Taking the Pulse of the American Economy: Your Right to Know

Disclaimer

BRASS Program, American Library Association Annual Conference
June 29, 1992
San Francisco, CA


Guest Speakers:


Tapan Munroe, Chief Economist
Pacific Gas & Electric


Brian Motley, Senior Economist
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco


Duncan M. Aldrich, Head
Government Publications Department
University of Nevada, Reno


Co-sponsored by Government Documents Round Table (GODORT)



Key to Coded Sources

BAR Barron's, the National Financial Weekly.
CCS Consumer Confidence Survey.
CPI CPI Detailed Report.
DJ Dow Jones News/Retrieval.
EI Economic Indicators.
ERP Economic Report of the President.
EE Employment and Earnings.
FRB Federal Reserve Bulletin.
HS Current Construction Reports. C20, Housing Starts.
MLR MLR, Monthly Labor Review.
NYT New York Times.
OPR Originally issued as press release.
PPI Producer Price lndex.
SA Statistical Abstract of the United States.
SB Statistical Bulletin.
SCA Surveys of Consumer Attitudes.
SPI Standard & Poor's Statistical Service Current Statistics.
SURV Survey of Current Business.
WSJ Wall Street Journal.

Contributors:

Definitions of Common Economic Indicators and Related Terms. Anne L. Buchanan, Purdue University & Roberta Tipton, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey.

Bibliography. Anne L. Buchanan, Purdue University & Roberta Tipton, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey.

Sources for Economic Indicators. Anne L. Buchanan, Purdue University & Roberta Tipton, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey.

New or Forthcoming Books. Kelly Janousek, California State University, Long Beach & Robert W. Sears, Tulsa City-County Library.

Federal Reserve Publications. Robert W. Sears, Tulsa City-County Library.

Most Cost-Effective Banking Sources. David Bickford, Phoenix Public Library.

Cover. Courtesy of Carl E. Snow, Purdue University.


Definitions of Common Economic Indicators
and Related Terms

Indicator. A set of data that serves as a tool for analyzing current economic conditions and future prospects. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recognizes 150 indicators.

*** Words in italics refer to terms defined elsewhere in this section.

Average Weekly Hours. This is the length of the work week in manufacturing and measures employment . It is seasonally adjusted data and a component of the Leading Indicators Composite Index . (EE, El, MLR, SURV)

Balance of Trade. The difference in dollar values of the goods that are exported from the United States and the goods that are imported into the United States. It is used to determine the performance of the U.S. international transactions and is part of the gross national product . (EI, FRB, OPR, SURV)

Bear. A pessimist who expects the prices of marketed items to fall.

Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank. The governing unit of the Federal Reserve System .

Building Cost Index. A measure of the combined effect of wage and price changes on the value of the construction dollar. It is used to judge underlying construction cost trends and estimate future construction projects costs. Similar to construction cost index but uses a different labor base.

Bull. An optimist who buys marketed items such as shares, currency, or commodities expecting the value to rise and thus make a profit.

Business Cycle. A wave of economic activity between boom and bust. An interval that embraces alternating periods of business prosperity and depression.

Business Failures. The number of monthly court proceedings or voluntary actions entered into that are likely to result in a loss to creditors. It is an indicator of overall business activity. (BAR, SA, SURV)

Capacity Utilization Rate. The ratio of industrial output to installed capacity. (El, FRB, OPR, SA, SURV)

Coincident Indicators Composite Index. Represents the general economy because these indicators move in tandem with the cyclical movements of the economy. It includes an index of four; industrial production index , employment , personal income , and manufacturing and trade sales in constant dollars. (DJ, SURV)

Commercial Bank. A bank with the primary functions of accepting demand deposits and making short term loans, chiefly to businesses.

