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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 health of labor markets post-pandemic: The demand perspective

2 days ago

Successful vaccines are bringing the pandemic effectively to an end. And, as economic activity resumes, firms everywhere appear to be having serious difficulties hiring: The news is filled with middling labor market reports, alarming anecdotes, and long restaurant wait times.
The FRED graph above quantifies this shift by depicting, across industries, the number of job openings at the end of each month. It’s very clear that across the board this number has jumped significantly, especially in the past few months.
Such a jump is a very positive development for the U.S. economy. The number of job openings at any given time is affected by both how difficult it is for firms to fill openings and how many openings firms offer in the first place. Insofar as the recent increase is caused by

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Net worth gains in 2020 were the largest for the least wealthy

5 days ago

The FRED Blog has covered the changes in household net worth throughout 2020, describing how different household groups experience different changes in their balance between assets and liabilities during the COVID-19-induced recession:
Today’s question is, Whose assets have grown in value faster than their liabilities during 2020? That is, whose net worth has increased the most?
The FRED graph above shows that, since the end of 2019 until the time of this writing, the least-wealthy households have seen their net worth grow by as much as 30%. That is the fastest growth of all four household groups.
Because we’re talking about net worth and not income, translating this improved wealth position into increased current or future consumption isn’t necessarily straightforward. In fact,

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Geographic variation in house price growth : Pre-pandemic vs. post-pandemic data maps

9 days ago

The COVID-19 pandemic has been fueling a major boom in the U.S. housing market, and prices have risen at a rate not seen since the mid-2000s. The year-over-year percent increase in the S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index hit 14.58% in April, its highest value in the history of the series. In this post, we’ll look at how this surge in house prices is playing out across individual U.S. states.

The first GeoFRED map shows post-pandemic house price growth in each state in January 2021, and the second map shows pre-pandemic growth in January 2020. This measure of growth in house prices is the percent increase in the median listing price per square foot compared with a year ago. Both maps are included to get a quick sense of which states saw recent house prices increases that were

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Has the pandemic boosted labor productivity? : Output fell, hours worked fell more, so labor productivity is up

12 days ago

In a previous post, the FRED Blog disentangled the general concept of growth in output from growth in hours worked and growth in labor productivity. The key takeaway: Labor productivity growth allows workers to produce more goods and services during each hour of work.
The FRED graph above shows the amount of U.S. real output (in green), the overall number of hours worked (in red), and labor productivity (in blue). These quarterly indexes produced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to measure each concept have been re-indexed to the first quarter of 2020, the start of the COVID-19-induced recession. The dashed line represents the value (100) for each of these concepts at that point in time.
Again, labor productivity is output per hour worked. For most of 2020,  overall output

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Measuring an economy’s openness : Comparing global trade for Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.

16 days ago

The more an economy trades with the rest of the world, the more open it is. Another way to put it: The more integrated an economy is in the world economy, the more open it is. So how do you measure openness? One way is to look at the ratio of imports plus exports to GDP.
By the way, the size of the economy matters. The U.S. is a large and well-diversified economy, so it doesn’t need to trade that much. The Bahamas are much smaller and much less diversified, and so it needs to trade more.
The FRED graph above shows what our measure of openness looks like for the three North American trading partners: Canada in blue, Mexico in green, and the U.S. in red. The vertical lines correspond to the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement in 1989 and NAFTA in 1994.
For a more nuanced (and

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What’s different for working women in Canada? : For Canada Day, the FRED Blog compares OECD data on women in the U.S. and Canadian workforces

23 days ago

Today is Canada Day, a good opportunity to compare the U.S. with its neighbor to the north. In many ways, the Canadian and U.S. economies are similar, foremost from the fact that they’re so intertwined. But there are also some stark differences. One difference that’s received a good amount of attention is women in the labor force.
The FRED graph above tracks the labor participation rate of Canadian and American women. In both countries, it has increased since the 1960s, thanks to household technology and emancipation. In 1998, it stalled in the U.S. but it has continued to progress in Canada to this date. The gap between the two countries is now almost 9 percentage points, and it’s back to pre-pandemic levels in Canada while still lagging in the U.S.
What’s going on? We can

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Is this the new fastest economic recovery?

