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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

Employment losses are largest for the least educated

1 day ago

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The FRED Blog has discussed how unemployment rates are inversely related to educational attainment and how they change during recessions. In short: Workers with more education are richer in so-called human capital and tend to be able to adapt more easily to changes in large-scale labor market conditions.
The FRED graph above shows employment levels after the COVID-19-related recession began. The length of the bars represents the percent change,  relative to a year ago, in the number of employed people 25 years and older. And these workers are divided into groups according to educational attainment.
Workers who didn’t graduate from high school had the largest losses in employment. Workers who did graduate from high school, including those  with some college or an

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The state of the economy, weekly

5 days ago

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Measuring the condition of an economy isn’t easy. The most reliable indicators are computed and released only quarterly or yearly, and then with a considerable lag. They are also subject to revisions. For a policymaker or anyone needing to observe and assess the economy, this can be very frustrating.
Fortunately, FRED provides access to some series that have higher frequency (weekly or even daily), are released faster, and don’t need revisions. Individually, these components offer only a partial picture of the economy; but together, they may be informative.
The Lewis-Mertens-Stock index shown in the FRED graph above provides this kind of informative picture of the economy: It comprises ten daily or weekly series, uses a statistical technique called factor analysis

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Renewables have increased the capacity for electricity production : So, capacity utilization has decreased

8 days ago

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As we’ve discussed in a previous post, electricity production has outpaced sales. That suggests a growing number of households and businesses generate some or most of their own electricity. Today, a related idea sparks our curiosity: the ongoing decrease in capacity utilization of electric power generation, transmission, and distribution.
The graph above shows the annual industrial generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity (blue line). It’s measured as an index with a value of 100 in 2012. The positive slope of this line means that the production of electricity has increased over time.
The graph also shows the capacity utilization of electric power generation, transmission, and distribution (red line). It’s measured as the percent of total

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The unemployment benefits of the CARES Act : Expanding the definition of unemployed

12 days ago

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If you’ve visited this blog before, you may have come across the official definition of unemployed: One needs to be currently looking for work, ready to work, and willing to work.
There are also requirements for receiving unemployment insurance benefits (e.g., previous work, waiting periods, eligibility periods, and asset tests) that vary across time periods and states. Plus, specific circumstances may affect benefits: How did you lose your job? Did you work sufficiently long before unemployment? Did you wait long enough before making your claim? Has your eligibility expired?
Given all these criteria and the time it takes to process a claim, there should be more unemployed persons overall than persons currently receiving unemployment insurance benefits. But the

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Last hired, first fired? Employment losses across age groups : Trends in 30 years of BLS employment data

19 days ago

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The COVID-19-related recession has been especially brutal, and its effects have been unevenly distributed. One example of disparity is employment among different age groups.
The FRED graph above shows that the youngest workers were by far the worst hit: From February to April 2020, 35% of the 16- to 19-year-olds and 30% of the 20- to 24-year-olds lost their jobs. The other age categories lost a lot, too—from 11% to 16%—but much less than the youngest cohorts. While all age groups recuperated to some extent by August, the gap is still considerable.
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Are the young taking one for the team just for this recession? Or have they always been first to be let go? Let’s look at the past three recessions. The second graph, which covers the period of the

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Most unemployment measures are declining… : …while long-term unemployment is still rising

22 days ago

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Many of us follow the unemployment rate closely, even more so since the pandemic began. But there are many definitions of unemployment, which depend on how people are attached to the labor force. To learn more, see this earlier blog post and this conversational account of unemployment measures.
Today’s FRED graph shows the recent evolution of 6 measures of unemployment. All increased dramatically, but not uniformly: The lines didn’t move in a parallel fashion—that is, the distance between them didn’t remain constant. Rather, the lines fanned out, showing that it wasn’t one particular type of unemployment that was responsible for the overall surge.
One detail worth noting, though, is that the long-term unemployed, which by definition take some time to accumulate,

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How much commuting time are we saving by working from home? : A back-of-the-envelope calculation of pandemic-related changes

