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The many faces of the federal funds rate


It’s no surprise FRED has federal funds rate data. But these data aren’t as simple as you may think. They have changed form over time as the Federal Open Market Committee has changed the way it sets the funds rate: From 1982 through 2008, the target rate is a discrete number. For example, it is 9.5% on Oct. 1, 1982, 3% on Oct. 1, 1992, and 1.75% on Oct. 1, 2002. At the end of 2008 (i.e., since the financial crisis), the FOMC began setting a target range of 0.00 to 0.25%. And, to further complicate matters, the data prior to 1994 come from the working paper “A New Federal Funds Rate Target Series: September 27, 1982 – December 31, 1993,” making it an altogether different series.

The discrete-target funds rate for 1982-2008 is DFEDTAR in FRED. The target-range funds rate since then has a lower and upper bound—DFEDTARL and DFEDTARU, respectively.

Of course, FRED will continue to accommodate changes to the funds rate. As the U.S. economy overall and employment specifically have recovered, the FOMC has signaled a need to respond by changing the rate. And financial observers around the globe are anxious about how the FOMC will respond. If at some point in the future the FOMC moves from a target range to a discrete target, FRED will also need to respond: In this case, the FRED team plans to change the lower-bound and upper-bound series to a commensurate data point to solve this issue. This method will ensure that the history of the range remains intact, while allowing FRED users to present the data in the simplest way possible. We will not combine the series, create a new series, or update the DFEDTAR series.

How to make this graph: The FRED Team prefers to present these data by creating one graph with the three aforementioned series. First search for and add DFEDTAR to a graph. Next use the “Add Data Series” menu below the graph to search for DFEDTARL and DFEDTARU in the field that asks you to “Type keywords to search for data.” Select these series and add them to the graph with the “Add Series” button.

Suggested by Travis May.

View on FRED, series used in this post: DFEDTAR, DFEDTARL, DFEDTARU


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