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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

Why manufacturing declines, at least in relative terms : Data on the stages of economic development

2 days ago

As economies develop from their agrarian roots into modern societies, they invariably go through a similar transition.
Agriculture: First, everyone works in the primary sector—agriculture—simply to survive. Food comes first.
Industry: As subsistence farming becomes more productive through innovation, some labor is free to engage in other productive activities. And this secondary, industrial sector rises in importance, with manufacturing as a major component. Consider the Industrial Revolution!
Services: Finally, as productivity in the industrial sector also improves, labor can be devoted more and more to the tertiary, services sector. It doesn’t produce anything tangible, but services are clearly still useful.

The FRED graphs in this post show the fraction of the labor force

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An update on Venezuela’s troubled economy

9 days ago

Venezuela has all but vanished from the news as the rest of the world grapples with its own problems. In this blog post, we document the state of Venezuela’s economy through FRED graphs. This has been no easy task, since recent data are actually quite scarce. And we’ll explain a second reason below.
Even just glancing at our first graph reveals there’s trouble. The economy has been in an unprecedented decline, with GDP below the level it was in 1970. That kind of economic suffering indicates major problems.

One problem is clearly inflation—or, more accurately, hyperinflation. Our second graph shows the exchange rate of the Venezuelan currency against the U.S. dollar. For most of the time period shown, the line cannot be distinguished from zero because the recently skyrocketing rate

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A short history of working hours : The U.K. work week since the year 1260

12 days ago

The FRED graph above shows average weekly hours worked per worker in the United Kingdom since the year 1260.
Clearly, measuring the work week is a long-standing tradition for the British. It is also a long-standing challenge for economists, but accurate measures matter for at least two reasons: First, hours worked determine the time available for leisure and, thus, matter for welfare. Second, the measurement of productivity depends crucially on the measurement of hours worked.
Consider the Industrial Revolution in England, which is generally dated as the second half of the eighteenth century to the first half of the nineteenth century. Did this Industrial Revolution occur because of innovations and technological progress or because workers were working longer hours than before? The

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The pandemic’s effect on inventories : Low production, steady demand in early 2020 depleted inventories

16 days ago

As the pandemic began in early spring of 2020, the U.S. economy faced significant supply disruptions: Many local and state governments mandated the shutdown of non-essential production of goods and services to various degrees.
Although production declined, American households still demanded goods as part of their daily lives. Income support from the federal government also bolstered the purchasing power of many households, and thus there was much less of a contraction in total demand than would have occurred otherwise.
So, where do the goods that are consumed in a given month, quarter, or year come from, if not from production? Here we focus on one channel: inventories—specifically, the change in inventories, also called inventory investment. This is the difference between

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What’s common among cryptocurrencies? : Comparing crypto prices with data from Coinbase

19 days ago

FRED has listed the prices of certain cryptocurrencies for some time now. The FRED graph above shows four of them. Note that their prices are measured through an index number, normalized to 100 on 01-01-2018, so we can compare their growth, not their levels in actual dollars and cents.
Just eyeballing the graph reveals that they seem to largely move in unison, which is remarkable given that these prices are highly volatile. So, a significant component of their price variations must be common across all these cryptocurrencies. This commonality may come from news that pertains to all of them, such as regulation, adoption by some large player, or fiscal rulings, for example. Changes to the relative value of their counterpart, the U.S. dollar, can also play a role.
Obviously, there’s

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Jolts in the labor market: It’s harder to hire : Average time to fill an open job rose from 20 to 50 days

23 days ago

It should be no surprise that the job market has had some ups and downs during this pandemic, and one related measure is how long it has taken to fill an open position. FRED, with the help of the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), gives us the tools to look into this.
JOLTS, among other things, provides monthly data on the number of job openings and how many openings have been filled during that month. A simple ratio of these two numbers tells us how many months it takes to fill an open position, on average. And that’s exactly what we show in the FRED graph above. For example, in early 2011 (the start of this data series), it was taking less than a month to fill an open position.
The pandemic created special circumstances: First, job openings dropped like a stone, so

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Jumps in county population : Fresh data from the Census Bureau

26 days ago

The first results of the 2020 population census are trickling in, and FRED is adding them to the database as the Census Bureau makes them available.
The FRED graph above shows the resident population for Jefferson County, Wisconsin; Prince George’s County, Maryland; and St. Louis City, Missouri (which is its own county).
The Census Bureau measures and adjusts the population data yearly from estimates about births, deaths, and migration. Again, these are just estimates. While births and deaths are well measured, migration is more difficult because there’s no U.S. requirement to register when you move, as there is for some countries.
The more precise population measurements come in the form of the decadal census, and this is the type of data FRED is receiving now. In the graph, do you

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Public construction spending: Building up U.S. infrastructure