26 days ago

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The FRED Blog has looked at the wide range of commuting times across U.S. cities and counties, as well as the impact of shorter commutes on employment and happiness.
Given that many employees have been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ll try to gauge the potential number of hours per week that are no longer spent commuting to work. Clearly, not every employee is working from home these days. So this is a “back-of-the-envelope” calculation, which uses available information to approximate answers to very complex questions.*
First, we use the latest data (which is from 2018) on the average daily commuting time for three suburban counties:
29.57 minutes in DuPage County, IL
24.30 minutes in St. Louis County, MO
32.18 minutes in Fairfax, VA
Next, we

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What are the odds? Prices differ between hotels and casino hotels

29 days ago

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The FRED Blog recently discussed the large reductions in travel related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today we expand that analysis to include a specific aspect of travel: hotel stays.
The graph above shows producer price index (PPI) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) that measure price changes from the perspective of the seller. Percent changes in prices from a year ago are shown for both stand-alone hotels (in gold) and hotels attached to casinos (in red).
Seller prices began dropping for stand-alone hotels in February, and the downturn has persisted through the summer: During peak season (June to August) prices were, on average, 17% lower than they were a year ago.
But hotels attached to casinos show an increase for most of this time period. This

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Unemployment rates by country during COVID-19 : Considering differences in pandemic-related policies

September 24, 2020

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In a previous post, we mapped unemployment claims for U.S. states during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we compare the unemployment rates of seven high-income countries.
The graph shows monthly, seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Japan, Germany, U.K., U.S., Canada, France, and Italy. These rates are harmonized—that is, the same definition of unemployment is used for all these countries.
U.S. unemployment spiked from 3.5% in February 2020 to 14.7% in April. (It spiked similarly in Canada, from 5.6% to 13%.) But unemployment did not rise significantly in other countries. What explains this difference?
Countries that reduced the spread of COVID-19 early on have had less severe economic contractions, which may help explain the low unemployment rates in Japan and

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The Fed’s balance sheet : Assets and liabilities of the Federal Reserve Banks

September 21, 2020

A graph is an excellent way to visualize economic data, and FRED gives you the power to construct these graphs. But some data—balance sheets, for example—convey information more clearly in table form.
Say you want to understand the Fed’s response to the current pandemic. A good place to start is the Fed’s balance sheet, which is published weekly: Table 5: Consolidated Statement of Condition of All Federal Reserve Banks.* Here, the consolidated assets and liabilities of the Federal Reserve Banks are offered in three columns: the most recent release, the previous release, and the release from a year ago. (You can also select specific releases using the calendar tool. The data below are as of September 16, 2020.)
Over the past year, the Fed’s assets have grown by about $3.2 trillion. If

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Staying put during the pandemic: Fewer miles in trains, planes, and automobiles

September 17, 2020

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An earlier FRED Blog post covered the trends and cycles in the average number of miles per person traveled on the road. More recently, we’ve seen changes in all kinds of travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The graph above uses data from the Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics on the number of miles traveled each month by people riding trains, planes, and automobiles.
A rail passenger-mile is 1 passenger carried 1 mile.
An air revenue passenger-mile is 1 paying passenger carried 1 mile.
And vehicle miles traveled is the sum of the number of roadway miles traveled by each vehicle and (barring unoccupied self-driving cars) amounts to at least 1 person per vehicle per mile.
Before the pandemic, in February 2020, for each mile

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Early economic effects from “safer at home” practices : What Census data from the Quarterly Services Survey can show us

September 14, 2020

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Social distancing and “safer at home” practices have been in effect for many months now, so what do the data show us so far? These protective measures have had widespread effects across the economy; but some industries were affected much more quickly, as behavioral changes predated any official stay-at-home directives.
Our first example is transportation revenue, which varied according to whether people or goods were being transported: The graph above shows the quarter-to-quarter percent change in seasonally adjusted revenue for air, truck, and ground passenger transportation and couriers and messengers over the past five years. We note contrasting experiences for the four modes in quarters 1 and 2 of 2020.
Airline transportation fell 17.8%, then 78.5%.
Transit and

