FRED FAQ

FRED Basics
What is FRED®?

FRED® is a database of over 214,000 economic time series from 67 sources. With FRED®, you can download data in Microsoft Excel and text formats and view charts of data series. We plan to continually improve FRED® and encourage you to be a part of the development process by sending feedback through our contact form. Learn more

Do you have any resources for journalists?

The FRED database is a useful tool for reporters, students and policy makers alike—anyone who has a need to analyze and disseminate economic data on the web or in print. The St. Louis Federal Reserve data desk has produced a series of informational web demos to help users get started with FRED and quickly progress to more advanced features. We currently have demos relating to: Intro to FRED and FRED graph—and we have plans to produce more in the future. The demonstrations are meant to help answer basic questions users may encounter as they navigate the FRED site, and create their own custom data visualizations. As always, users with specific questions not addressed in the web demos are encouraged to contact the FRED Team at stlsFRED@stls.frb.org or (314) 444-8444.

If I have a question, who do I contact?

If you have questions about the data in the FRED® database, the Research staff prefers that you send an email to stlsFRED@stls.frb.org. If your question necessitates a phone discussion, please call a Research staff member. Staff are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST. There are three numbers available for you to call:

  • (314) 444-8812
  • (314) 444-8573
  • (314) 444-4211

Staff will respond to all email and telephone inquiries within one business day.

What is the date format?

All dates are represented as daily dates for consistency and ease of use. We chose a single date format that is widely supported by various spreadsheet applications (Excel, Lotus, etc.) and statistical software packages (SAS, Eviews, Stata, RATS, etc.). Many annual, quarterly, and monthly data series represent different times during the period (beginning of period, middle of period, etc.) so we chose to convert these frequencies to the first day of the period for consistency. Dates for weekly and daily data series are natively daily dates and are not converted. Dates are formatted as YYYY-MM-DD. As an example, April 25, 2002 is represented as 2002-04-25.

Examples of how dates are converted to daily dates:

  • For annual data, "2004" is represented as the daily date "2004-01-01," the first day of the first month of 2004.
  • For quarterly data, the second quarter of 2005 is represented as the daily date "2005-04-01," the first day of the first month of the second quarter of 2005 (the first day of the second quarter of 2005).
  • For monthly data, July 2005 is represented as "2005-07-01," the first day of the seventh month of 2005.
I would like to publish data found in FRED. What is the appropriate citation to use?

If you use our services to assemble data for research papers or presentations, please acknowledge that use by providing the following information for your readers:

  • name of the data service and the St. Louis Fed (e.g., "FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis...")
  • the name(s), mnemonic(s), data service URLs, and original source(s) for the data series
  • the date accessed.

Citation example:

  1. In the acknowledgments section for a paper or presentation:
    "The authors used the FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data) database from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to assemble the data used herein; see the data appendix and source notes for information on the specific series."
  2. As a source note for tables, charts, appendices, etc.:
    "Data Source: FRED, Federal Reserve Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: Civilian Unemployment Rate [UNRATE] ; U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/series/UNRATE; accessed September 17, 2009."

Please note that some data available in FRED is owned by third parties and subject to copyright restrictions. Before using data owned by third parties for anything other than your own personal use, you must contact the data owner to obtain permission. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis cannot give you such permission, and making the data series available through FRED does not constitute such permission. Copyrighted series contain the word 'Copyright' in their notes. The list of copyrighted series can be found by either searching for the word 'copyright' on the FRED website or searching for the word 'copyright' using the fred/series/search api request.

What is ALFRED® and how do I retrieve vintage data?

Using ALFRED - ArchivaL Federal Reserve Economic Data - you can retrieve a data series as it existed on a specific date in history. Vintage data can be downloaded directly from the ALFRED website or by using 'My Data Lists.' Please see ALFRED Help for information about ALFRED and how to download data directly from the ALFRED website, and the How to Use 'My Data Lists' tutorial.

What are 'My Data Lists' and how do I use them?

With a user account, you can store lists of economic data series. Data lists can be used to download series cross-tabulated by date or save links to series pages. See 'How to Use My Data Lists' for a step-by-step tutorial with screenshots.

