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The FRED® Blog

FRED at 30: Growth in series and users

Every April, the FRED Blog dons its party hat and celebrates FRED’s birthday. This year, FRED turns the big 3-0. In lieu of a cake with candles, we present…what else? A data graph!

The scatter plot graph above shows the number of data series (in thousands) accessible through the FRED website and the number of persons visiting the website (in millions) for every year between 2009 and 2020. We’re sorry we can’t show you data all the way back to 1991, when FRED was born. The source of the data on website visitors is Google Analytics and Google didn’t even exist back then.

The graph tells a story of remarkable growth. In just the past 11 years, FRED has added roughly 756,000 series to its database and attracted more than 8 million new users to its website. The public appetite for data is strong, so here’s our toast to the next 30 years of FRED: May the correlation between data series and website visits remain positive and close to one!

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo, Maria Arias, and Keith Taylor.

Consumer spending on milk and cookies

Enjoy some comforting FRED expenditures data

The FRED Blog has looked at consumer comforts before: the seasonal increases in electricity use for cozy heating and cooling and the prices of homemade foods. Today we devote our post to, arguably, the most comforting childhood tradition: milk and cookies.

The FRED graph above shows consumer expenditures on milk and cream (in white) and on bakery products (in chocolate chip cookie brown). We’ve adjusted the nominal value of those dollar figures by their corresponding consumer price item index to compare them over time. As it happens, households spend, on average, about twice as much on baked goods as they do on milk and cream.

We’ll also be looking for suitable data alternatives for our readers who avoid gluten and lactose. For now, try dunking your favorite baked good in your favorite rich, savory beverage while reading the FRED Blog. We hope both experiences bring you similar levels of comfort.

How this graph was created: Search for and select “Expenditures: Fresh Milk and Cream: All Consumer Units.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Edit Line 1” tab to customize the data by searching for and selecting “Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Dairy and Related Products in U.S. City Average.” Next, create a custom formula to combine the series by typing in a/b*100 and clicking “Apply.” For the second line, repeat the same steps with the series “Expenditures: Bakery Products: All Consumer Units” and “Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Cereals and Bakery Products in U.S. City Average.” To change the line colors, use the choices in the “Format” tab.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

From PPI to CPI

The consumer price index (CPI) measures the cost of a fixed bundle of consumer goods relative to the cost of those same goods in a chosen reference year. Inflation is the percent change in the index from one year to the next and reflects how prices are changing for consumers.

The producer price index (PPI) is a similar construct that measures the price that producers get for their wares. It was formerly called the wholesale price index (WPI). Because many of these goods are intermediate goods and thus inputs to the production of final consumer goods, one might hypothesize that changes in the PPI could forecast future changes in the CPI.

The FRED graph above shows recent movements in these two series (January 2015 to present). Both series have grown at a fairly constant rate over the medium term. Moreover, after an initial dip at the start of the COVID recession, the PPI has risen sharply. Does this mean that future CPI inflation is imminent?

While it’s certainty possible that changes in the PPI are passed through to the CPI, economists have found that the former generally does not forecast the latter (see Clark, 1995). What does the sharp increase in the PPI mean for consumer prices? Only time will tell.

How this graph was created: From the FRED main page, search for and select the data series “Consumer Price Index for All urban Consumers: All Items in U.S. City Average”. From the “Edit Graph” panel (orange button), use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select the data series “Producer Price Index by Commodity: All Commodities.” Using the sliding blue bar at the bottom of the graph (or the date entry boxes in the top right hand corner), adjust the timespan to your desired date range.

Suggested by Michael Owyang.

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