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The curious case of the $1 coin

This FRED graph shows the number of $1 coins stored in Federal Reserve Banks. These data are part of a release that measures the volume and value of currency by denomination: It includes multiple banknote denominations but just one coin, the $1 coin.

The U.S. government has long attempted to replace $1 bills with $1 coins. The first was the Morgan dollar (1878-1904), which was barely used in circulation because the public preferred silver certificates. More sustained efforts started in 1971, as the production of $1 bills was significantly more costly than coins, as the bills needed to be replaced after only a few years. The Eisenhower dollar (1971-1978) was barely used because it was very large. The Susan B. Anthony dollar (1979-1981 and 1999) wasn’t well adopted either because it was easily confused with the quarter.

Finally, officials thought they had found the secret formula with the Sacagawea dollar in 2000, followed by presidential dollars in 2007: a heavier, gold-colored coin. They were shipped in large quantities to the Federal Reserve Banks. They quickly started filling the vaults because they still were not being widely adopted by the public. Because the traditional, familiar $1 bills were still in circulation, nothing changed. At some point in 2011, the Fed declared it did not want to receive any more of these coins. Since then, they have been minted only for collectors.

The graph clearly shows an accumulation of coins until 2011, when the number peaked at over 1.4 billion coins; afterward, the inventory slowly decreased when some businesses began asking for them, mostly as change in ticket machines. Given the sheer quantity of them, it seems reasonable to report them separately. Other coins kept in Fed vaults are in much smaller quantities and values.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for and select the “coin inventory” series.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

What an inflation tendency survey really measures

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides economic information about their member countries plus some non-member countries. One challenge they face is standardizing the various definitions of the various economic indicators to make them comparable. This means that OECD data may be different from what the national statistical offices report.

The OECD also conducts several surveys on business and price conditions. The FRED graph above shows the survey results for inflation in the euro area. The scale of the graph might surprise you, considering we’re talking about inflation, here: Are people really expecting inflation to hit 60%?! And was inflation 20% to 40% over the past few years?!

The key here is to understand exactly what is measured in this survey. Their question is as follows:

By comparison with the past 12 months, how do you expect that consumer prices will develop in the next 12 months? They will (++) increase more rapidly, (+) increase at the same rate, (=) increase at a slower rate, (-) stay about the same, or (–) fall.

Given this question, participating households aren’t describing the expected level of inflation, but rather whether inflation will go up or not. The responses are used to create an index that reflects these expectations. The index isn’t measured in a unit that’s comparable to an inflation rate. Rather, new values can only be compared with past values, thus indicating only the direction of inflation. This index is much like business condition indexes whose values do not mean anything by themselves, but are informative when compared with past values.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for and select “euro inflation tendency.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

Daily recession dates in FRED

Three choices to date business cycle turning points

Recessions, like most things, have beginnings and ends. In the U.S., the beginnings and ends of recessions are determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Business Cycle Dating Committee. They announce the months and quarters* when overall economic activity has reached a peak and starts to contract and when overall economic activity has reached a trough and starts to expand again.

The NBER determined the beginning and end of the COVID-19-induced recession as February 2020 and April 2020, respectively. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has created daily data series to help consumers of economic data better understand the story here and the possible choices for dating recessions.

The FRED graph above shows three daily series that date the start and the end of the COVID-19-induced recession. In the graph, the data points have a value of 1 when the economy is in recession and a value of 0 when the economy is in expansion. The three series report the same total number of days (60) during which overall economic activity was contracting, but the choices determining the beginning and end dates are different:

  • The blue line marks the start of a recession on the first day of the month determined to be the peak month. It marks the end of a recession on the last day of the month before the trough month. This timing is reflected in the shaded areas shown in FRED graphs to represent recessions. For the most recent recession, these dates are February 1, 2020, to March 31, 2020.
  • The yellow line marks the start of a recession on the 15th day of the peak month, and it marks the end of a recession on the 15th day of the trough month. For the most recent recession, February 15, 2020, to April 15, 2020.
  • The red line marks the start of a recession on the last day of the peak month, and it marks the end of a recession on the last day of the trough month. For the most recent recession, February 29, 2020, to April 30, 2020.

Each series can help consumers of FRED data tell the story behind different sets of daily or weekly numbers. For example, this FRED graph shows that, in 2020, weekly initial claims for unemployment benefits grew ten times between the second and the third week of March. Interpreting the timing of that increase in relation to the start and end dates of the COVID-19-induced recession naturally depends on when those recession dates are set. So, FRED presents three choices to tell that story.

*For a discussion of how the 2022 recession lasted two months but spanned two quarters, see the FRED Blog post “Discrepancies in dating recessions.”

How this graph was created: Search for and select “NBER based Recession Indicators for the United States from the Peak through the Period preceding the Trough.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Add Line” tab to search for and select “NBER based Recession Indicators for the United States from the Peak through the Trough.” Repeat the last step to add “NBER based Recession Indicators for the United States from the Period following the Peak through the Trough” to the graph. To change the style and color of the lines in the graph use the “Format” panel.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.



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