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Advance retail sales on FRED Getting an earlier look into current economic activity

FRED recently added a set of time series from the Census Bureau known as “advance retail sales.” This data set isn’t about making technological progress in the retail sector; rather, it’s about collecting preliminary information about retail sales statistics and releasing those statistics before they’re considered definitive. This advance information may be premliminary, but it’s also quite useful: Retail sales are a large part of the economic activity in a country, and knowing how well the sector is doing is a good proxy for other economic indicators that are released much later.

The graph shows one of the advanced series (in blue) along with the history of final releases (in red). In FRED, you can save a graph in your account and choose to have the graph automatically update to include the latest data. This way you can easily monitor how a particular indicator is doing over time. The FRED dashboard is a great tool for this.

How this graph was created: Search for “advance retail” or start with the release table linked above. Choose a series. Look in the notes for the code of the corresponding historical series. From the “Edit Graph” section, open the “Add Line” tab and use the series code. Select the last year of data.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: MRTSSM44X72USS, RSAFS

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