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Ice cream is a seasonal product, right?

We have published this post in mid-May, which seems like the time people would start indulging in ice cream. It’s not quite “I scream for ice cream” time, but the days are getting sufficiently warm to warrant stocking up cool treats. And ice cream is the quintessential seasonal product that is only in demand when it’s hot out. Right? Just look at the FRED graph for ice cream production: A classic example of seasonality! But wait… These data are very old. How does it look if we use current data?

The FRED graph below shows ice cream production since 1972 (in red). Yes, it is still seasonal, but it less so than in the early years or even a dozen years ago. It’s also striking that ice cream production now is barely higher than it was 50 years ago, despite roughly 60% more population. We added the price of ice cream to our second graph, and here we notice no seasonality at all. One would have expected some, as demand visibly fluctuates through much of the year and production costs may as well.

Keeping ice cream cold in the summer is more challenging, but research shows that ice cream prices do not vary with outside temperature, as manufacturers cannot amend prices quickly enough to adjust to short-term demand fluctuations. It seems this is also true for even predictable seasonal changes.

How these graphs were created: Search FRED for “ice cream,” select the historical production series, and you have the first graph. For the second graph, from the same search result, take the current production series, click on “Edit Graph,” open the “Add Line” tab, search again for “ice cream,” take the price series, open the “Format” tab, and put the legend for one of the series on the right.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

The population of Federal Reserve Districts

A map from FRED

You may know how many people live in your hometown. You may even have a good idea about the population of your state and the US as a whole. But do you know how many people live in your Federal Reserve District? No? Well, today is your lucky day…

FRED hosts numerous series associated with each Federal Reserve Bank’s District. Many of these series relate to each District’s balance sheet, such as its asset holdings and liabilities. But there are other tidbits in FRED, such as the population of each District.

Even cooler than that is the fact that FRED also has maps. Lots of maps. FRED provides you the ability to map regional data with a push of a button. The FRED map above gives one example associated with each District’s population through 2023. Not surprisingly, given the size of its District, the San Francisco Fed has the largest population, at roughly 69 million. The smallest population is associated with the Minneapolis Fed, at roughly 10 million. Our own St. Louis Fed is somewhere in the lower half of the Districts, at roughly 15 million.

These historical data go back to 1970, which allows you to track how the population of each District has grown over the past 50 years or so. During that time, the populations in each of the Dallas, Atlanta, and San Francisco Feds have grown well over 100%. Population growth is lowest at the Chicago and Cleveland Feds, at roughly 10%. The St. Louis Fed is right in the middle of the pack with roughly 32% population growth. So, now you know.

How this map was created: From FRED’s home page, search for and select “Resident Population in Federal Reserve District 8: St. Louis” to plot the time series of population for the Eighth District. In the upper right corner of this plot, click the green button labeled “View Map” to switch to a heat map of population for all Federal Reserve Districts. To view the heat map for an earlier year (e.g., 1970), adjust the date in the “Date” panel at the top (e.g., “1970-01-01”).

Suggested by Michael McCracken.

Fluctuations in insurance premiums

Cycles in underwriting

The FRED Blog often uses data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): A few years ago, we used their Consumer Expenditures Survey to discuss the preferences for life insurance and other personal insurance services among different population groups. Today, we use data from the Producer Price Index program of the BLS to discuss the premiums charged for some of those services.

The two solid lines in the FRED graph above show the year-over-year percent growth rate in the premiums charged for insuring two types of assets: private automobiles (red line) and homes (green line). The dashed black line is the annual growth rate in the headline property and casualty producer price index, which includes, among others, commercial, medical, and worker’s compensation insurance.

Since 1999, when data are first available, cycles in the growth rate of insurance premiums are easily visible. For example, two distinct periods of fast growth in automobile insurance premiums in the early 2000s and mid-to-late 2010s were followed by periods of much slower growth and even decreases in premium values. So, what can help explain those cyclical fluctuations in value?

The 2023 annual report on the insurance industry by the Federal Insurance Office names several factors impacting the overall financial standing of insurers. Most recently, widespread natural disasters have resulted in large payouts and higher interest rates have decreased the value of fixed-income securities held in this sector’s investment portfolios. To compensate for those losses, insurers have raised their premiums at a pace not recorded in many years.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for and select “Producer Price Index by Industry: Premiums for Property and Casualty Insurance.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select “Producer Price Index by Industry: Premiums for Property and Casualty Insurance: Premiums for Private Passenger Auto Insurance.” Click on “Add data series” and repeat the previous step to add “Producer Price Index by Industry: Premiums for Property and Casualty Insurance: Premiums for Homeowner’s Insurance” to the graph. Next, select the “Edit Lines” tab and use the “Units” dropdown menu to select “Percent Change from Year Ago.” Lastly, use the “Format” tab to customize the line styles.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.

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