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The increasing appetite for air conditioning : Tracking changes in the output of electric and gas utilities

September 10, 2020

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The FRED Blog often discusses the regular economic ups and downs that occur over the course of a year (eg, fruit and house prices). Today, we look at some big changes in the seasonal pattern of electricity and gas production.
The data are from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System—specifically, the Industrial Production and Capacity Utilization (G.17) survey—which show the quarterly changes in the industrial production of electricity and gas utilities.*
The FRED graph above shows electricity and gas production from 2000 to 2020, which peaks twice per year: in winter (first quarter) and summer (third quarter). For most of these 20 years, the winter and summer peaks have been very similar in value. But that has not always been the case.
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The pandemic’s impact on North American GDP: Checking on the neighbors

September 3, 2020

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An earlier FRED Blog post discussed the global scale of the ongoing pandemic. Today, we focus on some recent GDP values in North America, comparing inflation-adjusted growth for Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
The data shown in this FRED graph are from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which uses the label “GDP in constant prices,” which is a synonym for “real GDP.” (Btw, FRED tends to adopt the series names used by the data source.)
But whether you call it a “tomāto” or a “tomăto,” these inflation-adjusted GDP growth figures show large declines in overall economic activity in Canada, the United States, and Mexico during the second quarter of 2020. The large trade flows among these three countries and the recent reduction in

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What’s happened so far with the return on safe and liquid assets?

August 31, 2020

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Today, we use an assortment of FRED data to consider a straightforward question: What has happened to the returns on safe assets (in this case, Treasury securities) since the pandemic hit? We look especially at the possible contributions of inflation expectations and demand for liquidity.
The FRED graph above shows
nominal rates for the 1-year Treasury (dark blue) and the 5-year Treasury (red)
the difference between the “instantaneous” 5-year-ahead Treasury rate and the 5-year, 5-year forward expected inflation rate (green)
the difference between corporate bond yields and the 5-year Treasury yield (light blue)
The 1- and 5-year Treasuries are among the safest and most liquid assets in the market, and both rates have dropped considerably since the start of the

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Seasonality in food prices: A bountiful harvest of FRED data

August 27, 2020

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The FRED Blog has discussed shocks to meat and fish prices related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shocks are unexpected changes in the supply or demand of a product or commodity that results in a sudden change in its price. Today, we discuss how the timing of harvesting seasons results in predictable changes in the prices of fresh fruit.
The FRED graph above uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index, Average Price Data release: It shows the quarterly dollar prices of a pound of Thompson seedless grapes (green circles) and a dry pint of strawberries (red circles).
When grapes are harvested at the end of the summer (the third quarter of the year) and strawberries are picked in the spring (the second quarter of the year), the abundant supply

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Retail sales in a pandemic recession : Diverse tales by sectors

August 24, 2020

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The FRED graph above shows retail sales for the last year and a half. Of course, the pandemic has had a huge impact, with a severe drop and a quick recovery. But the retail sector is large and diverse. So let’s look at various layers of it.
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This graph is one of the strangest looking ones we’ve ever shown on this blog. And it tells very different stories. Let’s go through them one by one. (Hover over the legend in the graph to better see the respective lines.)
Grocery store sales actually surged with the pandemic. This is likely linked to the substitution from eating out to eating at home, which we discussed earlier on this blog.Alcohol sales increased as well, as discussed in another post.Pharmacies and drug stores are also doing well, likely due

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The high(er) price of health

August 20, 2020

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Our purchases cost more and more over time, given inflation. Tracking the price index for personal consumption expenditures is one way to measure inflation. And the FRED graph above shows that, since 2000, personal consumption expenditures (purple line) have become 40% more expensive. This amounts to an annual rate of inflation of about 1.8%.
Price indexes can be computed for specific spending categories as well—such as food, energy, and health. The Health Expenditures Price index is also shown in this graph (blue line): It’s the way the Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks the price of heath expenditures for households.
The graph reveals how much faster the price of health expenditures is growing relative to the price of general consumption expenditures: It took 19

