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The FRED® Blog

The continued rise of humans

The world’s population continues to increase: The GeoFRED map above shows 2014’s percent change in population growth for all nations, and the majority of nations have growth over 1%. The darker shades indicate higher growth, and Africa and the Middle East have the majority of significantly high population increases. In fact, some central African countries are growing by more than 3%. The highest population growth in 2014, 8.1%, was in Oman. Most of the population growth is occurring in less-developed countries, which may be caused by improved health care, which decreases the infant mortality rate. The fertility rate, however, has stayed high, generating an even-larger increase in population. The map below from 2004 shows that there has been minimal change in growth rates over the past decade. Check back with GeoFRED in the future to see things develop.

How this map was created: On the GeoFRED page, click on “Tools” and expand the “Choose Data” section. Under “Data,” search for “population growth” and select it. After the map has loaded, it will default to the most-recent data available. Expand the “Edit Legend” section and change the number of classes to 4. Then, manually set the values for the intervals. The year can be changed under the “Choose Data” section.

Suggested by Joshua Berry.

Disability within the labor force participation rate

Recent fluctuations in the labor force participation rate have received national attention. And there’s an obvious question here, with ramifications for how we view that number: Why would a working-age person not be in the labor force?

In June 2008, the Current Population Survey added a question about disability status. It turns out that a non-trivial number, about 1 in 5, report a disability that limits their capacity to work. The graph above shows that the number of persons out of the labor force who have a disability has been steadily rising and that there are more women than men in this group. The average increase has been about 1.9% year-over-year, with a slightly higher rate for men than women: 2% vs. 1.8%. These rates are significantly faster than population growth or the growth in the labor force. In other words, we’re seeing a piece of the decline in the overall labor force participation rate (i.e., the fraction of the working-age population who work or are actively trying to find work).

Although many physically demanding jobs have historically been male-dominated, more women report being out of the labor force because of a physical disability. Part of the reason is that there are more women who do not participate in the labor force. The disability questions also identify anyone in the household with a disability, so we may be seeing women staying out of the labor force to help care for a disabled member of the household.

The bottom graph shows the fractions of those out of the labor force: About 1 in 4 working-age men who are not in the labor force have a disability, whereas only 1 in 6 women do. The bottom graph also shows that the increasing trend (seen in the graph above) is right in line with the overall trend in non-participation. The fraction of workers out of the labor force because of disability is approximately constant, meaning that non-participants without a disability are rising at the same rate as those with a disability.

How these graphs were created: For the top graph, simply search for “not in labor force disability 16 64 men” and then the same series for women. For the bottom graph, use the same series (as the “a” series) and add the “no disability” versions (as the “b” series) with the “Add Data Series” / “Transform Data Series” options. Then apply the formula a/(a+b).

Suggested by David Wiczer.

View on FRED, series used in this post: LNU05076940, LNU05076945, LNU05076955, LNU05076960

Seeking, missing, finding, and filling jobs

Bloomberg News recently suggested firms may be struggling to find qualified employees. The FRED graph above does show that, for the past year, the number of job openings in the U.S. has generally been higher than the number of hires. So, yes, some positions aren’t being filled. Also, the level of unemployment has been steadily decreasing since 2010, even though the BLS reports that the unemployment rate hardly fell from August to April of this year.

Civilian unemployment rate = (Unemployment level / Civilian labor force) * 100

As the equation shows, for the unemployment rate to hold steady and, at the same time, for the unemployment level to decrease, the labor force must also decrease. So, while fewer “unemployed” people might be taken at face value to mean more people are finding jobs, keep in mind that some people may have simply stopped looking for a job and left the labor force. And firms may not be finding their ideal applicants among the unemployed.

On the other hand, the unemployed may not be looking for the right jobs. For more insight into the current employment situation, visit FRASER (Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research) for the Employment Situation—May 2016. This and previous reports from the BLS tally which industries have added or cut jobs in that particular period—potentially useful information for those who want to know which industries are potentially looking to hire. In FRASER, you can explore plenty of interesting publications on employment throughout history. Happy hunting!

