07 November 2023

Use economic data to understand the economy

Governor Christopher J. Waller

At the “Beyond the Numbers” conference hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri

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Thank you, Katrina, for inviting me here today.1 As I hope you all know, the Federal Reserve uses monetary policy to achieve its dual mission of maximum employment and price stability. One of my key roles as a policy maker is to help define the policy position that will bring the economy closer to this reality. To do this, I need to try to understand where the economy stands and where it is headed. To do this, I look at a variety of economic and financial data.

I have a team of consultants who help me collect and analyze data. But you don’t need your own team of economists to get a good idea of ​​what’s happening in the American economy. The staff here at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis created an easy-to-use interactive tool that brings economic data to your fingertips. FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data) allows the public to access, chart, and analyze thousands of economic data series. I often use FRED myself when I want to search for current and historical data.

In fact, I thought in today’s talk, I could use Fred to show some of the data series that I refer to when thinking about economics. I’ll start with some slides on economic activity and then move on to the labor market and inflation. I’ll tell you how I interpret this data, what it means for policy so far, and offer some caveats we should all keep in mind when using the data. I will not discuss my expectations about future monetary policy.

Much of what I shared today comes from the economic outlook speech I gave a few weeks ago. If you would like to read the full notes, you can search for them on the Council’s website.2 I hope you do. But beyond that, I hope these slides today have helped show that you and your students don’t have to wait for a speech from a Federal Reserve policymaker to get an update on the U.S. economy. You can use FRED to access and analyze the data yourselves. I hope that reviewing this data series was as enjoyable for you as it was for me, or at least sparked some ideas about how to use this tool in the classroom. Thank you.

1. The opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of my colleagues on the FOMC or the Federal Reserve Board. Return to text

2. See Christopher J. Waller (2023), “Something’s Gotta Give”, speech delivered at the Distinguished Speakers Symposium, European Economic and Financial Centre, London, UK, 18 October. Return to text

Last updated: 07 November 2023