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Supply and demand shocks to food prices: FRED data à la carte : Rising meat prices, falling fish prices

August 17, 2020

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In an earlier post, the FRED Blog discussed the price changes of a classic lunch option. Today, we discuss some dinner options, showing how the market prices for “surf and turf” have changed recently.
The Turf
The graph above uses U.S. consumer price data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to show the percent change in price from a year ago for three “turf” dining options: pork, beef, and chicken. (Btw, We use percent changes from a year ago to account for any seasonal patterns.)
Pork chop prices are clearly hogging a lot of space in the graph. In fact, the average price of pork chops has grown by double digits since April 2020. Sirloin steak prices have also moved up dramatically during the same time period. Chicken prices have also grown, but they are last in

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The impact of recessions on net worth : Uneven experiences by wealth quantile

August 13, 2020

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Recessions take their toll in many ways, including on households’ net worth, a stock variable that measures the difference between the value of the assets and the value of the liabilities, or obligations, a person has accumulated over a lifetime. And, as you might expect, FRED has data on this topic.
We made some adjustments to the FRED graph shown here that could use a little explanation: We started with a graph of households separated into four different classes according to wealth. We changed the units of the asset data from millions of dollars to an index and then set the base period at the beginning of the Great Recession of 2007-2009.
Now we can compare how these four different classes of households (top 1% in wealth, next 9%, next 40%, and bottom 50%) fared

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Consumption of goods and services during the COVID-19 recession : Some shirts, some shoes, but a lot less service

August 10, 2020

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First, some background on the line graphs shown above and below: The zero “date” is the start of a recession. The x-axis “periods” are the number of months after the start date. And the data are from the BEA’s Personal Income and Outlay survey.
Now, what do they show? The main revelation is that real personal consumption expenditures on services have decreased since February 2020, the start of the current recession. And, at the time of this writing, expenditures on services remain below their pre-recession levels. The data show that consumption of goods has also decreased, but not as much, and it has largely recovered. So, shirts and shoes notwithstanding, there’s a lot less service.
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This decline in spending on services is significant for two

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U.S. trade during COVID-19 : Imports and exports have plummeted differently

August 6, 2020

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The recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has included a precipitous decline in U.S. trade: The FRED graph above shows that both imports and exports have declined more than 20% relative to a year ago. This decline may not be too surprising, given that international trade flows are usually more volatile than domestic economic activity. Large changes in economic activity typically feature even larger changes in trade flows.
The only other recent time period with such a decline was early 2009, during the Great Recession. But the graph above shows a key difference between the two recessions: Recently, exports have declined substantially more than imports, which is the opposite of what occurred during the Great Recession.
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The second graph shows

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New details on mortgage rates : What impact does a FICO score have?

August 3, 2020

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FRED now offers Optimal Blue Mortgage Market Indices, which provide a more-detailed look at mortgage rates. These indices are computed daily from actual mortgage closings and cover about 35% of the U.S. market.
The FRED graph above compares the weekly rates from Freddie Mac (red line) and from Optimal Blue (blue line). The latter also covers mortgages that aren’t managed by Freddie Mac, but with the restriction that they must be “conformable”—that is, the loan amount can’t exceed the limit for the property and its location.
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In the second graph, we see that the loan amount influences the loan rate: The closer your loan is to the full value of the house, the more you have to pay. But the difference doesn’t look too large or unpredictable. Keep in

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Are jobs in education still recession-proof? : Studying employment data in the education sector

July 30, 2020

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The U.S. economy is in recession, and the unemployment rate is above 10%. But the start of the school year is around the corner, and teachers are going back to work.
Historically, student enrollment in colleges and universities increases during recessions,* but what do the data on educational employment show us? Here, we look at two graphs—one for New York City (the most populous U.S. city) and one for California (the most populous U.S. state)—to see if employment in the education sector really is recession-proof.
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Both FRED graphs above show there was no noticeable change in college, university, and professional school employment (the blue area) during the 1990-1991, 2001, and 2007-2009 recessions. The data, by the way, are seasonally adjusted to

