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Don’t be deceived by seasonality

In the graph above, the two series have the same label, yet they tell very different stories: The red line bounces between a few values, and the blue line shows a large increase last summer and then a decrease this winter. The difference is that the blue line reflects raw data, while the red line has been adjusted for seasonal regularities. Obviously, we need to take into account that the labor force participation rate increases every summer; only then can we correctly analyze how the economy is faring. Otherwise, one could draw false conclusions, especially by looking at a single year.

Expanding the sample period reveals the obvious seasonal variations in the path of the blue line, and the graph below shows this. (You can also use the slider bar under the graph above to achieve the same view.) Note, however, that these seasonal variations are not as strong as they used to be, presumably because the economy has become less sensitive to weather conditions.

How these graphs were created: Search for “Labor force participation,” select the two series you want, and click on “Add to Graph.” Limit the sample period to one year for the top graph and fully expand the sample period for the bottom graph.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann

View on FRED, series used in this post: CIVPART, LNU01300000

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View on FRED, series used in this post: ANXAVS

Who’s paid the minimum wage?

The minimum wage is back in the news, and FRED can offer some insights. FRED includes data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—specifically, in the Current Population Survey—that tally the number of workers who are paid the federal minimum wage. Note that some states, counties, and cities mandate minimum wages above the federal level and that some workers can be paid less (e.g., service workers who receive tips). The graph tracks the number of workers paid the federal minimum wage or less, which is affected by the minimum wage itself, how wages and labor productivity have changed since the last time the minimum wage was raised, how inflation has eroded the nominal minimum wage, and finally how other polities approach their own minimum wage with respect to the federal minimum.

What does the graph show? Currently, a little over a million workers are paid the federal minimum wage, and most of them are not employed full-time. Their numbers were much higher a few decades ago, but the federal and other minimum wages were not the same back then. A little less than a million workers are paid less than the federal minimum wage, a large majority of whom are employed full-time. FRED has these latter data series only as far back as 2000, so it is difficult to judge any trends in these numbers.

How this graph was created: Go to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics source, choose “Weekly and Hourly Earnings from the Current Population Survey,” then choose the “minimum wage” tag in the sidebar. Select the series you want and add them to the graph.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann

View on FRED, series used in this post: LEU0203127000A, LEU0203127400A, LEU0253126900A, LEU0253127000A

Median income across the United States

A recent blog post examined inflation-adjusted mean and median family income in the United States. This graph compares the real (inflation-adjusted) median family income across the four U.S. Census regions—West, Midwest, South, and Northeast. The states for each are as follows:

West: Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Alaska, Hawaii
Midwest: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio
South: Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, Maryland
Northeast: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania

You can see from the graph that the South has much lower median family income than the Northeast (roughly $58k vs. $71k). Of course, the cost of living in the South may be lower and, hence, compensate for the difference in median income. In the past, the South had significantly lower income than the other three regions, which bunched together very tightly. Since the 1980s, the real median family income of the regions has separated into three groups: The Northeast is clearly the highest, with the Midwest and West regions occupying the center, and the South remains the lowest.

How this graph was created: Start with a search for median family income. Then use tags to select U.S. Census regions. (Tags are on the left navigation bar: census, census region, real.) This leaves you with the real data series for all four Census regions. Click on the left side of each data series to select it, and then select “Add to Graph.”

Suggested by Katrina Stierholz.

View on FRED, series used in this post: MEFAINUSMWA672N, MEFAINUSNEA672N, MEFAINUSSOA672N, MEFAINUSWEA672N

A dashboard for a Greek tragedy

Greece is in the news again, and FRED can help you track the developments: FRED has almost 2,000 time series that pertain directly to Greece and a multitude of features to organize and automate your analysis. The first step is to open an account in FRED. Once you do that, you can enjoy some of FRED’s key benefits.

Email notifications: You can save data series in your user account, and FRED will send you an email as soon as those series are updated. Simply navigate FRED while logged into your account and click on the email notification link in the sidebar of the series you’re interested in.

Excel add-in: You can create an Excel spreadsheet of FRED data without ever touching the FRED website. Download our add-in, which allows you to search for and download data directly from Excel and refresh the data with the click of a button.

Dashboards: You can create a dashboard of graphs, tables, and data points. You can return to your dashboard anytime, and the data are always current. You can also make the dashboard public, which allows you to share it with friends, colleagues, and students. You can also add the dashboard to your bookmarks and view it without having to log in. Here is one example of a very simple with a few graphs about Greece. You can make more-complex graphs or choose to display the data in different ways, such as a table or a single number.

Web page widget: If you want your web page or blog to always display the latest FRED data for your favorite series, consider using the FRED widget. You can customize it with up to 10 series—for example, the series for Greece that’s included here in this blog post or the series in the sidebar that applies to the U.S.

API: You can create you own application that pulls data directly from FRED through the API.

How this dashboard was created: First, log in to your FRED account. Click on “FRED economic data” under the seal, then search for “Greece”; this brings up a wide range of series to choose from. Create a graph, then click on “Save Graph” in the sidebar. Repeat the operation for as many graphs as you want. Once you’re ready to assemble your dashboard, expand “My Account” on the top of the page and click on “My Dashboards.” Click the “Create” button and follow the instructions: add a title, add a description, and decide whether to make the dashboard public. Click on “Add Widget,” chose “Graph,” then choose “Saved Graph”; then select the saved graph you want to insert. Repeat with new widgets for other graphs, tables, etc.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann



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