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Halloween candy excesses

Halloween begins frenetic candy consumption that continues into the Christmas holidays and New Year’s Day, when people often make (usually short-lived) resolutions to lose weight. But all this consumption first needs production. The graph shows the relevant data from the industrial production index and its stunning seasonality. October, November, and December are the months with the highest production of candy. Thus, it appears producers don’t build up candy stocks much in advance of these festive opportunities to indulge in sugary consumption. For chocolate, this makes complete sense: You don’t want to wait long after it’s been tempered to consume it. Fresh chocolate is best.

How this graph was created: Search for “candy,” and this series should be among the first choices. Click on the monthly, not seasonally adjusted series.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: IPG3113N

Part-time workers: Willing or not?

The evolution of part-time work has come up repeatedly in the public discourse. Let’s look at the data. The top graph shows two types of part-time situations: one for those who voluntarily choose part-time work and one for those who would rather work full-time but can find only part-time work (including those whose jobs were reduced to part-time status). Both lines trend upward in the long run in ways that seem consistent with population growth. The cyclical impact is also noticeable, as recessions typically push more people into part-time work, especially for the “non-volunteers.” (FYI: That shift in 1994 was caused by a change to the survey that re-explained what “part-time for economic reasons” means.)

The bottom graph uses a percentage distribution that may reveal more clues about the reasons behind part-time work: There’s a long-term trend toward more involuntary part-time work (among those who work part-time) but with a recent reversal of that trend. Since 2009, contrary to what’s often portrayed, there’s been no increase in part-time work. Over that same time period, the proportion of involuntary part-time workers hasn’t increased either.

How these graphs were created. Top graph: Search for “part time employment,” check the two series you want, and select “Add to Graph.” Bottom graph: Start with the same graph but restrict the sample to start in 1994, then re-format the graph by selecting graph type “Area” with stacking set to “Percent.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: LNS12032194, LNS12600000

Homeowners slide and renters rise

For five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes each year, people have to live somewhere. And it looks like renting is becoming more popular.

The graph clearly shows the U.S. homeownership rate has steadily declined and that the rental vacancy rate has declined right along with it. So the two trends seem closely related, especially recently. But does a decline in homeownership mean homeowners are moving out of houses and into apartments? Not necessarily. So what is going on? At least two things. 1. The financial crisis: The recent economic downturn left many households wary of investing (or reinvesting) in a home. 2. Kids today: The younger generation seem less interested in living in the suburbs. In quite a few cities, St. Louis included, they seem to prefer to live where they work and spend leisure time. Urban commercial buildings are being converted to apartments to accommodate this increased flow of renters. The rental vacancy rate has still been declining, which means the pace of rental property construction hasn’t been fast enough to keep the rental vacancy rate steady. Be sure to check back with the FRED Blog in a few years to see where all this stabilizes.

How this graph was created: Search for “rental vacancy” and add the quarterly measure to the graph. Then use the “Edit Graph” section: Add a line by searching for “homeownership rate” and move the y-axis to the right for the second graph. Start the sample in 1965-01-01.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: RHORUSQ156N, RRVRUSQ156N


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