechtenstein is at the top, with a ratio of 99.55%. In countries colored red, under 20% of the population uses the Internet: Eritrea is at the bottom, with a ratio of 1.31%.

Our second map shows inflation-adjusted gross domestic product (GDP) per person. In countries colored blue, GDP per person (at 2010 prices) is more than $28,000 per year:

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The growing consumer appetite for fresh fruits : Farm fresh FRED data at your fingertips

21 days ago

The FRED Blog makes every attempt to offer right-off-the-vine FRED data, from the prices paid by consumers for strawberries, grapes, and bananas to the prices received by producers for apples and oranges. And today’s graph harvests a similar set of data with a focus on freshness.
The graph shows the proportion of consumer expenditures on fresh fruit (in orange) and fresh vegetables (in green) relative to their processed counterparts.
Consumers steadily spend almost twice as much on fresh vegetables as they do on the processed kind—a pattern that has been nearly constant between 1984 and 2019.
The appetite for fresh fruit has steadily grown since 2001: Between 1984 and 2001, consumers spent almost one and a half times more on fresh fruit than they spent on processed fruit. At the

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FRED at 30: Growth in series and users

24 days ago

Every April, the FRED Blog dons its party hat and celebrates FRED’s birthday. This year, FRED turns the big 3-0. In lieu of a cake with candles, we present…what else? A data graph!
The scatter plot graph above shows the number of data series (in thousands) accessible through the FRED website and the number of persons visiting the website (in millions) for every year between 2009 and 2020. We’re sorry we can’t show you data all the way back to 1991, when FRED was born. The source of the data on website visitors is Google Analytics and Google didn’t even exist back then.
The graph tells a story of remarkable growth. In just the past 11 years, FRED has added roughly 756,000 series to its database and attracted more than 8 million new users to its website. The public appetite for data

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Consumer spending on milk and cookies : Enjoy some comforting FRED expenditures data

28 days ago

The FRED Blog has looked at consumer comforts before: the seasonal increases in electricity use for cozy heating and cooling and the prices of homemade foods. Today we devote our post to, arguably, the most comforting childhood tradition: milk and cookies.
The FRED graph above shows consumer expenditures on milk and cream (in white) and on bakery products (in chocolate chip cookie brown). We’ve adjusted the nominal value of those dollar figures by their corresponding consumer price item index to compare them over time. As it happens, households spend, on average, about twice as much on baked goods as they do on milk and cream.
We’ll also be looking for suitable data alternatives for our readers who avoid gluten and lactose. For now, try dunking your favorite baked good in your

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From PPI to CPI

April 12, 2021

The consumer price index (CPI) measures the cost of a fixed bundle of consumer goods relative to the cost of those same goods in a chosen reference year. Inflation is the percent change in the index from one year to the next and reflects how prices are changing for consumers.
The producer price index (PPI) is a similar construct that measures the price that producers get for their wares. It was formerly called the wholesale price index (WPI). Because many of these goods are intermediate goods and thus inputs to the production of final consumer goods, one might hypothesize that changes in the PPI could forecast future changes in the CPI.
The FRED graph above shows recent movements in these two series (January 2015 to present). Both series have grown at a fairly constant rate over the

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ALFRED at 15: Archiving FRED data since 2006

April 8, 2021

You know FRED, but do you know ALFRED? ALFRED is ArchivaL FRED, which is pretty much what it sounds like: an archive of historical versions (or vintages) of FRED data. ALFRED is turning 15 years old, which is a nice opportunity to describe why recording data history is important.
Economic data are often revised over time as more and/or more-accurate information becomes available. Accuracy is important, and that’s what FRED provides. But the original, less-accurate vintages of the observations are important, too, as they tell the story of what information was known at the time. That’s what ALFRED provides.
Despite being 15 years younger than FRED, ALFRED is an old soul with a great memory that contains all the historical vintages of the series in FRED. Each time a data series is

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Employment in the information industry : Large growth in producing, storing, and searching for information online

April 5, 2021

For nearly 30 years, FRED has served the public’s information needs. And the FRED Blog has discussed the rise of the service economy as the largest activity sector in the U.S. and highlighted the ups and downs of the information industry. Today, we look at the changing employment landscape of the information industry.
The FRED graph above shows the relative amount of employment in each of the six individual sectors that comprise the information industry supersector.
Since January 1990, when the earliest data are available, employment in telecommunications (in purple) has been decreasing: In January 2019 there were 29% fewer employees than 29 years earlier. This fact, combined with a milder reduction in employment numbers in the non-internet-based broadcasting (in green) and

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FRED adds interplanetary data

April 1, 2021

FRED pushes the boundaries of data availability. It currently boasts close to 800,000 times series, including international data that are mappable with GeoFRED. But FRED hadn’t featured any interplanetary data until now.

The FRED Team has collaborated with the Scientific Knowledge in Extra-Terrestrial Content Hub, Youngstown (SKETCHY) to integrate some of the data from the NASA Mars exploration rovers.