Commodities. Refers to raw materials or primary products that are homogenous and traded on the free market. Examples are coffee, cotton, gold, and cocoa. (BAR)

Construction Cost Index. A measure of the combined effect of wage and price changes on the value of the construction dollar. It is used to judge the underlying construction cost trends and estimate future construction project costs. Similar to the building cost index but uses a different labor base. (SURV)

Consumer Confidence. Is determined by the portion of positive opinions given by the respondents to questions concerning the current state of business conditions and employment opportunities and how they predict these conditions and their personal conditions will change during the next six months. (CCS, DJ, SB, SCA, SURV)

Consumer Installment Credit. An estimate of credit extended, repaid and the net change in outstanding consumer credit debt. (El, FRB, SA, SPI, SURV)

Consumer Price Index (CPI). Sometimes referred to as the Cost of Living Index. Measures the changes in the prices of goods and services bought by households. The most widely recognized gauge of inflation . A composite index number that relates the cost of specific mix in type and quantity of consumer goods and services to the cost of an equivalent in a base year. It is used as an escalator for wages, pensions, Social Security benefits, rents, royalties, and child support payments and as a guide to making business decisions and setting government policies. (BAR, CPI, El, FRB, MLR, OPR, SA, SURV, WSJ)

Cost of Living Index. See Consumer Price Index .

Crowding Out. If governments borrowing to finance the budget deficit increases interest rates , some private borrowers can not afford the higher interest rates and are therefore priced out of the market.

Deflation. The rate of general price declines due to a decrease in total spending relative to the supply of goods on the market, as well as, bank deposits, volume of currency, production, and employment . The opposite of inflation .

Demand Curve. Graphic representation of quantities demanded at various prices.

Demand Deposits. Funds which may be withdrawn by depositor immediately and without notice of intended withdrawal. Checking accounts are an example. (BAR, EI, SA, SURV)

Depression. An extended and substantial recession in economic activity.

Discount Rate. The amount the Federal Reserve Bank charges commercial banks for loans. (BAR, El, SA, SURV)

Disposable Personal Income (DPI). The income a person has after all taxes have been deducted from the gross income. It is used to forecast consumption expenditures for goods and services and as a component in the measurement of the standard of living. Compare to Personal Income . (DJ, El, FRB, SA, SURV)

Double Digit Inflation. Inflation of 10 percent or more per year.

Dow Jones Averages:

Composite Average. A daily comparison of the closing prices of 65 selected stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange and is a technical indicator of the stock market cycles. (BAR, DJ, NYT, SURV)

Industrial Average. A daily comparison of the closing prices of 30 industrial common stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It is the most important stock market indicator and is used to track stock-market cycles. (BAR, DJ, NYT, SURV, WSJ)

Transportation Average. A dally comparison of the closing prices of 20 transportation industry's common stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It is a technical indicator of stock market cycles. (BAR, DJ, NYT, SURV, WSJ)

Utilities Average. A daily comparison of the closing prices of about 15 utilities' common stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It is a technical indicator of stock market cycles. (BAR, DJ, NYT, SURV, WSJ)

Durable Goods. Consumer or capital goods expected to last longer than three years. Examples are books, automobiles, and appliances. See Nondurable Goods .

Employment. Workers 16 years of age and older engaged in gainful employment. It is seasonally adjusted data and a component of the coincident indicators composite index . (BAR, EE, EI, FRB, MLR, SA, SURV)

Exchange Rate or Foreign Exchange Rate. The price at which one currency can be exchanged for another currency or gold. (BAR, DJ, FRB, SURV)

Federal Reserve Board. See Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank .

Federal Reserve System. Composed of 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks and their 24 branches and other national and state banks who are a part of the system. The main function of the system is to manage the national money supply . The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank is the governing unit of the Federal Reserve System.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The market value of goods and services produced by labor, as well as, property located within the United States regardless of ownership. GDP includes anything within the borders of the U.S., even if it is foreign-owned. GNP includes anything owned by U.S. citizens or companies, even if located abroad. To calculate the GDP, the GNP is modified by subtracting the profits from U.S. investments in foreign countries. It is used as a broad, general barometer of overall business activity or lack of activity. The GDP is now the main measure of the U.S. economy. (BAR, EI, FRB, OPR, SA, SURV)

