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Just the facts, ma’am : Embracing seasonality in national accounts data

Summary:
[embedded content] Usually, if you have the choice, you want to look at macroeconomic data that have been seasonally adjusted. This adjustment lets you compare periods within any year without being misled by the various fluctuations that occur every year. Ice cream production, tourism, and toy purchases, for example, all have predictable seasonal factors, and usually we’re interested in what happens beyond these seasonal effects. The same logic applies to aggregate measures such as gross domestic product (GDP). But, occasionally, we just want the raw data. All three GDP components shown in the graph above consistently dip in the first quarter. In most of the country, the winter months hinder activities such as residential construction and local government infrastructure projects. As

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Usually, if you have the choice, you want to look at macroeconomic data that have been seasonally adjusted. This adjustment lets you compare periods within any year without being misled by the various fluctuations that occur every year. Ice cream production, tourism, and toy purchases, for example, all have predictable seasonal factors, and usually we’re interested in what happens beyond these seasonal effects.

The same logic applies to aggregate measures such as gross domestic product (GDP). But, occasionally, we just want the raw data. All three GDP components shown in the graph above consistently dip in the first quarter. In most of the country, the winter months hinder activities such as residential construction and local government infrastructure projects. As for the dip in imports, that’s linked to the dips described above, because general declines in activity are definitely reflected in imports.

How this graph was created: From the gross domestic product release, go to section 8 (not seasonally adjusted); then choose the table with real GDP, select the relevant series, and click “Add to Graph.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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FRED Blog
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.

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