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More-severe unemployment in Southern Europe

“There is always someone who has it worse” is sometimes a consolation when bad things happen to you. Here, we contrast the U.S. unemployment rate with the rates in Greece and Spain. There were certainly reasons to complain about the high unemployment rates in the U.S. during the past recession, but they pale in comparison with the experiences in Greece and Spain—even outside recessions. This disparity doesn’t come from differences in definitions of unemployment, either; this graph uses the harmonized unemployment rates from the OECD, which are designed specifically to make the rates comparable.

How this graph was created: Search for “harmonized unemployment rate,” then modify the tags in the side bar to restrict the choices. Select the countries you want and add the series to the graph (using the button at the top or bottom of the list). Finally, restrict the sample period to when data are available for Greece or Spain.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann

View on FRED, series used in this post: LRHUTTTTESM156S, LRHUTTTTGRM156S, LRHUTTTTUSM156S

Japan’s lost decades (and lost population)

After decades of high growth, Japan’s economy slowed down in the early 1990s and has never really returned to old growth rates. Many people have proposed explanations for this, and one of them is shown in the graph above: an unusual drop in the employed population, which has to do with Japan’s substantial demographic changes. The working-age population has actually been declining since 1997, with no sign of reverting soon. For economic growth to occur in this environment, productivity improvements must increase faster than the workforce decreases. These data come from the Penn World Tables, which provides main economic aggregates for almost every economy of the world, while attempting to make them comparable in definition and in measurement units.

How this graph was createdSearch the Penn World table for the “Japan” tag. Select the series and add to a graph. Select the right axis for one of the series.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: EMPENGJPA148NRUG, RGDPNAJPA666NRUG

Keep the car running: retail gas sales and prices

Fuel has the reputation of being very price-inelastic: Consumption changes little even when the price changes. One way to illustrate this relationship is to compare the gasoline sales with prices. This is done in the graph above, and it is very clear these two measures move in sync. It is even more apparent if you look at their growth rates, shown below. Except for the recent recession, the growth rates are almost always very close to each other: The price swings only a little more widely, indicating that quantities respond very little to price changes.

How this graph was created: Search for one series, graph it, then add the other series. For the top graph, select the right axis for one series, as the scales are very different. To create the bottom graph, place both axes on the left and select “Percent Change From Year Ago” for both series.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: DCOILWTICO, GASREGW, RSGASS

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