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Posts tagged with: "UNRATE"

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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

One rate does not rule them all

Unemployment is uneven across U.S. counties

The graph above shows the annual civilian unemployment rate from 1948 to 2018, and here are some highlights: Ten years ago, after the Great Recession, the U.S. unemployment rate peaked at 9.6%. (The only higher unemployment rate in this series was 9.7%, in 1982.) It gradually came down to 3.9% in 2018, the lowest in fifty years. (The rate in 1969 was 3.5%.)

But these national unemployment numbers mask the variation that exists across different regions in the U.S. Fortunately, we have GeoFRED to paint a clearer picture: The map below shows the unemployment rate for 2018 for 3,133 U.S. counties. The counties are split into two equally sized groups according to their unemployment rates: Those with lower unemployment are in blue, and those with higher unemployment are in red. Specifically, the blue group had a rate lower than 3.87%, and the red group had a rate between 3.87% and the maximum of 18.08%. (By the way, all counties in New Hampshire are blue and all counties in Arizona are red.) 

The map reveals that unemployment rates are unevenly distributed across the nation. Many counties in the Midwest have lower-than-average unemployment rates. In particular, Iowa and Nebraska counties, with only a few exceptions, are blue. In contrast, it’s not surprising to see that the Rust Belt region—e.g., Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio—is home to many counties with high unemployment rates. There are also many red counties in the Sun Belt and on the West Coast, which have rates higher than the national average.

With only the national average unemployment rate and without a county-level view, we wouldn’t know that lower unemployment rates concentrate in the Midwest and higher rates spread out over the rest of the nation.

How these graphs were created: For the first graph, search for and select “Civilian Unemployment Rate (UNRATE).” From the “Edit Graph” panel, select “Percent” for “Units” and modify the frequency to be “Annual.” Choose “Average” for “Aggregation Method.” For the map, go to GeoFRED and click the “Build New Map” button. From the “Tools” bar, select “County” as “Region Type” and “Unemployment Rate” as “Data.” Select “Annual” as “Frequency” and “Percent” as “Units.” Select “2018” as “Date.” In “Choose Colors” tab, select “rdbu” from “Divergent” and click on “Reverse Color Scheme.” From the “Edit Legend” tab, select “2” for “Number of Color Classes” and “Fractile” as “Interval Method.”

Suggested by Sungki Hong.

View on FRED, series used in this post: UNRATE

The unusual duration of unemployment

The scars of the Great Recession

The graph above shows the unemployment rate (right axis) and the average duration of unemployment (in weeks, left axis). It’s well known that the unemployment rate is currently very low. However, the duration of unemployment since the Great Recession has never been longer.* What’s going on?

The graph below has an answer. The share of long-term unemployment is significantly higher than in any other post-WWII period. Indeed, those unemployed for more than 6 months (in green) still represent over 20% of the unemployed, after a peak of over 45% in 2011. This share increases after recessions, but the most recent recession was deeper and much longer than the others. It’s also well-known that the long-term unemployed have a much harder time finding a job, leading to a catch-22 situation for them. And thus their numbers still persist at a high level.

How these graphs were created: Search for unemployment duration and click on the series name. From the “Edit Graph” panel, open the “Add Line” tab and search for “unemployment rate.” Open the “Format” tab and place the axis for the second line on the right. For the second graph, look at the notes for the duration series, where there is a link to the release table. From there, check the relevant series, click on and “Add to Graph.” From the “Edit Graph” panel, open the “Format” tab, change graph type to “Area, Stacked,” and finally move the “less than 5 weeks” series up so that they are all properly ordered.

*At least in the postwar era.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

View on FRED, series used in this post: LNS13008397, LNS13025701, LNS13025702, LNS13025703, UEMPMEAN, UNRATE


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