The FRED Team has just automated the process of how it names many of its data series. Because FRED aggregates data from 89 different sources, choosing the right name for any of the 627,000 data series is no small matter. Yes, the Bard wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But in the world of data, a confounding name can be a thorny problem.
Let’s choose a common example. The data series for the unemployment rate in the U.S. is collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But the media can choose to report the data with a variety of names: national unemployment rate, civilian unemployment rate, official unemployment rate, harmonized unemployment rate, or U3.
The FRED graph below shows two series: the unemployment rate (from the BLS) and the harmonized unemployment rate (from the OECD). Why do we see only one line? Because the series are one and the same. So, what is the correct name for the unemployment rate data series? The answer depends on the source of the data. So, FRED will now display the series name as reported by the source of the data from the most comprehensive machine-readable location.
In the case of the BLS, that location is series LNS14000000. The series is accessible through the LABSTAT public database, which contains current and historical surveys and press releases. For the BLS series LNS14000000, the name of the data series is “unemployment rate,” so FRED will call it simply that: unemployment rate.
Although the FRED data series identifiers have not changed, there are 2,782 data series names that have changed. For a complete list, see this CSV file. You’ll notice that many data series in FRED related to the consumer price index now have updated names.