Gross National Product (GNP). The total national output of goods and services and is expressed in both current dollars (or the actual prices) and constant dollars. Includes profits from foreign operations of U.S. owned companies. Until recently, it was considered the most comprehensive measure of trends in the economy. See Gross Domestic Product . (EI, FRB, OPR, SA, SURV)

GNP Deflator. Also known as Implicit Price Index. An index of inflation in the GNP . A mathematical formula is used so that real growth can be compared from year to year. (EI, SA, SURV)

Housing Starts. An estimate of the number of new homes for which construction began during a given month. It is a major indicator of the health and strength of the national economy and is a one of the leading indicators composite index . (BAR, DJ, El, FRB, HS, SURV)

Hyperinflation. An inflation rate of 50 percent or more per year. The term implies that not only is the inflation rate high, but it also is accelerating.

Index Numbers. Numbers that provide a statistical method for measuring changes in any variable data. Indexes for price, quantity, value, and special purposes exist and they may be weighted or unweighted. Index numbers may express percentages relative to a base period or total sum of absolute values. See Consumer Price Index , Producer Price Index , and GNP Deflator .

Indicator. See the first heading at the beginning of this section.

Industrial Production lndex. A monthly measure of physical volume of output in the manufacturing, mining, and electrical and gas utilities industries. (BAR, El, FRB, OPR, SURV, WSJ)

Inflation. A substantial, broad based or generalized rise in prices. There is no single definition or measure for inflation, although the CPI , the Producer Price Index , and the GNP Deflator are commonly used as inflation indicators. (CPI, ERP, PPI, SA, SURV)

Interest Rate. The amount charged for use of money over a period of time. (EI, FRB, SA, SURV)

Inventory Sales Ratios. The monthly turnover of inventories in manufacturing at current sales rates. This is one component of the lagging indicators composite index . (EI, OPR, SURV)

Lagging Indicators Composite Index. The average of 6 economic indicators ; the average duration of unemployment , the unit labor costs , inventory-sales ratio , commercial and industrial loans outstanding, the average prime rate and consumer installment credit . These indicators measure current and past levels of economic activity because their changes happen after the business cycle has turned. (DJ, SURV)

Leading Indicators Composite Index. The average behavior of 12 economic indicators whose values precede business cycle turns. The 12 indicators are average weekly hours of manufacturing production workers, the manufacturing layoff rate, vendor delivery performance, the percent change in total liquid assets, the percent change in sensitive materials prices, the plant and equipment contracts and orders, the index of net business formation, the index of stock market prices (i.e. Dow Jones Averages and S&P 500 Stock Indexes ). the money supply , the new manufacturers' orders , housing starts , and unfilled manufacturers' orders from the last month. Leading indicators often predict changes in direction and future levels of aggregate economic activity. (BAR, DJ, SURV, WSJ)

Liquidity. The speed with which financial assets could be converted into cash without any considerable loss. The liquidity of an enterprise is a major indicator of its ability to meet its debts when they mature.

Manufacturers' Orders. A means to determine commitments by consumers to pay for subsequent delivery of goods produced by manufacturers. These orders can be counted as brand new commitments or unfilled by the manufacturer. This is a component of the leading indicators composite index . (DJ. EI, SURV)

Money Supply. Composed of some combination of coin, paper currency or notes issued by the government or banks, and bank deposits. Money is categorized into four classifications (M-1, M-2, M-3, and L) which represent various levels of liquidity. The components of the classifications include:

M-1 = paper currency plus demand deposits
M-2 = M-1 plus savings accounts
M-3 = M-2 plus time deposits over $100,000
L = M-3 plus T-bills
The money supply is the main measure the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank uses to formulate monetary policies. (BAR, EI, FRB, OPR, SA, SURV)

National Income. The aggregate earnings by labor and property that arise from the production of goods and services. (EI, FRB, SA, SURV)

Nikkei Index. The most prominent stock market index in Japan and highly significant for the U.S. economy in an era of global markets. (BAR, WSJ)

Nondurable Goods. Consumer or capital goods expected to last less than three years. Examples are food, clothing, and gasoline. See Durable Goods .

