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Another year, another FRED data calendar

Check all the dates for FRED's data delivery

Our last FRED blog post of the year… Soon it’ll be time to change the calendar on the desk or the wall or (more likely) your phone, which requires no effort at all. But FRED never coasts or slacks off! Although there’s not much data about calendars beyond what’s in the producer price index (shown in the above graph), we definitely have something to say about our own calendar.

FRED maintains an Economic Release Calendar for each day of the year, detailing the data releases published on that date and, if known, also the time of the release. A green checkmark indicates a release has been updated in FRED.

FRED strives to make updates as soon as possible after the primary source makes the data public. Unfortunately, it’s not instantaneous, as FRED needs to doublecheck that the data are plausible and weren’t corrupted during transmission.

It’s a rare occurrence, but over the years we’ve addressed a misplaced decimal point, an unexpected change in units, and a math error, for example. Sometimes the data format or series name changes, which requires some manual labor to update that information for our users. And larger-than-average datasets require higher-than-average response time. But the norm is that the data are available in FRED within a few minutes of their release. Happy New Year!

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “calendar” to get the graph above. Scan the FRED homepage and click the “Release Calendar” link to get to our calendar.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

The seasonal peak in postal employment

The end-of-year holidays create the busiest business season for both brick-and-mortar and online retailers. That includes a lot of doorstep package deliveries. When you add Christmas cards and family newsletters to the month of December, you get peak volume for postal traffic.

How, you may ask, can those proverbial couriers swiftly complete their appointed rounds despite the seasonal snow, rain, (scant) heat, (early dusk) gloom, and (shall we add) the highest level of year-round e-commerce activity? The FRED Blog has the answer: By adding more couriers to their ranks during the holidays.

The FRED graph above shows the monthly number of persons employed by the U.S. Postal Service over the past 10 years. The solid green line shows the employment figures recorded every month, and the dashed red line shows the same figures after adjusting them for the predictable and periodic increases and decreases in employment. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports both sets of data, facilitating a more accurate analysis of monthly employment figures throughout the year.

As we wrap up 2022, we can look to the past 10 December peaks in the green line to predict this year’s maximum postal worker employment. Visit us at the FRED Blog a week from today as we start a new year of interesting data highlights.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “All Employees, U.S. Postal Service.” There are two series with that name, but notice the units: One reports “seasonally adjusted” and the other reports “not seasonally adjusted” in thousands of persons. Start with the former. Next, click the “Edit Graph” button and use the “Add Line” tab to add the latter.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

Using FRED maps to look at regional GDP

On December 8, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released its first estimates of real GDP by county and metropolitan statistical area (MSA) for 2021. These data provide a new glimpse into how different regions across the U.S. have performed since the COVID-19-induced recession in 2020.

The map of the United States above shows MSAs (with available data) in green if they expanded and in red if they contracted between 2020 and 2021. The vast majority (95%) of MSAs experienced economic growth. The median growth rate among the MSAs was 5.1%; however, the range of growth rates may surprise you. Elkhart-Goshen, IN, grew the fastest, with a staggering 25.34% increase since 2020. Wheeling, WV-OH, contracted the most, with a decline of –6.7%.

It can be helpful to contextualize these numbers with previous years. The graphs below show the percent change for 2020—that is, the change from 2019 to 2020.

The 2020 map depicts clearly different economic conditions. A vast majority (79.3%) of MSAs had contracted in 2020. The median growth rate was –2.1%. Of the 20.7% of MSAs that expanded, San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, grew the most, at 4.6%. Lake Charles, LA, contracted the most at –19.8%.

While the 2020 and 2021 data show two extremes of economic conditions, the 2019 data show a more “normal” economy. Approximately 80.7% of MSAs expanded, with a median growth rate of 1.8%. Midland, TX, grew the most, at 23.4%, similar to growth rates in 2021. Billings, MT, contracted the most at –5.3%.

Regardless of the year, it’s clear that there are large differences in economic conditions among MSAs. These differences can stem from variation in industry composition, among other factors. And this variation across the country is important to keep in mind when looking at national averages of economic data.

How these maps were created: Search FRED for “Total Real Gross Domestic Product for St. Louis, MO-IL (MSA)” or the series RGMP41180. Click on the green “View Map” button, then click on the “Edit Map” button to change the units and colors. Change units to “Percent Change from Year Ago.” Change “Number of color groups” to 2. Change “Data grouped by” to “User Defined Method.” Change the first value to 0 and the second value to 30. To change the colors, click on the color next to the less-than-or-equal sign. Finally, click “Apply Intervals.” To look at different years with the same settings, change the date in the upper right hand “Date” box.

Suggested by Charles Gascon and Cassie Marks.

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