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Native and immigrant employment during the pandemic

As a part of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, then-President Trump issued an executive order instituting a freeze on all new visas and preventing new immigrants from entering the United States. In the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in April and May of 2020, the unemployment rate in the United States was extremely high. The executive order, issued in April 2020, was designed to prevent immigrants from taking jobs from native-born workers.

The FRED graph above shows the relative change in the levels of foreign-born employment and native-born employment. Both series are indexed to January 2020, right before the pandemic seriously affected the U.S. labor market. Both series sharply dropped in April 2020 before slowly increasing to their pre-pandemic levels.

The foreign-born employment index dropped more relative to its January 2020 level and was faster to recover. Foreign-born employment returned to its January 2020 level in October 2021, while native-born employment did not recover until March 2022. Given the tightness of the U.S. labor market, the increase in foreign-born employment could help relieve some of the pressure in the economy. While native employment has continued at its pre-pandemic level  despite a tight labor market, foreign-born employment has continued to rise and as of November 2022 is 5% over its pre-pandemic level.

How this graph was created: Search for “Foreign Born” in FRED and select “Employment Level – Foreign Born.” Click the orange “Edit Graph” button on the right: From the “Add Line” tab, type “Native Born” in the search bar, select “Employment Level – Native Born,” and click “Add data series.” From the “Edit Line 2” tab, change the units to “Index (Scale value to 100 for chosen date)” and make the date that equals 100 “2020-01-01.” Then select “Copy to all” to copy these units to all lines. Finally, change the beginning date of the graph to 2018-01-01.

Suggested by Maggie Isaacson and Hannah Rubinton.

Credit card balances utilization rates

The fourth quarter is the season for charging

The fourth quarter of the year, which includes the Christmas shopping season, is the busiest for retailers. Hark! As expected, it’s also the time of the year when credit card holders make the most intensive use of their access to credit.

The FRED graph above tracks credit card use from a dataset provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. The utilization rate shown in the graph is the percent of the total available credit line that a borrower is using at the end of a billing cycle. The data are available since the third quarter of 2012 and aren’t seasonally adjusted. The telltale see-saw pattern in the plotted data reveals the timing of the most-intensive use of credit cards: the fourth quarter of the year.

This seasonal pattern exists across the three different groups of credit card holders reported in the data release:

  • Green: This typical group, in the 50th percentile, uses an average of about 9% of their available credit limit.
  • Red: This more-intensive group, in the top 25th percentile, uses an average of 56% of their available credit limit.
  • Blue: This most-intensive group, in the top 10th percentile, nearly max out their available credit limit, at an average of 93%.

One more thing: There was a marked decline in credit card utilization rates during the COVID-19 pandemic. A closer look at the data in FRED shows credit card holders aren’t yet racking up their credit card debt with the same intensity as they did prior to 2020. The spike in personal saving during the pandemic described in this FRED Blog post could explain this decreased reliance on charging.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for “Large Bank Consumer Credit Card Balances: Utilization: Active Accounts Only: 50th Percentile.” Click the “Edit Graph” button and use the “Add Line” tab to add the other two series.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

Regional consumption expenditures on fish and seafood

One fish, two fish, FRED fish, blue fish

The FRED Blog has made deep dives into food prices before, bringing a bounty of data treasures to the surface: For example, we’ve shown trends, seasonal patterns, and the impact of distinct economic shocks on the cost of assembling a nutritious meal. Today, we use more food-related data to see what different regions spend specifically on fish and seafood.

The FRED graph above shows the dollar amounts spent on fish and seafood by consumers in each of the four Census regions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics collects these data for its Consumer Expenditure Surveys. Let’s dive in:

  • Consumers in the Northeast and West Census regions consistently spend the most money of all regions in buying the fruits of the sea.
  • This FRED graph shows that, as a fraction of total food expenditures, consumers in the South Census region are not far behind the other two coastal regions.
  • Consumers in the Midwest, perhaps because they’re largely landlocked, spend the least amount on fish and seafood, both in dollars and as a fraction of their overall food expenditures.

FRED doesn’t currently have regional prices on food items, so we can’t say whether Midwest consumers shy away from a relatively pricier type of meal or if their relatively smaller spending on seafood is strictly a matter of taste.

Either way, keep a line in the water of the FRED Blog. We’ll keep swimming among our data series to try to haul in a good catch of insights for you.

How this graph was created: First, cast your net in FRED by searching for “Expenditures: Fish and Seafood by Region: Residence in the Northeast Census Region.” Select the series and click “Edit Graph” at the top right corner. Then navigate to the “Add Line” tab, where you can search for the three other regional Census data series; select each by clicking “Add data series.”

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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