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Of the people: Federal and local government employment

Here, FRED shows us the total number of U.S. federal government employees over time. Take a minute to examine the graph… For one thing, it sure is spikey. The highest level was during World War II, and the next highest was during the war in Korea. Clearly, war has driven this type of employment. There are also short spikes every ten years, which correspond to temporary hires for the census, including the spike in April 2009. Overall, these spikes have grown as the U.S. population has grown. What may be surprising is that there hasn’t been any significant upward trend, despite substantial population growth—in fact, the U.S. population has more than doubled over this period.

The graph below shows state and local government employment, and the story here is quite different: Except during the recent recessions, both these have grown steadily, despite the fact their growth isn’t affected by wars or the census.

How these graphs were created: Look for the Current Employment Statistics (Establishment Data) releases and select Table B-1. Choose “Federal, except U.S. Postal Service” for the first graph. For the second graph, select the three series shown and add them to the graph.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CES9091100001, CES9092000001, CES9093000001

To your health! The price of French wine

Today, France celebrates its national holiday. So we take this opportunity to write about… French wine. Oui. FRED does have a price index for French wine. And because prices are always relative to something else, we compare this index with the general price level of consumption goods in France (the blue line). We see that, in relative terms, the price of wine has increased, which sounds bad for the local population. But we can also compare the price of wine with the typical French hourly wage (the red line): There we see that wine has become more and more affordable for the French, which is a reason to celebrate.

How this graph was created: Search for “French wine” and open the graph. In the “Edit Graph” panel, add France’s general price index in the “Customize Data” section. Searching for “France CPI” should do the trick. Once you have both series, apply the formula a/b. In the “Add Line” tab, search again for “French wine” (which may appear among your recently viewed options). Then under “Edit Line 2” add the wage series by searching for “French wage.” Choose the quarterly series for all activities and apply the same a/b formula again. Viola!

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: CP0000FRM086NEST, CP0212FRM086NEST, LCWRTT01FRQ661N

Job JOLTS: How long does it take to hire someone?

The JOLTS release in FRED (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) offers a wealth of information about the U.S. labor market, including transitions in and out of employment. The data on job openings are actually very difficult to obtain because employers don’t necessarily advertise or register job openings, so the JOLTS release is especially useful. In the graph above, we use the data to compute a particular ratio, dividing job openings by hires. Usually it’s not recommended to compare “stocks” (job openings) and “flows” (hires). In this case, however, it has a meaning: A ratio of 1 means that it takes 1 month for a job opening to be filled; a higher ratio means it takes longer. It seems this ratio has never been above 1 except for now, which could be a sign that employers are finding it more difficult than any time since 2001 to hire people.

How this graph was created: Search for “job openings” and select the total non-farm series. Then select the edit graph feature: Use the “Edit line 1” tab to add a series by searching for “hires.” Finally, apply the formula a/b.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann

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


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