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How much has China grown? Uncertainty about the numbers

There’s some debate on how reliable the GDP growth rates from China are. In part, this worry comes from the pre-reform era in which all levels of production had to reach targets and may not have been entirely truthful. Also, the string of very high growth rates over the past two decades is unprecedented. Can FRED shed some light? Well, it has seven different series that measure GDP in different ways. One is from the World Bank, one is from the OECD, and five are from the Penn World Tables. Differences pertain to how currency conversions are treated. For example, there’s the issue that exchange rates may drift away from so-called purchasing power parity (PPP) and which side of the GDP equation is used. Indeed, technically, there are three ways to measure GDP: add up all output, all expenditures, or all incomes. All three should get to the same number, but in practice there are some residual errors. So what does this graph show? These different measures essentially come to the same conclusions, the differences being relatively small and not systemically biased in one direction. However, these statistics are based on information that is coming out of China. And, at least in the past, there was plenty of uncertainty arising from that.

How this graph was created: Search for “real GDP China” and select the relevant series, then click on “Add to Graph.” Click the “Edit Graph” button, then change the units to “Percent Change from Year Ago” for the lines that are not yet in growth rates.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.


Are public jobs more stable? A look at layoff data

Legend has it that government jobs are more stable than private sector jobs. One way to investigate this is to use data on layoffs. The graph shows the layoff rate (as a proportion of current employees) for the economy as a whole (in blue), for the private sector (in red), and for all levels of government (in green). Indeed, the public layoff rate is significantly lower. Also, it was barely affected during the previous recession, while there was a strong spike in layoffs for private business. Note, though, that there was an uptick in government job layoffs right at the end of the recession: This reflects mainly non-federal entities who felt budget pressure to reduce their workforces. But what happened in June/July 2010? Is this evidence of a major wave of government layoffs? Actually, this spike is related to the census: All federal/public employment data series have these blips every ten years when the substantial workforce necessary to conduct the decennial census departs from federal payrolls.

How this graph was created: The Job Openings and Labor Turnover release has a lot of relevant data, in particular in the form of release tables. Navigate it, check the series you want, then click on “Add to Graph.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: JTS1000LDR, JTS9000LDR, JTSLDR

How is your state doing? Mapping state GDP growth

While national GDP growth stays within a rather narrow band, the same cannot be said of GDP growth at the state level. The map above shows great diversity across states in 2016, from –6.5% in North Dakota to +3.7% in Washington. The regional differences stem from the fact that many states are poorly diversified when taken individually, and these differences wash out when you aggregate up to the national level. Note also that state-level fortunes can change rapidly. The map below shows growth rates for 2015, when Texas had the highest growth rate; it was among the lowest in 2016, though. North Dakota was the lowest this year, but that was after a stunning +7.3% rate of growth in 2014. Follow the link below the graph and you can also check how the situation changes from year to year across the United States.

How these maps were created: In GeoFRED, select state-level maps. Within the tool box, look for data about real total GDP. Finally, change units to “Percent Change From Year Ago.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

The cost of overseas flights National income and product accounts track airfares

As the summer travel season approaches, it’s time to consider options for vacations. If your plans involve traveling abroad, you’re likely watching how airfares are evolving. Overseas flights are considered exports and thus are tracked in the national income and product accounts (NIPA). Anything in NIPA usually has a price index attached, and the graph above shows that price index for three popular destinations. It should surprise no one that the prices seem quite volatile and that summer prices are higher—except, to our surprise, flights to Latin America: Flights there don’t exhibit seasonal patterns. We also note that, while there seems to have been a secular increase until 2012, prices have been trending down since. Also, there are important long-run differences between markets, with flights to Asia appearing to be under more price pressure than flights elsewhere. However, this graph won’t help you time your ticket purchases for this summer.

How this graph was created: Search for “air passenger fares,” check the series you want, click on “Add to Graph,” and limit the sample period to avoid the gap in the first years.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: IH1421, IH1422, IH1424

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