26 days ago

In an earlier post, the FRED Blog compared economic activity during the COVID-19-induced downturn and recovery across the G-7 countries: the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Canada, France, Germany, and Italy. Today, we focus on the U.S. and compare activity during the 2020-2021 downturn and recovery with activity during past episodes.
The FRED graph above plots the value of quarterly real (i.e., adjusted for inflation) GDP during and after the five most recent economic recessions: 1981-1982, 1990-1991, 2001, 2007-2009, and 2020-2021 (red dashed line). The billions of dollars reported by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis are plotted as a custom index. The index has a value of 100 at the start of each recession, which is marked as the zero “date” on the left-hand side of the graph. Each

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Measuring uncertainty and volatility with FRED data

June 24, 2021

Uncertainty and volatility are closely related but distinct concepts. People are uncertain if they lack confidence in their knowledge of the state of the world or future events. News is more likely to change the views of people with high uncertainty. In financial markets, changing views is associated with changing asset prices. Volatility denotes the size of changes in asset prices, so volatility is an ex post (after the fact) measure of uncertainty.
Uncertainty and volatility are carefully watched variables because of their relation to financial crises. During such periods, uncertainty often rises to high levels as the prices of risky assets, such as stocks, tend to fall. This produces a short-term, negative relation between uncertainty and returns.
FRED has a number of series that

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The pandemic’s boost to online sales: A one-time event or a new normal?

June 21, 2021

The FRED graph above shows online retail sales. It’s no surprise these sales have been steadily increasing, even if there are a few rough patches during recessions. And it’s also completely expected that the pandemic provided a large boost to e-commerce over on-site retail. The question is whether this is a temporary boost that will subside once the world returns to normal. that is, will the previous trend continue where it left off or has the online sector gotten a boost that will put it on a higher trajectory?
Obviously, it’s still too early to say exactly what the “new normal” will look like. But, at the time of this writing, it looks like the second option is correct and there’s a new trajectory for online sales. But not much has been normal about the current recession, so only

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Change in the metal value of coins

June 17, 2021

For a long time, coins were supposed to contain enough valuable metal to be worth their face value. This intrinsic value was intended to create trust in the coins and, thus, facilitate transactions for a smooth-running economy. But this hasn’t always worked out well.
Coin issuers had strong incentives to dilute the value by adding less-precious metals or reducing the weight of the coins.
The value of the underlying metals could fluctuate quite a bit, leading to more fluctuation in the price of goods than some liked.
There’s the chronic big problem of small change—the high costs and degree of difficulty to produce the coins.
Today, the most-used U.S. coins are made of nickel, copper, and zinc. The FRED graph above shows that the value of these metals still fluctuates a lot. But

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How inflation helps the stock market set records

June 14, 2021

The news regularly reports that this or that stock market index has reached new heights. What does that really mean?
Economies tend to grow, whether it’s their population or their productivity, so it’s natural that their economic statistics would also increase. Prices generally increase as well, which means that even if an economy doesn’t grow, economic measures will increase. That is, if those measures aren’t cleared of general price inflation (“deflated”). Eventually, any stock index will also appear to increase over time. It will have ups and downs—sometimes big ones—but eventually it will set new records.
Let’s consider the example shown in the graph above, which is the Nikkei index for the Japanese stock market over the past 10 years. It seems to have been increasing and, in

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Ceasing emergency federal unemployment benefits: A look at the latest state-level data

June 10, 2021

The federal government has provided emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to states since March 2020 to supplement their regular state programs. On June 12, 2021, Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Missouri will stop accepting those benefits. Over the next several weeks, 21 other states will also withdraw from these federal emergency UI benefit programs.

These 25 states are withdrawing from these federal emergency programs before their federally legislated closure in September. They include extended eligibility to many workers who otherwise wouldn’t be covered by state UI programs, a $300 weekly add-on for UI recipients, and an extension of benefits beyond the regular state programs’ duration.

These 25 states, which we refer to as “halting states,” will continue to

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Teenagers’ labor force participation : BLS data on the evolution of summer jobs

June 7, 2021

The FRED Blog has compared employment among teenagers with employment among older workers: Teens no longer participate in the labor market with the same vigor as they did up to 1978. That post also showed how teen employment is clearly seasonal, spiking during the summer when school’s out.
The FRED graph above plots the monthly, not seasonally adjusted labor force participation rate of those 16 to 19 years old (purple spikes) along with the annual, seasonally adjusted value (black dashed line). Clearly, the seasonal swings are extreme and the overall trend has changed over time.
Between 1948 and the 1978 peak, on average, 62% of teens were either employed or looking for a job during the summer months of June, July, and August. The rest of the year, their labor force participation

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A V-shaped recovery : Tracking GDP in the G-7 through COVID-19