What formulas are used to calculate growth rates?

Note that because FRED uses levels and rounded data as published by the source, calculations of percentage changes and/or growth rates in some series may not be identical to those in the original releases.

The following formulas are used:

Change
x(t) - x(t-1)

Change from Year Ago
x(t) - x(t-n_obs_per_yr)

Percent Change
((x(t)/x(t-1)) - 1) * 100

Percent Change from Year Ago
((x(t)/x(t-n_obs_per_yr)) - 1) * 100

Compounded Annual Rate of Change
(((x(t)/x(t-1)) ** (n_obs_per_yr)) - 1) * 100

Continuously Compounded Rate of Change
(ln(x(t)) - ln(x(t-1))) * 100

Continuously Compounded Annual Rate of Change
((ln(x(t)) - ln(x(t-1))) * 100) * n_obs_per_yr

Natural Log
ln(x(t))

Notes:

'x(t)' is the value of series x at time period t.

'n_obs_per_yr' is the number of observations per year. The number of observations per year differs by frequency:

Daily, 260 (no values on weekends)
Annual, 1
Monthly, 12
Quarterly, 4
Bi-Weekly, 26
Weekly,52

'ln' represents the natural logarithm.

'**' represents to the power of.

What dates are used for the US recession bars in FRED® graphs?

The NBER recession data is available at http://www.nber.org/cycles/cyclesmain.html. The monthly dates for the peaks and troughs are represented as daily dates in the charts as:

Peak, Trough
1857-06-01, 1858-12-01
1860-10-01, 1861-06-01
1865-04-01, 1867-12-01
1869-06-01, 1870-12-01
1873-10-01, 1879-03-01
1882-03-01, 1885-05-01
1887-03-01, 1888-04-01
1890-07-01, 1891-05-01
1893-01-01, 1894-06-01
1895-12-01, 1897-06-01
1899-06-01, 1900-12-01
1902-09-01, 1904-08-01
1907-05-01, 1908-06-01
1910-01-01, 1912-01-01
1913-01-01, 1914-12-01
1918-08-01, 1919-03-01
1920-01-01, 1921-07-01
1923-05-01, 1924-07-01
1926-10-01, 1927-11-01
1929-08-01, 1933-03-01
1937-05-01, 1938-06-01
1945-02-01, 1945-10-01
1948-11-01, 1949-10-01
1953-07-01, 1954-05-01
1957-08-01, 1958-04-01
1960-04-01, 1961-02-01
1969-12-01, 1970-11-01
1973-11-01, 1975-03-01
1980-01-01, 1980-07-01
1981-07-01, 1982-11-01
1990-07-01, 1991-03-01
2001-03-01, 2001-11-01
2007-12-01, 2009-06-01

FRED Tags
What are tags?
Tags are similar to keywords or labels that can be used to group similar items together.
Where do I find them?
You will see a list of tags in 3 places: 1) Tags related to the data on the page will be displayed in the sidebar. 2) Tags you have selected will appear in a blue box at the top of the sidebar. 3) Tags assigned to a series will be displayed below series titles on series listing pages.
How do I use them?
There are 2 ways to use tags: 1) Enter a keyword in the site search box. If a tag matches the keyword, all series that match that tag will be returned. 2) Click on a tag in the sidebar or underneath series titles to refine the current search results.
Frequency Aggregation
What is frequency aggregation?

The FRED frequency aggregation feature converts higher frequency data series into lower frequency data series (e.g. converts a monthly data series into an annual data series). In FRED, the highest frequency data is daily, and the lowest frequency data is annual. There are 3 aggregation methods available- average, sum, and end of period.

How are missing values determined for the first and last observations?

Higher frequency data may not be available for an entire lower frequency period. For example, a monthly data series may end in February. With only 2 of the 12 months of the year available, the converted annual value will be missing for the last year.

First and last observations for a converted lower frequency are missing if the number of higher frequency periods per lower frequency period is less than a minimum threshold. The minimum threshold depends on which frequencies are being converted. Below is a table of the thresholds.

