Follow the Money - From Surpluses to School Buses: Understanding Public Finance


Annual BRASS program
June 26, 2006
New Orleans, Louisiana

Federal Reserve Economic Data

presented by
Katrina Stierholz
Manager, Research Library
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Note from the presenter: the views expressed are mine and do not necessarily represent official positions of the Federal Reserve System.

Download the PowerPoint presentation

A little bit about the Fed

  • The Federal Reserve Banks are NOT government institutions. And, each bank is an independent own institution.
  • However, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve IS part of the Federal government
  • The Banks have three functions—Banking Supervision (under the direction of the BOG), Financial Services, and Monetary Policy

[Map of the Federal Reserve districts]

Many routes to finding data

  • Liber8 (Librarian’s Resource for Economic Information)
  • FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data)
  • ALFRED (Archival FRED—data files)
  • FRASER (Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research—image files)

Liber8—an economic portal for librarians

[series of screen shots highlighting the different parts of the Liber8 website]

[series of screen shots highlighting the Fed in Print website]

[series of screen shots highlighting the International Economic Statistics and Internetional Economic Trends sections of the Liber8 sebsite]

FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data)

  • Updated several times a day
  • Over 3,000 economic time-series
  • Data from Dept. of Labor, Census, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, OMB
  • Data accessible in text (ASCII) or Excel format
  • Charts (and these can be modified)
  • Email notification when updated
  • Can download multiple data sets (or the whole thing)
  • Regional data maps

[screen shots demonstrating use of FRED]


  • First, Second, Final, and Benchmark Revisions
  • 20/20 hindsight
  • Much more sophisticated (interface and user)
  • 2,349 data series have vintage/archival data
  • Earliest vintage date is 1927. The major series will have their vintage data posted as far back as we can gather.

ALFRED, FRED’s Older Brother
[screen shot of ALFRED home page]

Q1:2004 GDP Revisions

  • April 29, 2004: First quarter "advance" GDP is issued (increased 4.2%)
  • May 27, 2004: First quarter "preliminary" GDP is issued (increased 4.4%)
  • June 25, 2004: First quarter "final" GDP is issued (increased 3.9%)
  • July 30, 2004: First quarter GDP is revised to 4.5% (as part of the annual revision)
  • July 2005: the next annual revision comes out, now it's 4.3% ... and did I mention benchmarks?

Database construction

  • Time as a feature (Snodgrass book)
  • Data point
  • Time interval
  • Validity interval
  • Only twice as many data points as current FRED database.
  • May be a useful construct for other electronic products (anything that changes)


  • Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research
  • Scanned publications, either from the federal government or from the Federal Reserve System. All Bank Statistics, Annual Statistical Digest, Banking and Monetary Statistics, Economic Indicators, Business Conditions Digest, Economic Report of the President
  • Continues our focus on data, increasing our visibility
  • Future additions include the Federal Reserve Bulletin, Federal Open Market Committee Minutes/Transcripts, Congressional Hearings with a Monetary Policy focus, and Employment and Earnings.

[screen shots demonstrating use of FRASER]

Historical Publications on FRASER

  • Humphrey-Hawkins hearings
  • Economic Report of the President
  • Archival material
  • Meltzer's A History of the Federal Reserve, vol. 1
  • William McChesney Martin speeches

[screen shot from FRASER web site]

Archival Material on FRASER

  • Meltzer's book, A History of the Federal Reserve, Vol. 1
  • Variety of resources (journals, working papers, hearings, unpublished materials, BOG minutes, a few books)
  • 308 references, 2,622 citations/footnotes, 61 documents scanned
  • Over 60% of the material will be scanned and in the archive
  • MODs schema for metadata
  • Shared taxonomy with all other projects (FRED, FRASER, etc.)

What’s next?

  • More on ALFRED (more vintage data, further back)
  • GEOFRED (a mapping tool to work with FRED)
  • More titles on FRASER
  • Employment & Earnings
  • Federal Reserve Bulletin
  • Federal Open Market Committee minutes
  • New archival material
  • William McChesney Martin, Jr. papers
  • Broookings Papers

What would you like to see?

  • We have changed our chart display at the suggestion of a user
  • We are open to making changes or improvements or additions...
  • How can we improve Liber8?

Katrina Stierholz
314-444-8552 (phone)
314-444-8694 (fax)

bullet Follow the Money - From Surpluses to School Buses: Understanding Public Finance
BRASS Program, ALA Annual Conference, June 26, 2006

Disclaimer: This publication has been placed on the web for the convenience of BRASS members. Information and links will not be updated. Posted 24 August 2006.