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Jumps in county population

Fresh data from the Census Bureau

The first results of the 2020 population census are trickling in, and FRED is adding them to the database as the Census Bureau makes them available.

The FRED graph above shows the resident population for Jefferson County, Wisconsin; Prince George’s County, Maryland; and St. Louis City, Missouri (which is its own county).

The Census Bureau measures and adjusts the population data yearly from estimates about births, deaths, and migration. Again, these are just estimates. While births and deaths are well measured, migration is more difficult because there’s no U.S. requirement to register when you move, as there is for some countries.

The more precise population measurements come in the form of the decadal census, and this is the type of data FRED is receiving now. In the graph, do you see how population sometimes jumps up or down somewhat sharply? These are points in time when the new census data are added and the estimates for the previous years were a bit off. This doesn’t happen frequently, though. If you look at the full dataset, it’ll take some patience to find a handful of similar cases.

How this graph was created: Search for “resident population county” for your county of choice. From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for other counties. Change units to 100 for 1970 and click on “Apply to all.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

Public construction spending: Building up U.S. infrastructure

The FRED Blog has used U.S. Census data to compare private construction spending across different types of structures. Today we build on that topic by comparing the different types of public construction spending.

The FRED graph above shows spending data between 1993 and 2020. During most of these years, local, state, and federal construction projects amounted to one out of every four dollars spent on construction. As of 2020, public construction spending was $361 billion. Let’s look at the specific building blocks.

Over the past 20 years, almost all public construction spending has been directed to nonresidential projects, including new structures and improvements on existing ones. The Census reports on 12 categories of nonresidential spending. Of those, 4 categories comprise about three quarters of total expenditures. In descending order:

  • Highway and Street, ranging from interstate highways to neighborhood sidewalks
  • Educational, including schools, museums, and libraries
  • Transportation, comprising airports, ports, and mass transit facilities
  • Sewage and Waste Disposal, ranging from pipes to treatment plants

Our second FRED graph shows the proportional size, recorded between 2002 and 2020 (when annual data are available), of these four categories of construction projects. There’s a noticeable point of inflection after 2009, when the share of public construction spending on highways and streets and transportation grew. The share of spending on educational structures, however, continued to decrease. And the share of construction of sewers and waste disposal facilities remained constant. These changes reflect shifting spending priorities as well as the aging of both the population and the physical infrastructure that supports the daily business of life.

How these graphs were created: Search for and select “Total Private Construction Spending: Total Construction in the United States.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for “Total Public Construction Spending: Total Construction in the United States.” Click “Add data series.” Use the “Format” tab to change the graph type to “Area” and the stacking to “Percent.” In the same tab, select area colors to taste.
For the second graph, search for and select “Total Public Construction Spending: Highway and Street in the United States.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Edit Line 1” tab to customize the data by searching for and selecting “Total Public Construction Spending: Nonresidential in the United States.” Next, create a custom formula to combine the series by typing in “a/b” and clicking “Apply.” Use the “Add Line” tab and repeat the customization step to add the other three lines to the graph. To change the line colors and mark types, use the choices in the “Format” tab.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

Recreational Data in FRED

Using BLS data to track fun, 2007-2019

The FRED Blog has discussed the growing share of personal spending on recreation. But where, precisely, are households spending their leisure time?

FRED data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Industry Productivity release can show us a few things: The FRED graph above plots inflation-adjusted business activity, or real output, for five different industries in the amusement, gambling, and recreation industry subsector. The BLS reports output as an index value, which is set at 100 in 2007; so, the slopes of the lines represent the rate of output growth in each industry relative to that year.

  • Amusement park and arcade output (dark blue line) was a bit of a rollercoaster ride: Output decreased 23% between 2007 and 2010, but had mostly bounced back by 2019.
  • Bowling alley output (red line) also contracted between 2007 and 2010. But rather than heading straight into the gutter, it hit a strike during the past decade: 2019 output was almost 4% above its 2007 value.
  • Gambling industry output (purple line) seems to lend credence to the claim that “the house always wins” (in the long run, anyway). For almost a decade, output was consistently below its 2007 value—by an average well above 9%. But output grew between 2018 and 2019.
  • Golf course and country club output (light blue line) has been consistently under par—by an average of 7%—for the whole 2007-2019 time period.
  • Fitness and recreational sports center output (orange line) was almost all gain and no pain: Despite a minor slowdown during the 2007-2009 recession, business activity at establishments ranging from gyms to swimming pools pumped up with remarkable growth of 56% from 2007 to 2019.

Keep tabs on the FRED Blog, as we’ll discuss the changes brought by the COVID-19 pandemic to the recreation industry when data for 2020 become available.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “Output for Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: Fitness and Recreational Sports Centers.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select” Output for Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation: Amusement and Theme Parks.” Repeat the process to add the remining three series in the graph. Use the menus in the “Format” tab to pick line colors and mark types. Change the start date of the graph to “2007-01-01.” Enjoy!

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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