How this graph was created: Search for “unemployment level” and select the seasonally adjusted series and click “Add to Graph.” Adjust the timeline to start at January 2007. Add the next series by searching for “hires” and choosing the total nonfarm seasonally adjusted monthly series with level in thousands for units. Add the last series by searching for “job openings” and again choosing the total nonfarm series.

Suggested by Emily Furlow.

View on FRED, series used in this post: JTSHIL, JTSJOL, UNEMPLOY

FRED is looking good


We asked for feedback, and our users delivered. Thank you!

The FRED series page has been revamped, and some of you have even been peeking at on our beta site over the past several weeks. We hope you like the results as much as we do. Here are the major changes:

  • FRED now lives at All traffic from the old address will be redirected, so no reason to worry about your bookmarks or old links.
  • We made the graph the star of the page—that is, BIGGER!
  • You can now see the edits to the graph as you make them. No need for scrolling. Click on the “Edit Graph” button to open the side panel.
  • We have reimagined and rewritten the FRED “Help” section:
  • You can also get help from the short videos in the side panel. Just click on the info buttons.
  • When adding a line, the search box remembers your previous series.
  • Notes and related content remain beneath the graph.
  • The “Related Resources” section now includes thumbnails of relevant material. We’ll keep adding more to this section.
  • When sharing a graph, you can now control whether the sample window should update in the future.
  • All download options are available from a single location, including downloading several series at a time.
  • Plus many more small tweaks and improvements.


Local unemployment dynamics in the Great Recession

The U.S. labor market as a whole has recovered from the effects of the recent recession: The national unemployment rate was 10% at the end of 2009, but now stands at 4.7%, a number FOMC participants consider to be close to its long-run value. Despite this overall recovery, regional patterns of recession and recovery differ, with some areas better off and some worse than average. These three GeoFRED maps show county unemployment rates at their pre-recession trough (December 2007), at their recession peak (October 2009), and at the time of the most-recent estimate (April 2016).

In December 2007, about 21 percent of counties had rates below 3.5% and about 66 percent of counties had rates below 5.5%. Certain regions experienced slightly higher unemployment rates, particularly the West Coast, Central South, and Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Midwest and South (from Minnesota to Texas) had the lowest unemployment rates, with most rates below 3.5%.

By October 2009, only 15 percent of counties still had unemployment rates below 4.4%: Most counties had rates between 7.5% and 15.5%, and about 10 counties had rates greater than 20.5%. The regions with higher pre-recession unemployment rates also had higher levels of unemployment during the recession. And a strip of counties in the Northern Midwest maintained unemployment rates below 4.5%.

Today, some county-level unemployment rates remain slightly above their pre-recession trough, although most have recovered or even improved beyond pre-recession levels: 21 percent of counties have unemployment rates below 3.5% (the same fraction as in December 2007); 68 percent of counties have rates below 5.5% (slightly better than the pre-recession trough); and nine counties have maintained extremely high unemployment rates—above 20.5%. Newly developed regions in the West such as Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have unemployment rates that are higher than the pre-recession trough, whereas Midwestern rates are lower than their 2007 levels.

How these maps were created: Select GeoFRED’s “Build New Map” option at the top right of the home page. Use the “Tools” menu on the top left to set “Region Type” to “County.” Type “Unemployment Rate” in the search box. Set the frequency to “Monthly” and the units to “Percent.” Select the desired date from the drop-down menu. You can select the color scheme for your map under “Choose Colors”: We used “Single Hue Red.” Finally, under “Edit Legend,” change the number of color classes to 9 and set the interval values to 3.5, 4.5, 5.5, 7.5, 9.5, 11.5, 15.5, 20.5, and 29.5.

Suggested by Maximiliano Dvorkin and Hannah Shell.

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