Personal Income. Shows before tax income received in the form of wages, salaries, tips, fringe benefits, interest and dividends, rents, profits, social security, pension and unemployment payments. Used to measure individuals' purchasing power and to follow trends in consumer buying. Compare to disposable personal income . (DJ, EI, FRB, SA, SURV, WSJ)

Personal Savings. An estimate of current savings of individuals, nonprofit institutions, and private health, welfare, and trust funds. (DJ, SA, SURV)

Price Index. A comparison of one price or a group of prices to the prices of the same items at a different time. see Consumer Price Index , GNP Deflator , Producer Price Index .

Prime Rate. Interest charged by commercial banks for short term loans to corporations with high credit standards and therefore at little risk of default. The best rate of interest offered to commercial customers. (BAR, EI, FRB, SURV)

Producer Price Index (PPI). (Formerly Wholesale Price Index) Measures the average changes in prices received in primary markets of the U.S. by producers of commodities in all states of processing. It is used in a variety of ways such as determining pricing policies, to measure inflation at the primary market level, and to deflate time series so they can be reported in constant dollars. (BAR, DJ, EI, FRB, MLR, OPR, PPI, SA, SURV)

Productivity. Is measured by the output produced (or the final product) compared to the inputs required to make the item. Examples of inputs are labor, machinery, and materials. (EE, EI, MLR, OPR, SA)

Recession. An extended, substantial, and widespread downward movement of the economy.

Savings and Loan Associations. Institutions that accept deposits then invest in home mortgages. See Thrifts .

Savings Rate. The percentage of current disposable personal income that is made up of current personal savings . It is used to judge long-term trends in income, expenditures, and economic growth. (EI, SURV)

Seasonally Adjusted Data. Numbers which have been treated with a statistical procedure to correct for the regular swings of almost any series of economic data attributable to the changing seasons. Sometimes listed as "Adjusted for seasonal variations" or "Adjusted for normal seasonal variations."

Standard & Poor's 500 or S&P 500 Stock Indexes. A composite index of 500 common stocks (400 industrial stocks, 20 transportation stocks, 40 utility stocks, and 40 financial stocks) which are primarily traded on the New York Stock Exchange. S&P performs some calculations to derive a market value weighted index of stock prices. (BAR, DJ, EI, SPI, SURV, WSJ)

Supply Curve. A graphic representation of prices commanded for various quantities of a commodity .

T-Bill or Treasury Bills. A short term obligation of the federal government that bears no interest but is sold at a discount so the return to the investor is the difference between the purchase price of the bill and its face or par value. Used to watch interest rate trends. (BAR, EI, FRB)

Thrifts. Refers to savings and loan associations , mutual savings banks, and credit unions. The principle holder of time deposits which are used to make investments in mortgages.

Time Deposits. Interest bearing accounts that must remain in a financial institution for a specified amount of time or withdrawn only after advance notice. (BAR, FRB)

Unemployment Rate. Percentage of the potential work force that is involuntarily out of work. Total unemployment is estimated each month by means of an extensive monthly survey. The data is seasonally adjusted and used as a major indicator of the general state of the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the economy. The unemployment rate is inversely related to general business fluctuations and is a leading indicator at peaks and a lagging indicator at troughs. (BAR, EE, EI, FRB, MLR, OPR, SA, SURV)

Unit Labor Costs. Labor cost per unit of output in manufacturing. This is a component of the lagging indicators composite index . (EE, EI, MLR, SURV)


1992 San Francisco Conference Program Planning Committee
Kelly Janousek, Chair, California State University, Long Beach
David Bickford, Phoenix Public Library
Anne L. Buchanan, Purdue University
Wendy Diamond, University of California, Berkeley
Priscilla Cheng Geahigan, BRASS Chair, Purdue University
Lynn C. Hattendorf, University of Illinois at Chicago
Robert W. Sears, Tulsa City-County Library
Roberta Tipton, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey



bullet Taking the Pulse of the American Economy: Your Right to Know
BRASS Program, ALA Annual Conference, June 29, 1992



Disclaimer : This publication has been placed on the web for the convenience of BRASS members. Information and links will not be updated. Posted 11 November 1997.