What Is Economics, and Why Is It Important?

Introduction to FRED

Data is very important in economics because it describes and measures the issues and problems that economics seek to understand. A variety of government agencies publish economic and social data. For this course, we will generally use data from the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank's FRED database. FRED is very user friendly. It allows you to display data in tables or charges, and you can easily download it into spreadsheet form if you want to use the data for other purposes. The FRED website includes data on nearly 400,000 domestic and international variables over time, in the following broad categories:

  • Money, Banking & Finance
  • Population, Employment, & Labor Markets (including Income Distribution)
  • National Accounts (Gross Domestic Product & its components), Flow of Funds, and International Accounts
  • Production & Business Activity (including Business Cycles)
  • Prices & Inflation (including the Consumer Price Index, the Producer Price Index, and the Employment Cost Index)
  • International Data from other nations
  • U.S. Regional Data
  • Academic Data (including Penn World Tables & NBER Macrohistory database)

For more information about how to use FRED, see the variety of videos on YouTube starting with this introduction.