Minimum number of higher frequency periods per lower frequency period for first and last observations:

4for Daily to Weekly
8for Daily to Bi-Weekly
17for Daily to Monthly
52for Daily to Quarterly
104for Daily to Semiannual
208for Daily to Annual

2for Weekly to Bi-Weekly
3for Weekly to Monthly
10for Weekly to Quarterly
20for Weekly to Semiannual
39for Weekly to Annual

2for Bi-Weekly to Monthly
7for Bi-Weekly to Quarterly
13for Bi-Weekly to Semiannual
26for Bi-Weekly to Annual

3for Monthly to Quarterly
6for Monthly to Semiannual
12for Monthly to Annual

2for Quarterly to Semiannual
4for Quarterly to Annual

2for Semiannual to Annual

Daily and weekly series can have missing values due to holidays. Accordingly, the thresholds for converting daily or weekly data series to a lower frequency have been reduced. Otherwise, one missing value in a daily or weekly data series would cause the corresponding lower frequency period to also be missing.

The thresholds for converting monthly and quarterly data series to a lower frequency reflect that all higher frequency periods must be available. If any monthly or quarterly value is missing, the corresponding lower frequency period will also be missing.

The minimum thresholds above only apply to first and last observations. Observations in the middle of the data series are not set to missing if the number of higher frequency periods per lower frequency period is less than a minimum.

How are missing values treated in average, sum, and end of period aggregation methods?

Missing values are ignored by the average, sum, and end of period aggregation methods for middle observations (not the first or last observations).

For example, consider a daily series from 2003-06-01 to 2003-07-31 with a missing value on Friday, 2000-07-04, the US Independence Day holiday. When converting from daily to weekly ending Friday values, the week containing 2000-07-04 will have values for 4 of the 5 days of the business week. Averaged and summed values will be calculated for that week using 4 values not 5. The end of period aggregation method will use the non-missing value for Thursday instead of the missing value on Friday, July 4th. If Thursday and Friday both had missing values, the end of period aggregation method would return the non-missing value from Wednesday.

How are higher frequency periods aggregated which overlap with 2 lower frequency periods?

It is possible for higher frequency periods to overlap lower frequency periods. For example, a week can start in one month and end in the next month. In these cases, FRED frequency aggregation only includes the higher frequency value in one of the lower frequency periods but not the other. The value is assigned to the lower frequency period containing the daily date for the higher frequency period. For example, a weekly ending Friday period with date 2010-09-03 is included in the aggregated value for September not August.

How is the number of decimal places determined for aggregated values?

The average, sum, and end of period aggregation methods all return lower frequency values with the same number of decimal places as the higher frequency values that are being aggregated. For example, a monthly series with values 100.1, 100.4, and 100.9 for the first 3 months of year is averaged to a quarterly value of 100.5 (i.e. 100.467 rounded up to 100.5).

What is the order of processing in FRED Graph?

The values for a line in FRED Graph are calculated in the following order- first frequency aggregation is calculated (if any), second unit transformations are calculated (if any) (e.g. Percent Change), and third the formula to create your own transformation is applied (if changed from the default) (e.g. formula 'a - b' finds the difference between 2 data series).

Related Help Topics
Updated Date

The "Updated" date associated with each series is the most recent date that a series was updated in FRED®. This date does not necessarily correspond to the dates of observations.

Obtaining more information about particular series

For detailed definitions and methodology beyond that provided in the "Notes" with each series in FRED®, we recommend referring to the source of the data.

Inflation rate calculation

The inflation rate is typically calculated as the percent rate of change between two observations of the Consumer Price Index (typically from month to month or from the same month one year ago). Conventions used in our publications for calculating rates of change are available in the Tables of Contents of our Monetary Trends and our National Economic Trends publications.

Money stock

Information on money stock measures, the monetary base and reserves, retail and deposit sweeps programs, and the monetary services index can be found in the Monetary Aggregates section of our website. Also included are historical data, references to further reading, and several datasets which are not included in the FRED® database.

What is FRASER?

FRASER® is a collection of historical documents. Some historical statistics that are not available in FRED® may be found in FRASER®.


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