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Posts tagged with: "LRHUTTTTUSM156S"

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Unemployment rates by country during COVID-19

Considering differences in pandemic-related policies

In a previous post, we mapped unemployment claims for U.S. states during the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, we compare the unemployment rates of seven high-income countries.

The graph shows monthly, seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for Japan, Germany, U.K., U.S., Canada, France, and Italy. These rates are harmonized—that is, the same definition of unemployment is used for all these countries.

U.S. unemployment spiked from 3.5% in February 2020 to 14.7% in April. (It spiked similarly in Canada, from 5.6% to 13%.) But unemployment did not rise significantly in other countries. What explains this difference?

Countries that reduced the spread of COVID-19 early on have had less severe economic contractions, which may help explain the low unemployment rates in Japan and Germany. However, this doesn’t explain the overall trend of higher unemployment in the U.S. when the U.K., France, and Italy have also been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

In Europe and Japan, the government’s approach to unemployment during COVID-19 has focused on maintaining employer-employee relationships. Significant subsidies have been provided for employers to maintain their workforces, leading to fewer applications for unemployment insurance benefits. In the U.S., policy has focused on providing unemployment benefits to workers that have already been laid off or furloughed. It remains to be seen which approach will be more effective in supporting labor markets.

How this graph was created: From FRED’s main page, browse data by “Source.” Click on “Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development” and then “Main Economic Indicators.” On the left, filter by “Unemployment,” “Harmonized,” and “Seasonally Adjusted.” Select the monthly unemployment rates for Germany, Japan, the United States, Italy, France, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Select “Add to Graph” at the top of the page. From the “Edit Graph” panel, use the “Format” tab to change colors/line markers as desired.

Suggested by Iris Arbogast and Yi Wen.


Take note: FRED has updated some series names

The FRED Team has just automated the process of how it names many of its data series. Because FRED aggregates data from 89 different sources, choosing the right name for any of the 627,000 data series is no small matter. Yes, the Bard wrote “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But in the world of data, a confounding name can be a thorny problem.

Let’s choose a common example. The data series for the unemployment rate in the U.S. is collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But the media can choose to report the data with a variety of names: national unemployment rate, civilian unemployment rate, official unemployment rate, harmonized unemployment rate, or U3.

The FRED graph below shows two series: the unemployment rate (from the BLS) and the harmonized unemployment rate (from the OECD). Why do we see only one line? Because the series are one and the same. So, what is the correct name for the unemployment rate data series? The answer depends on the source of the data. So, FRED will now display the series name as reported by the source of the data from the most comprehensive machine-readable location.

In the case of the BLS, that location is series LNS14000000. The series is accessible through the LABSTAT public database, which contains current and historical surveys and press releases. For the BLS series LNS14000000, the name of the data series is “unemployment rate,” so FRED will call it simply that: unemployment rate.

Although the FRED data series identifiers have not changed, there are 2,782 data series names that have changed. For a complete list, see this CSV file. You’ll notice that many data series in FRED related to the consumer price index now have updated names.

Suggested by Diego Mendez-Carbajo and Maria Arias.

View on FRED, series used in this post: LRHUTTTTUSM156S, UNRATE

Not all recessions are created equal

Differences in European unemployment rates

The previous recession was a worldwide phenomenon. It originated with a financial crisis in the United States that resonated in other countries, in particular Europe. The graph above shows the unemployment rate for the U.S. and a few European countries. It is taken from the OECD’s Main Economic Indicators, which goes through the trouble of trying to harmonize the definitions across countries, thus making them comparable. What is striking is how varied the experience has been. The gray area represents the period of the U.S. recession. It is remarkable that Germany’s unemployment rate actually was going down through much of this period. In contrast, unemployment shot up in Spain and, to a lesser degree, in Italy. And the U.K., arguably with the strongest financial ties to the U.S., experienced a relatively minor increase in unemployment. How can such varied experiences be explained? For one, the financial crisis was not the only economic event happening across those countries. Second, the labor market institutions and traditions differ a lot as well. Spain in particular is a poster child of rigid labor laws, and Germany was still in the transitional phase of labor market reforms.

How this graph was created: Search for “harmonized unemployment rate total,” then use the tags in the side bar to limit choices to frequency “monthly” and “seasonally adjusted.” Check the countries you want to display and click on “Add to Graph.” Finally, let the sample period start in 2002.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.


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