U.S. vs. Eurozone GDP

February 17, 2014 § Leave a comment

USGDP

Economists closely watch the quarterly change in gross domestic product as a sign of a country’s economic well-being. A contraction (aka negative economic growth) in GDP for two consecutive quarters is the technical indicator of a recession.

Here’s the catch: the U.S. and Eurozone calculate the quarterly change differently. If you want to chart the figures together one set needs to be recalculated.

The details:

The U.S. expresses its GDP figures as a quarterly change at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, or what the quarterly rate would be if it continued for four quarters. The Bureau of Economic Analysis does this to make it easier to compare a quarter’s rate to rates in previous years. The Wall Street Journal chart above is a good example.

The Eurozone expresses GDP as a straight change from the previous quarter, not at an annual rate. See the chart below from the National Post.

If you want to compare Eurozone GDP to U.S. GDP your best bet is to recalculate the Eurozone GDP at an annual rate. I’m not going to step you through it, since the BEA already does an excellent job of it at this link:  http://www.bea.gov/faq/index.cfm?faq_id=122. You will need to get the quarterly GDP values (not the percentage changes) to make this calculation.

eurogdp

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Union membership

January 27, 2013 § Leave a comment

union

You can find annual union membership figures on the Bureau of Labor Statistics web site: http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpslutabs.htm.

But the BLS stats go back just a dozen years. If you want to see how far union membership has declined over several decades, try the Unionstats database, which is maintained by scholars at Georgia State University and Trinity University. http://www.unionstats.com

This will take you back to 1973, broken down by various sectors. The database has some categories that I hope to chart in the future, such as union membership by very granular occupation categories, as well as state membership density from 1964 to date.

Budget authority vs. outlays

July 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Federal budget documents often show the same spending in two different measures, “budget authority” and “outlays.” As an editor, reporter or infographics journalist, you need to know the difference between the two, or you will waste copious time figuring out which figures to use and why your numbers don’t match everyone else’s. Fortunately, the budget states clearly on every table and spreadsheet whether the numbers are calculated as budget authority or outlays.

So what’s the difference between the outlays and budget authority? Outlays for fiscal 2013 reflect the actual amount of money the federal government will spend in 2013. The outlays figure for 2013 includes some unspent money that was authorized in previous budgets and excludes some spending approved in 2013 that will carry over into 2014 and beyond. Budget authority for 2013 excludes any funding authorized in previous years but includes money authorized in 2013 that will carry over into the future.  If you are having a hard time keeping that straight, check out the diagram above, which comes from the budget concepts section of the federal budget, page 138.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/concepts.pdf

So when do you use outlays and when do you use budget authority?

Use outlays when you are referring to the overall size of the fiscal budget for a given year or when you want to show the deficit or surplus.

Use budget authority when you want to show the effect that the administration’s policy decisions that year had on various agencies or functions of the federal government. Because it doesn’t count money approved in previous years, budget authority gives you a clearer picture of whether an administration is cutting or increasing funding for a department.
The two examples above come from the summary tables section of the budget, where you will find most of the top-line budget figures.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/tables.pdf

Diffusion indexes

July 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

purchasing managers index

Diffusion indexes confuse the heck out of people the first time they see one. But once diffusion indexes become familiar, they make a whole lot of sense. To chart a diffusion index and label it properly, you really need to understand what the numbers mean. (Okay, that goes for any graphic, but don’t expect to wing it with a diffusion index.)

With a diffusion index, 50 is the baseline, anything above that indicates expansion, anything below that indicates contraction. What confuses people is this: If the number is 60 in one month and 55 the next, that does not indicate contraction, it indicates slower expansion. If the number is 40 one month and 45 the next, that does not indicate expansion, it indicates slower contraction.

Take a look at the four examples of diffusion indexes in this post. I believe they were all made by Pat Minczeski on The Wall Street Journal graphics team. You will see that The Wall Street Journal took great pains to label not just whether a figure indicates expansion or contraction, but whether it is slower or faster than the previous month.

purchasing managers index

Image

Image

Usually when you chart a diffusion index, you are looking at some form of purchasing managers index of manufacturing activity. The Institute for Supply Management and Markit provide much of this data. To create an index, ISM surveys purchasing managers and asks them whether they’re doing more, less, or the same of things like placing new orders, hiring people or producing goods. The manufacturing index (or its sub-indexes) reflects their responses.

Here is a link to the most recent ISM report: http://www.ism.ws/ISMReport/content.cfm?ItemNumber=10748&navItemNumber=12949

And here are the historical numbers for the main manufacturing index: http://www.ism.ws/ISMReport/content.cfm?ItemNumber=10752

For detailed historical figures, you probably need to contact the Institute for Supply Management or Markit. I haven’t found detailed figures on their sites. Give me a shout if you come across them.

 

Halloween statistics

October 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

halloween costume statistics graphic
Each year the National Retail Federation releases a survey on how much Americans plan to spend on Halloween, how they plan to celebrate and what costume they will wear. They survey offers a chance to create some interesting charts. Above is an example from The Wall Street Journal. Below is a graphic from the Columbia Missourian (http://www.columbiamissourian.com/multimedia/graphic/2011/10/23/chart-halloween-celebration-2011/)
Halloween infographic from Columbia Missourian

Gallup daily poll on economic conditions

August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Each day, Gallup polls Americans on how they view economic conditions. The percentage saying the economy is poor shot up by 10 points around the time of the congressional battle over raising the debt ceiling.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/110821/Gallup-Daily-US-Economic-Conditions.aspx

You can download the data and build your own chart. Unfortunately, these figures only go back to 2009, so they don’t capture the period before the recession that began in December 2007. I suspect you could get older figures by contacting Gallup directly.

S&P sovereign credit ratings

August 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Standard and Poors just downgraded the U.S. credit rating a few hours before I posted this, so I haven’t seen any news graphics posted about this subject. But you can go to this link to see where the U.S. ratings stand compared with other countries. The down grade puts us below Canada, on par with Belgium and above Japan.
http://www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/sovereigns/ratings-list/en/us?sectorName=Governments&subSectorCode=39

The ratings bring the U.S. credit-worthiness from “extremely strong” to “very strong” based on its political and economic profile, which I find kind of funny despite the seriousness of the situation.

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