FRED has scores of socio-economic time series, the most basic data category. And that is the first type of Martian data to be added to FRED. This series starts with data from the first rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, in January 2004. (Sojourner, in 1997, was too short-lived to offer significant data.) The currently active rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance, provide continued

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Upheaval in the U.S. housing market : Tracking higher prices and lower supply state by state

March 29, 2021

View on GeoFRED®
In 2020, being confined at home—say, with children or new work requirements—may have changed people’s housing preferences. At least temporarily. New demand for space has led to a rush on single-family homes and, naturally, a stronger-than-usual increase in prices.
Our GeoFRED map above shows that price increases were unequal across the U.S. states from 2019:Q4 to 2020:Q4. California had among the smallest price increases, while the Mountain West region and to some extent the South had strong increases.
The supply of housing can’t easily accommodate increases in demand, especially when they’re sudden. It takes time to buy land, plan, and build. Also, construction costs have been higher because of pandemic restrictions, shortages in materials, and increased demand.

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Are we expecting too much inflation? : CPI vs. University of Michigan’s survey of consumers’ inflation expectations

March 25, 2021

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This FRED graph compares expected inflation and actual inflation. In recent years, expectations (in red) have been consistently above realizations (in blue). Why?
How people form expectations is a fascinating topic, as expectations drive so many economic decisions. One important point here is that, individually, we notice relatively few prices in an inflation measure. That is, individuals buy fewer goods than are included in the basket that determines the CPI. Also, we tend to recall only a few of the prices we encounter, in particular those that changed or changed more than we might have expected. (Read more about individual perceptions and bias.)
The graph below shows there’s quite a bit of variance in price changes across categories of goods. As expectations of

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A downturn in travel of pandemic proportions : The latest data on miles traveled by air, rail, and road

March 22, 2021

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It’s not news to say that people in modern economies travel. For work, school, or pleasure. For a few hours, days, weeks, months, or even longer. Going places has been an integral and obvious part of work and life for most American households and those of any wealthy economy.
It’s also not news to say that travel and work commutes came to a halt last year when governments and individuals began combating the COVID-19  pandemic. Many workers were directed to work from the confines of their own homes, and some were hit even harder and lost their jobs. Normally bustling cities, highways, airports, and train stations came to a standstill and starting looking like staged scenes in a post-apocalyptic movie.
To illustrate this dramatic context, we constructed this FRED

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Data on the “luck” of the Irish : Tracking Ireland’s house prices, GDP, and unemployment

March 18, 2021

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Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, which honors the patron saint of Ireland. Many in the United States (with or without Irish ancestry) also tend to observe this feast day. But now that the parades are over, let’s take a minute to see what Ireland’s economy is up to.
Ireland is on the fringes of Europe and heavily dependent on the vagaries of its large neighbor, the United Kingdom. So it faces twin challenges:
difficult integration with the rest of Europe
strong fluctuations due to its small size, lack of diversification, and dependence on others
These challenges are apparent in the FRED graph above: Ireland had a deep and long recession around 2009, with a big drop in GDP, high unemployment, and collapsing real estate prices.
But the country recuperated and has done

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Long-term trends in car and light truck sales

March 15, 2021

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The FRED graph above tracks vehicle sales in the United States since 1976. Despite a substantial increase in population, the general trend of vehicle sales is surprisingly flat. But the composition has changed: The proportion of automobiles (in purple and green) has decreased significantly in favor of light trucks and SUVs (in blue and red).
The FRED graph below tracks the same data, but the series are ordered differently: foreign vehicles on the top and domestic vehicles at the bottom. This reordering doesn’t change anything, but it does illuminate the increase in the share of light trucks and SUVs over cars—which occurred among domestic and foreign vehicles alike.
Finally, these trends hide considerable churn: The automobile industry is especially susceptible to

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What happened to the median wage in 2020? : The power of the composition effect

March 11, 2021

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Our first FRED graph traces the evolution of the median weekly wage in the United States. See the spike in 2020? Does this huge increase mean everyone got a huge raise? No, it does not. As we’ll try to show in this post, the so-called composition effect is misleading us here.
We’ve discussed the composition effect before, which is basically that group averages can mask true individual experiences.
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Our second graph shows employment for various education levels, excluding non-salaried workers: We see that more education made it less likely to lose a job in 2020.
The third graph shows the number of employed people by education, including non-salaried workers: All categories decreased, but the decreases were disproportionally larger for the less

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Women in the labor force

March 8, 2021

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Today is International Women’s Day, declared by the United Nations, which falls within Women’s History Month in the United States. FRED offers a lot of data by gender, so we can reflect on at least some ideas and data that specifically illuminate women’s experiences in the economy.
The first FRED graph shows how the labor force participation rates of men (in blue) and women (in red) have evolved over the past few decades. The red line reveals an impressive increase since 1948 in women’s overall participation in the formal labor force. But that increase seems to have stalled since the turn of the century, and there appears to be a new steady state in comparison with men’s participation rate.
If equality is the goal here, then overcoming the initial obstacles (say,

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The educational and health services sector is no longer recession-proof

March 4, 2021

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The FRED Blog has discussed how resilient the educational services industry has been to recessions: Employment levels in schools and colleges in New York City and California, for example, decreased at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but bounced back mid-year.* With 2020 behind us, we use the Employment Situation data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to revisit this topic.
The FRED graph above shows that since 1991, when data for educational services employment first became available, the year-to-year percent change in the number of persons employed has been positive in all but two years: 1992 and 2020. While the U.S. economy wasn’t in recession during any part of 1992, overall economic activity did contract starting in February 2020. That contraction resulted

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The industrial composition of recessions

March 1, 2021

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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

February 25, 2021

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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

February 22, 2021

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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

February 18, 2021

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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

February 11, 2021

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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

February 8, 2021

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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

February 4, 2021

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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

February 1, 2021

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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

View on GeoFRED®
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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