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Location, location, location in house price data : Manufactured home prices help separate the house from the land

July 27, 2020

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The FRED graph above shows the average price of single-family homes in the four Census regions. Homes in the Northeast are about twice as expensive as in the Midwest or the South, with the West in between. Why so? It could be that the houses have different characteristics (e.g., size and amenities), but it more likely has to do with the location.
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The second graph shows prices for manufactured homes in the same four Census regions. These homes come in a fairly standard size and layout. But more importantly for our purposes here, they’re priced at the seller location: in the Northeast, Midwest, South, or West. And they’re priced without the land they’ll be on.
The graph shows there’s no systematic or notable difference in the level of prices in the

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Mapping U.S. unemployment claims

July 23, 2020

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Did you know FRED has launched a new map feature?* It’s true. And today we’ll reveal some of the benefits of using data maps by looking at unemployment claims. 
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, unemployment has risen to extraordinary levels, which we can see in the continued claims (insured unemployment) data series. The map above shows these claims, state by state, for the second quarter of 2020.
At a first glance, it may seem there’s a lot of heterogeneity across states. The largest increases in claims occurred in California, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York—each with more than 2.7 million persons continuing to file for unemployment benefits.
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The second map shows population by state. The largest

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State-level GDP losses during the pandemic : Mapping the range of economic decline across the U.S.

July 20, 2020

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FRED has the latest state-level GDP data for 2020, and there’s a range of economic decline across the United States.
This GeoFRED map shows regional differences in how state economic growth has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak—from 8% declines in Nevada and New York to a 1.3% slump in Nebraska.
What determines how a state’s economy is affected? This question is complex, as it depends on many factors: the severity of the outbreak, how much confinement was mandated, how seriously it was followed, how many people voluntarily restrained their activity, and the prevalence of economic activities that are most susceptible to shutdowns. Obviously, tourism and entertainment were most affected—with Nevada and Louisiana being important states in this respect and Nebraska

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Net worth losses in early 2020 were larger at the top

July 16, 2020

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Your net worth is the difference between the value of your assets and the value of your liabilities.
On average, changes in household net worth are driven by changes in the value of financial assets. And these types of assets differ across classes of household wealth: The least wealthy hold assets mostly in the form of housing and consumer durables, while the wealthiest hold assets through financial vehicles or stakes in businesses.
The FRED graph above shows how the onset of the current economic recession has affected each group differently. Each bar represents the quarter-to-quarter percent change in net worth by wealth quantile. Throughout 2019, net worth increased for all four wealth classes of households. During the first quarter of 2020, net worth decreased

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New to FRED: Manufactured home prices : Single and double wide data!

July 13, 2020

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FRED has just added data from the U.S. Census Bureau for an additional type of real estate: manufactured homes. This market is separate from and smaller than the more popular and widely watched single-family homes market, but the price data for manufactured homes have several interesting characteristics.
First, manufactured homes are more uniform than other homes. For example, single-family homes come in a variety of sizes, they have tended to become larger over time, and the size composition of single-family home sales may vary from one period to another. Manufactured homes come in two standard sizes, single and double, and separate statistics are collected for each.
Second, the price of manufactured homes includes only the house—that is, the land is not part of

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The impact of social distancing on leisure and hospitality : State-level data from the BLS

July 9, 2020

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The FRED Blog has discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on national retail sales and employment. And Leibovici, Santacreu, and Famiglietti index the contact-intensity of a range of occupations and estimate the economic impact of their reduced activity. Their work ranks several leisure and hospitality occupations in the high-contact category.
Today, we look at the impact that social distancing has had on employment specifically in the leisure and hospitality industry.
The GeoFRED map above shows the percent change in employment levels in the leisure and hospitality industry by U.S. state between May 2019 and May 2020. Note that the data are seasonally adjusted. That means they discount regularly occurring increases and decreases in activity due to seasonal

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