Federal Reserve Economic Data: Your trusted data source since 1991

The FRED® Blog

The GDP of Washington, DC

The FRED Blog's 600th post

The FRED Blog’s 600th post concentrates on Washington, DC—partly because “DC” is 600 in Roman numerals, but also because DC’s GDP might surprise you.

The District of Columbia isn’t a state and is invisible on GeoFRED maps of the U.S., but in many respects it’s treated like a state. At the time of this writing, FRED has 2,001 data series about the District of Columbia, most from state-level sources.

DC has 0.2% of the U.S. population, which is larger than the population of both Vermont and Wyoming. DC has 0.7% of the nation’s GDP, which is larger than the GDP of 16 states and is equal to the combined GDPs of Vermont, Wyoming, and Montana. The FRED graph above shows DC and 11 of those states with smaller GDP. (We’d show all 16, but FRED graphs limit the number of series to 12.)

Is this sizeable GDP driven by government? Of course, DC is the nation’s capital and much of the economic activity in DC is from government. But, as the graph below shows, there’s much more than that. And, while real GDP from government has grown a bit, real GDP from non-government sources has grown faster.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph: Search for “GDP District of Columbia,” click on the series name, and shrink the sample period to the minimum. From the “Edit Graph” panel, use “Add Line” to add the states one by one. From the “Format” tab, choose graph type “Bar.” For the second graph, search again for the GDP of DC, but this time take the real series, as we want to show several periods. Add the other series by searching for “District of Columbia Government GDP,” again being careful to take the real series.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.


New data on the real estate market

Visualizing seasonality in house listings and prices

FRED keeps adding new data.* The latest batch is detailed data on the housing market from Realtor.com. The FRED graph above shows the well-known seasonal pattern in the number of properties actively on sale: The real estate market is much thinner in the winter, and sellers often wait for spring to put their properties up for sale.

But not everyone can wait. Financial circumstances, job-related moves, or new family situations may force an owner to put a house up for sale at a moment that’s not optimal. On the other side of the market, job or family circumstances may force some people to look for a house when it’s not the best time to do so.

It turns out the first story is more common: that is, too many sellers chasing too few buyers (at least in relative terms). This imbalance leads to lower prices in the winter, as we can see in the graph below.

*Today, FRED has over 763,000 U.S. and international time series from 94 sources.

How these graphs were created: Search FRED for “Housing inventory” and click on the series you want displayed. Both series shown here should be in the first page of results.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: ACTLISCOUUS, MEDLISPRIUS

WTI vs. Brent oil prices: When and why do they diverge?

West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent crude oil prices generally track each other pretty closely,* although their levels can be different. In 2011, though, the two prices diverged. You can also read more here and here, but let’s talk about the details.

The FRED graph above shows the prices per barrel of WTI and Brent crude from 2010 to present. Before 2011, the average price of a barrel of WTI was $35.34 and the average price of a barrel of Brent was $34.00.

Price differences can reflect the ease of refining, the geography of where the oil is produced, costs of transportation to where the contracts are fulfilled, and political and economic conditions in the regions where the oil is sold. But the increasing price differential in 2011 is often attributed to the bottleneck in transportation of the product to Cushing, Oklahoma, where WTI oil futures contracts are settled. The gap began to narrow in 2014 when these bottlenecks eased, but it widened again in 2017.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WTI price fell precipitously; the Brent price also fell, but not as much. Our second FRED graph shows the current drop in prices since January 1, 2020. This difference in the behavior of the two oil prices may be caused by differences in the storage technologies at settlement. In Cushing, where WTI is settled, storage is fixed and the cost of transporting the crude to another storage facility is high. Brent, on the other hand, is produced in the North Sea and can be more easily transported to waterborne tankers for temporary storage.

*Correlation = 0.99 for May 20, 1987, to April 27, 2020.

How these graphs were created: Search for “Crude Oil Prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) Cushing, Oklahoma.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” feature to search for and select “Crude Oil Prices: Brent – Europe” and click “Add data series.” Adjust the date span by using the slider at the bottom of the graph or the date entry boxes at the top right of the graph.

Suggested by Michael Owyang.

View on FRED, series used in this post: DCOILBRENTEU, DCOILWTICO

Subscribe to the FRED newsletter

Follow us

Back to Top