September 16, 2021

The FRED Blog has used U.S. Census data to compare private construction spending across different types of structures. Today we build on that topic by comparing the different types of public construction spending.
The FRED graph above shows spending data between 1993 and 2020. During most of these years, local, state, and federal construction projects amounted to one out of every four dollars spent on construction. As of 2020, public construction spending was $361 billion. Let’s look at the specific building blocks.
Over the past 20 years, almost all public construction spending has been directed to nonresidential projects, including new structures and improvements on existing ones. The Census reports on 12 categories of nonresidential spending. Of those, 4 categories comprise about

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Recreational Data in FRED : Using BLS data to track fun, 2007-2019

September 13, 2021

The FRED Blog has discussed the growing share of personal spending on recreation. But where, precisely, are households spending their leisure time?
FRED data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Industry Productivity release can show us a few things: The FRED graph above plots inflation-adjusted business activity, or real output, for five different industries in the amusement, gambling, and recreation industry subsector. The BLS reports output as an index value, which is set at 100 in 2007; so, the slopes of the lines represent the rate of output growth in each industry relative to that year.
Amusement park and arcade output (dark blue line) was a bit of a rollercoaster ride: Output decreased 23% between 2007 and 2010, but had mostly bounced back by 2019.
Bowling alley output

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Residential segregation and redlining

September 9, 2021

In a recent post, the FRED Blog described how the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) created color-coded maps of 239 cities across the U.S. to indicate the riskiness associated with making mortgage loans in each neighborhood. This practice, adopted between 1935 and 1940, informed the supervisory work of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board over the lenders. Let’s recap the color codes for those maps:
Grade A: “Best” (shaded green), where properties were expected to increase or maintain a high appraised value, posing the lowest default risk for mortgage lenders.
Grade B: “Still desirable” (shaded blue), where properties were expected to maintain their appraised value, posing an acceptable risk of default for mortgage lenders.
Grade C: “Declining” (shaded yellow), where properties were

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Residential redlining of U.S. neighborhoods

September 2, 2021

The FRED graph above shows home values for four classifications of neighborhoods from 1930 to 2010. The lowest values (and highest levels of risk) are shown by the red line, which was an intentional choice: Red is the color used in 1930s city maps to mark the residential neighborhoods where lenders deemed they were most likely to lose money when making mortgage loans. And that color gave rise to the term “redlining.”
After the Great Depression (1929-1933), the federal government tasked the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), among several other agencies, with overseeing the work of residential lenders. The HOLC designed a set of rules to appraise the value of properties, and these appraisals took into consideration local housing market conditions as well as the demographic and

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No taper tantrum this time? : Comparing bond market reactions in 2013 and 2021

August 30, 2021

The FRED graph above shows the daily yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries since the beginning of 2013. On May 22, 2013, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke announced that the Fed would start tapering asset purchases at some future date, which sent a negative shock to the market, causing bond investors to start selling their bonds. (See the dotted vertical line in the graph.) As a result, the yield on 10-year U.S. Treasuries rose from around 2% in May 2013 to around 3% in December. This sharp climb in yields is often referred to as the “taper tantrum.”
In late July 2021, Federal Reserve officials signaled that the Fed would start reducing the volume of its bond purchases later in the year. This signal made some investors worry about another taper tantrum; however, it might not be the

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Discrepancies in dating recessions : Illuminating the shaded areas on the graph

August 26, 2021

There’s no hard and fast rule for determining when the U.S. economy has entered a recession, and there’s no one indicator that determines a recession.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Business Cycle Dating Committee defines a recession as a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy and makes that determination by considering numerous indicators of economic activity. They date a recession from the peak of a business cycle through its trough. Most recently, the committee identified February 2020 as the last business cycle peak and April 2020 as the business cycle trough, making this the shortest recession on record—just 2 to 3 months.
While the beginning and ending months of a recession tend to get a lot of attention, the committee also releases

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Rents still rising with regional riffs : Rent CPI has been outpacing headline CPI for 20 years

August 23, 2021

If you’ve been paying rent just about anywhere in the United States, you likely already know that rent has been going up. And the FRED graph above shows exactly that. Average rent in U.S. cities has risen by 85% in just the past 20 years. That’s 30 percentage points above the 55% inflation that’s occurred between then and now (July 2021, at the time of this writing).
Rent growth in the Northeast and South has stayed close to the national average in recent years, while growth in the West has surpassed the national average. The exception is the Midwest, where the regional average has lagged a bit behind the national average. But average rent in all regions still outpaces inflation, with Midwest rent growth remaining the closest (only 7 percentage points above). Since the end of the

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Hawaii rises to the top in state-level labor productivity growth : New data from the BLS track output per hour worked in 2020

August 19, 2021

Join us on a road trip of FRED data in search of labor productivity.
The FRED Blog recently compared the increase in labor productivity during the COVID-19-induced recession with labor productivity in past recessions. Today, we use a recently added data set on state-level productivity from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to compare labor productivity across states.
First, labor productivity is output per hour worked. So, when labor productivity increases, an hour of work yields more output, which means more goods produced or more services delivered with the same amount of effort.
The GeoFRED map above shows the percent growth in labor productivity in Hawaii during 2020. The residents of the very last state to join the Union (August 21, 1959) recorded the fastest growth in labor

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The recovery in leisure and hospitality employment

