What is itFred? FRED, short for Federal Reserve Economic Data, is an online database composed of hundreds of thousands of time series of economic data from dozens of national, international, public, and private sources. FRED, created and maintained by the research department of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: it combines data with a powerful combination of tools that help the user to understand and interact with the data to view and distribute them. Essentially, FRED helps users tell their data stories. The purpose of this article is to guide the prospective (or current) user of FRED through the various aspects and tools of the database.
A short story…
FRED began in the early 1990s as an offshoot of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' long legacy to provide monetary data to better understand Fed policy decisions. Prior to the popularization of the World Wide Web, data was provided in list form on an electronic bulletin board voting system. The data was organized into categories of about 300 data series and expanded from there. Perhaps surprisingly, FRED didn't begin as part of a grand plan or strategic goal. Instead, it grew in a very organic way over time. St. Louis federal personnel who were directly involved with the FRED project or who worked on the periphery developed tools for the database on their own and on an ad hoc basis. An example was in 1995, when a member of the research department team decided to write the code that would officially bring FRED "online". Further work would bring the following FRED developments:
Alfred(ArchivaL Federal Reserve Economic Data) goes live, offering users the ability to access vintage data for many of the available FRED series.
The FRED chart is introduced along with the ability to download data in Excel format.
Unit conversions allow users to change data from levels to percentage changes, among other things.
geofredprovides mapping tools for FRED data.
Published Data Listsgo live and allow users to publish created data pools.
ÖAPI FREDpublishes and gives software developers access to database functions.
Frequency aggregation is built in, allowing users to aggregate data from a higher frequency to a lower frequency (e.g. from monthly data to yearly data).
ÖAddfor Microsoft Excel andiPhone-Appare published.
ÖAndroid Appis available on Google Play.
ThoseTool, combined with the raw data, resulted in an extremely popular database, accessed annually by more than two million people in almost every country in the world.
The research department is expressly committed togrowthfrom the database. Since its inception, FRED has included many of the most popular numbers reported by the Board of Governors, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Census, among others. Over time, FRED has expanded its collection to include many more international, national and regional data sets. More recently, it has become clear that if FRED is to better serve its users, data relevant to other topics and regions must also be included in order for the content of the data to continue to grow and evolve. Of course, care is taken to ensure that data is completely and carefully supplemented.
Certain dates are subject to revision over time. Anyone who has followed GDP long enough will be familiar with the BEA's revision (up or down) of its quarterly release numbers. The FRED database always contains and displays the most recent revision—or most recent vintage—of dataaccessible. But FRED's real-time relative, the aboveAlfred(Archival Federal Reserve Economic Database), captures all of these individual revisions to a record. This means that the FRED and ALFRED dates can be used together, literally as a data time machine, allowing users to access the exact dates their predecessors used. Researchers often try to replicate results of previous academic work or use data to "train" economic models. in these cases, the relevance of these FRED tools is clear.
The data can be accessed from a variety of different hardware and software, with the main access point being FREDwebsite. From the home page, users can choose to search the data by typing the search term, or alternatively search the data through other organized access points. Data is navigable by (1)Those(the data-generating institution or company), (2)release(the document associated with the publication of the data), (3)Category(a list of data topics organized by the FRED team), (4)last update(the most recently updated data) and (5)Sign.
While the category structure has traditionally been the most popular, recent database expansion has made this method of organizing data increasingly difficult to use, as the number of rows in a given category can become quite large. Tags are seen as the next most efficient evolution of this framework. By associating metadata concepts with series rather than associating series with concepts, FRED enables a more flexible cataloging structure that allows for further database expansion and helps users search this data faster and more intuitively.
However, access does not end at the website. Starting with the FRED Application Programming Interface (API) and building on it, the FRED team and private contributors have developed a number of applications and programmatic wrappers that make data much easier to access for those with certain computing preferences. For example, the team used this tool to develop the FRED add-in for Microsoft Excel. The add-in gives Microsoft Excel users access to all data and tools available in FRED. Users can search, download and update data; create graphics; and perform frequency aggregations and unit transformations without leaving the table. For users on the go, FRED apps for iOS and Android platforms allow access to almost all FRED tools in the palm of your hand. For those using devices outside of these platforms, FRED's mobile site offers an excellent alternative.
The FRED team is also working on creating tools for software design. To date, these efforts have enabled third-party developers to create accessibility featuresR,STATUS,MatLAB,THE STEERING WHEEL, zEViews. FRED is also used at Pearson EducationMyEconLab, an installation designed to help students understand the complexities of economic data and theory. In addition, there are several programsWrapper und Toolkitsavailable for the FRED API including Java, .NET, PHP, Python and Ruby. The team is constantly researching new product developments.
It certainly helps to have the data that users need and put it in their hands. But to really help people tell their data story, you need to give them the tools they need to work with the data. FRED offers several simple yet powerful tools to help the user visualize and present data in an accurate and understandable way. By far the most popular way to visualize a time series in FRED is a line chart. FRED allows the user not only to view the chosen data in this format, but also to fully customize the aesthetics of this chart. Users can customize fonts, colors, line widths, and other chart attributes. Line charts are useful for visualizing trends over time, but they're not always the best for comparing recent observations. For this purpose, FRED can also present data in pie, bar and scatter chart form. In addition, it can also be helpful to view the data in its geographic context. GeoFRED allows the user to view data at the state, MSA, and county level.
Often we need to use more than one series to tell a particular data story. For example, you can imagine a yield spread. In FRED, this calculation is easily performed by first dragging the two series onto the FRED plot and subtracting them from each other. Moving on, we could imagine plotting the 10-year Treasury rate and the AAA corporate bond rate and subtracting the Treasury rate from the bond rate to create our spread. Although this is a simple example, users can interact with multiple series on a single chart. If you're thinking of making series like Taylor's rule, this can be a very useful tool.
Data is often reported in units that may not be the most conducive to analysis. In FRED, units can be easily changed. When users view the FRED series for 2009 chained real gross domestic product in billions of dollars, they can quickly change that series to percent change from one year ago with a simple selection. Change, Percent Change, and Average Annual Rate of Change are among the many choices available.
As with drives, frequency can also be an issue. Frequently, for estimation and charting purposes, the frequencies of all data series must be the same. FRED's built-in frequency aggregation tool makes this a simple affair. Users can quickly and easily aggregate a range of data from a higher frequency to a lower frequency.
At worst, dealing with data can be intimidating and difficult to understand. To remove these potential obstacles, many FRED series contain hints to help the user understand or interpret the data in question. These notes are sometimes an external link to more information. In other cases, they can be complete explanations of how a series is constructed or should be interpreted. The FRED team will continue to develop these notes over time.
While we constantly strive to make FRED as user-friendly as possible, we know that everyone needs a little help from time to time. Whether a user needs help using one of our tools or is just trying to understand some aspect of a particular data series, we're always here to help.help.