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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

ALFRED at 15: Archiving FRED data since 2006

4 days ago

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

7 days ago

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

11 days ago

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

14 days ago

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

18 days ago

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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

21 days ago

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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

25 days ago

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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

28 days ago

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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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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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