August 16, 2021

The FRED Blog has previously looked at the negative impact of social distancing on employment levels in the leisure and hospitality industry. Today, one year later, we take a look at how the overall economic recovery is reflected in this industry.
The GeoFRED map above shows the percent change between May 2020 and May 2021 of employment levels in the leisure and hospitality industry for each state. The data are seasonally adjusted, meaning they correct for the recurring ups and downs in activity during any given year. For example, winter ice fishing in North Dakota or summer vacationing in Florida.
Overall, the number of employees in the leisure and hospitality industry increased from May 2020 to May 2021 by a stunning average of 42%. The smallest increase was 20% in Oklahoma, and

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Real residential property prices: United States vs. Australia

August 12, 2021

Residential property can reveal insights about the financial stability of a country’s economy. The FRED graph above shows the annual changes in the residential property prices for both the United States and Australia for the past 20 years. While the size and location of properties obviously affect residential property tax values, so do the financing of these properties and financial market conditions.
For example, the Financial Crisis of 2008 dramatically dampened U.S. property prices. The U.S. house price index reflects the economic turmoil during that time, when annual house prices declined as much as 19.6% in the third quarter of 2008 from their levels during the same quarter of the previous year. The crisis also trickled down to Australia, causing local property prices to

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Personal savings during the pandemic : BEA data show recent spikes in the personal savings rate

August 9, 2021

Many households have been financially distressed during the COVID-19 pandemic, struggling to pay for necessities such as rent and groceries. It may seem surprising, then, that the aggregate personal saving rate has actually increased since the start of the pandemic.
The FRED graph above displays the U.S. personal saving rate from June 2009 to the present. As defined by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal savings are income left over after people spend money and pay taxes. The personal saving rate is personal savings expressed as a percentage of disposable personal income. From the end of the Great Recession to February 2020, the personal saving rate has averaged 7.25%; since the start of the pandemic, however, it has averaged 17.9%.
There are several reasons for this increased

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Is China becoming a new innovation powerhouse? : Data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

August 5, 2021

The FRED graph above shows total U.S. patents granted originating from China and Germany from 1992 through 2020, indexed to 100 in 1992.
Germany has long been the most innovative European country in terms of U.S. patents granted, and their total has steadily increased, by 152%, from 1992 to 2020. What’s interesting is how quickly China has closed the gap and even surpassed Germany in patents since joining the WTO on December 11, 2001. As part of their entry to the WTO, China agreed to the basic Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provisions protecting intellectual property rights.
In 2001, the U.S. granted 11,894 patents to German inventors, while granting only 266 to Chinese inventors. Over the next 19 years, as of 2020, U.S. patents granted to Germans

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Overnight reverse repurchase agreements: Short-term parking for reserves

August 2, 2021

The FRED Blog has described the use of overnight repurchase agreements to add liquidity to financial markets when bank reserves are ample. Today, we discuss the use of overnight reverse repurchase agreements (ON RRPs).
As the name strongly implies, ON RPPs are the flip sides of overnight repurchase agreements. These operations allow financial institutions that cannot receive interest payments on their reserves to deposit funds at the Fed overnight (with a security held as collateral). These operations remove liquidity from financial markets. ON RRPs are executed by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the FRED graph above shows that their volume has steadily grown since the second quarter of 2021.
Two factors are at play here. First, the planned influx of liquidity to

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U.S. net exports of technology have fallen since 2011 : How have tech imports and exports changed?

July 29, 2021

The FRED graph above shows the quarterly evolution of U.S. net exports of technology, from Q1 1967 to Q1 2021. Net exports of technology are measured as royalties and license fees received minus royalties and license fees paid during this period (as a percentage of GDP).
The U.S. has always been a net exporter of technology and, hence, a net receiver of royalty payments. And net exports as a share of GDP have steadily increased from 0.12% in Q1 1985 to 0.48% in Q3 2011—an increase of 300%! But after 2011, there’s been a slow decline, reaching 0.28% in Q1 2021 (its lowest level since Q1 2002). What’s caused this decline?
The FRED graph below shows, separately, exports of technology in terms of royalties received and imports of technology in terms of royalties paid (again, as a

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The health of labor markets post-pandemic: The supply perspective

July 26, 2021

As we discussed in the previous post, firms everywhere are having serious difficulties filling vacancies. With these worker shortages on everyone’s minds, let’s discuss how the pandemic has shaped the workforce.
The FRED graph above shows the fraction of people who participate in the labor force—that is, who either have a job or are actively looking for one—by age group. In previous recessions, only teenagers had significant declines in participation rates; clearly, most workers who lost their jobs kept looking for another. In 2020, however, participation rates declined across the board, with would-be workers leaving the labor force in the face of widespread shutdowns, health concerns, school closures, and financial support from the government.
That said, different age groups

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The health of labor markets post-pandemic: The demand perspective

July 22, 2021

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

July 19, 2021

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

July 15, 2021

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

July 12, 2021

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.

July 8, 2021

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

July 1, 2021

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?

June 28, 2021

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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