June 3, 2021

The pandemic-driven recession started in the first quarter of 2020. After a  year, it appears the recession is nearly at an end. The FRED graph above tracks this downturn in GDP for countries in the G-7, all indexed to 100 in Q4 2019.
The full legend is large, so we’ve removed it from this graph. Simply mouse over the graph to read the series titles and identify the countries: solid red = U.S., purple dash-dots = Japan, green dots = Canada, orange dots = France,  green dashes = Germany,  solid gray = Italy, and blue dash-dots = U.K.  
GDP dropped sharply in all countries in Q2 2020. The worst-hit country was the U.K., where GDP dropped by more than 20%. The least-impacted country was Japan, with a drop of less than 10%.
GDP levels have been recovering; but as of Q1 2021, they’re all

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The distribution of patents across U.S. states : Tracking innovation for Californians, Massachusettsans, Idahoans, Mainers, etc. etc.

May 27, 2021

FRED Blog posts have discussed patent royalties, R&D, and the balance of payments and the changing geography of U.S. innovation. Today, we tap into a recently added data set from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to discuss the distribution of patented new ideas across U.S. states.
The GeoFRED map above shows the number of patents registered in each state during 2019, which is the latest available data point as of this writing. The total number of new patents for the whole country was 186,022, and the map illustrates their uneven geographical distribution. While California recorded 50,667 patents, Maine recorded 249. That might be expected simply because the population isn’t evenly distributed across the country: For each Mainer, there are 29 Californians. But it’s not all about

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The jump in used car prices

May 24, 2021

Economic restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic are being loosened, and economic activity is beginning to pick up. That’s expected to generate temporary increases in consumer price inflation. Over the past few months, prices for energy commodities and services have increased. But the largest monthly change in the April 2021 CPI belonged to another sector: used cars and trucks.
The FRED graph above shows that year-over-year growth in used vehicle prices reached 21% in April 2021, up from an already elevated 9.4% in March 2021. This is especially remarkable given that the general increase in the price level as of April was 4.2%. Used vehicle prices haven’t increased this much since December 1981, when they measured 21% and general inflation was 8.9%. Prior to 2020, the last

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Savings are now more liquid and part of “M1 money” : Regulation D has made savings deposits as convenient as currency

May 20, 2021

Money is marvelously nuanced. Because different assets can be used as money, we need several categories and definitions to keep track of it. M1 describes the most liquid and widely accepted assets used to easily settle transactions: currency, demand deposits, and highly liquid accounts.
A previous FRED blog post discussed how recent changes in the opportunity cost of money and the regulation of savings accounts have affected measures of the money stock (a.k.a. monetary aggregates). In this post, we tighten our focus on how these regulations have affected M1.
Before April 24, 2020, savings accounts were not part of M1. Limitations in the number of transfers from savings deposits made savings accounts less liquid than M1. M1 consisted of currency, demand deposits, and other highly

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Quits vs. layoffs in recessions and pandemics

May 17, 2021

The FRED graph above compares job separations and hires in the U.S. economy.
Usually there are more hires than separations; that is, the number of employed people increases except during recessions. As we see in the graph, the recovery after the 2008-09 recession was remarkable in that hires were greater than separations in almost every month. Of course, this graph is dominated by the wild swings during the pandemic. So let’s look at the details of these separations.
The FRED graph below shows the proportions of three categories of separations: quits, layoffs, and others (retirements, for example). There are usually more quits that layoffs, except during recessions: With a weaker labor market, employees hesitate to quit while employers are more likely to fire some employees.

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Comparing price growth for homes and stock shares

May 13, 2021

The FRED Blog has discussed how stock market fluctuations don’t accurately reflect overall economic conditions in the U.S. Today, we throw real estate prices into the mix and see what patterns we can find.
The FRED graph above tracks total stock shares in blue and Case-Shiller national home prices in red during the most recent economic downturn. We use an index equal to 100 in the first quarter of 2020, the start of the COVID-19-induced recession, to help us easily compare these growth rates over time.
Real estate prices took off during the second half of 2020. Stock prices slumped during the first half of the year and did not quite catch up by the second half. (The same pattern is visible when comparing the Case-Shiller home price index to the Dow Jones Industrial Average.) But

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

May 10, 2021

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

May 6, 2021

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

May 3, 2021

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

April 29, 2021

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

April 26, 2021

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

April 22, 2021

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

April 19, 2021

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

April 15, 2021

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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