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Pie charts for Pi Day

FRED offers a variety of keen ways to display data

March 14, aka 3/14, is Pi Day because the Greek letter pi represents 3.14 etc.

This post offers pie charts because the FRED Blog is not above using puns.

Now, these delectable pie charts cover a variety of topics from recent blog posts. Observe the appealing ways FRED can help you display data, and then click the headings to review the posts themselves.

Percentage of homeownership rate by racial and ethnic group in the U.S.

The price of a BLT sandwich

CO2 emissions from fuel by sector

How these graphs were created: It’s a simple recipe: To convert any FRED graph to a pie chart, go to the “Edit Graph” panel, open the “Format” tab, and select graph type “Pie.”

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo.


The price of a BLT

Slicing the layers of the CPI

Over the summer, FRED added 1,479 new series on average prices for a wide range of consumer items. Almost half of the new data are prices of foodstuffs, more than enough for a seven-course dinner.

But to keep it simple, let’s make a traditional BLT sandwich: bacon, lettuce, and tomato on white bread. (Today, we’ll hold the mayo.) Like most things, the price of a BLT has risen over time, which you may have noticed at the local diner or in the supermarket. Let’s “go figure with FRED” what’s been driving up the price of this lunch staple.

The FRED graph immediately below plots the prices of all four ingredients over time. The prices of three of the ingredients rise at a fairly constant rate, which is a sign of low and stable consumer price inflation. But the fourth price (in red) is not only noticeably higher than the rest but rises at a much steeper rate. So, this ingredient has been experiencing a higher rate of price inflation.

Have you looked at the graph’s labels to figure out the culprit? It’s the bacon!

Now, if you’d like to follow our recipe and portion sizes for each ingredient, you can track the price of an actual BLT in the graph below: As of August 2019, it’s $1.53!

How these graphs were created: On the FRED homepage, under the search bar, click on “Release” (in the “Browse by…” line). Then scroll down and select “Average Price Data” then “Food.” From the table, select “Tomatoes, Field Grown, Per Lb. (453.6 Gm) in U.S. City Average,” “Bacon, Sliced, Per Lb. (453.6 Gm) in U.S. City Average,” “Lettuce, Iceberg, Per Lb. (453.6 Gm) in U.S. City Average,” and “Bread, White, Pan, Per Lb. (453.6 Gm) in U.S. City Average.” Click on “Add to Graph.” For the second graph, start with the first and use the “Edit Graph” menu to apply a formula to adjust for the weight of the items in your sandwich. (The prices are all given in pounds, so we divide by 16 to get ounces and then multiply by the number of ounces we prefer: 2 oz. of tomatoes, 3 oz. of bacon, 1.3 oz. of lettuce, and 2 oz. of bread.) To stack all the individual prices, use the “Format” tab to select graph type “Area and Stacking: Normal.”

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo and Maria Arias.

View on FRED, series used in this post: APU0000702111, APU0000704111, APU0000712211, APU0000712311

How food and fuel prices fluctuate

Detailed prices from the CPI

The consumer price index (CPI) follows the price of a basket of goods. The goods in the basket are determined by the purchases of an “average” U.S. household. Each item is tracked at multiple locations and for numerous varieties. The data are then aggregated to form the CPI.

The CPI has been a part of FRED for quite some time (since the early days if not the very beginning). FRED also offers some finer slices of consumer price data. The graph includes three examples: unleaded gasoline, peppers, and tomatoes. These are still aggregates, as the tracked prices come from many locations and, for tomatoes at least, across the various brands, varieties, and other ways of differentiating products.

What immediately gets our attention is how dynamic these lines are. The prices for these items change a lot and with little notice, which is why monetary policymakers in general prefer to look at price indices that exclude food and energy: Volatility can hide the bigger picture of inflation.

To reveal the extent of this volatility, we constructed the graph below, which compares the general CPI and the CPI without food and energy. For the latter, we even included the series without seasonal adjustment to demonstrate that seasonal adjustment does not remove the noise that policymakers are worried about.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, start from the Average Price Data release table, check the items you want displayed, and click “Add to Graph.” For the second graph, start from the CPI graph and go to the “Edit Graph” panel. From there, open the “Add Line” tab and search for “CPI less food and energy”; add the monthly seasonally adjusted series. Repeat for the not seasonally adjusted series. Finally, adjust the units to “Percent Change from Year Ago” and click “Copy to All.”

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: APU0000712311, APU0000712406, APU000074714, CPIAUCSL, CPILFENS, CPILFESL

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