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Who holds mortgages?

When you take out a mortgage, someone (usually some financial institution) “holds” that mortgage. That is, they’re the lender and you must pay them back. Nowadays it’s not always obvious who holds your mortgage, as it may have been sold to someone else, much like a Treasury bond can be sold. The Board of Governors, though, has been tracking this information since WWII. The graph above reveals that the composition of mortgage holders has changed over time. Initially, it was mostly banks—but also some individuals and, to a small degree, also the government. Gradually, mortgage pools and trusts have taken over—that is, companies that specialize in the pooling of similar mortgages that can then be sold as securities. Thus, the so-called securitization of mortgages. These are the institutions that some believe were at the center of the troubles that led to the previous recession and financial crisis. Indeed, the graph shows that the government took over a large portion of their portfolios in 2010 in an attempt to stabilize the mortgage and real estate markets.

How this graph was created: Search for mortgage debt outstanding release in FRED, check the series you want,* and click on “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” menu, open the “Format” panel, choose graph type “Area” with stacking set to “Percent.” Have the graph start in 1952 to avoid those messy first years.

* Pay careful attention to the series you choose; many of them have similar titles, and some are subsets of larger series. Refer to the series IDs noted below if you want to use the specific series shown here.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: MDOTHFRA, MDOTHIOH, MDOTHMFI, MDOTHMPT

A plateau for manufacturing?

After steady growth, manufacturing productivity seems at a standstill

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ productivity and costs release provides data that can help us better understand the state of U.S. manufacturing. The graph above shows the evolution of manufacturing output since 1987. Notice the slow but steady growth in output since the Great Recession’s big dip.

What’s behind this slow and steady growth? The first suspect we’ll look at is manufacturing employment. The graph above shows there’s been a strong downward trend, which has accelerated during each recession. Yet, since 2010, manufacturing employment has been slowly making its way back up.

Next we’ll look at how much each worker produces in the manufacturing sector. Here, the story’s different: The general trend has been continuous increases in productivity per worker, but something seems to have broken with the Great Recession. First a major drop in productivity, then some progress getting back to trend, and then no progress since about 2010.

What if, since the Great Recession, manufacturing jobs have offered fewer hours of work or more part-time work? Maybe productivity per hour worked is growing. But the graph above, which shows productivity per hour instead of per person, shows no difference. The cause of this productivity standstill is thus either lack of technological progress or (more likely) a change in the composition of the manufacturing workforce toward lower-productivity work.

How these graphs were created: Search for “manufacturing sector” and each of the discussed series should be among the top choices. Simply choose them and click “Add to Graph.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: OPHMFG, OUTMS, PRS30006013, PRS30006163

The high-tech trade balance

Importing and exporting U.S. aerospace, nuclear, and weaponry technology

The graph above shows FRED data on U.S. exports and imports of advanced technology products, which include the categories of advanced materials, aerospace, biotechnology, electronics, flexible manufacturing, information and communications technology, life sciences, optoelectronics, nuclear technology, and weapons. A report from the Brookings Institution noted that the advanced technology sector in the U.S. added $143 billion to GDP in 2013-15 and accounted for more than 20 percent of the growth of the economy. Despite the boost from this sector, the graph shows that the U.S. has turned from a net exporter to a net importer of these products. Now, these products are subject not only to market forces but also to export regulations and restrictions. Indeed, U.S. national interests prevent some technologies from being exported to some countries. In any case, this part of the trade deficit is minor compared with the total trade deficit, as shown in the graph below.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, search for “advanced technology products,” which should give you the two series (exports and imports). Select them and click on “Add to Graph.” For the second graph, start with the first graph, but remove the imports series. Use the “Customize data” section to add that imports series to the first line (the exports series); then apply formula a-b. Add the second line to the graph by searching for and selecting “Trade Balance: Goods and Service, Balance of Payments Basis.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: BOPGTB, EXP0007, IMP0007

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