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Governor Waller’s Speech on Using Economic Data to Understand the Economy

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November 7, 2023

Using economic data to understand the economy

Governor Christopher J. Waller

At “Beyond the Numbers,” a 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 fulfill its dual mandate of maximum employment and price stability. One of my key roles as a policymaker is to help determine what policy direction will bring the economy closer to this reality. To do this, I have to try to understand where the economy is and where it is going. And to do this, I look at various economic and financial data.

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

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

Much of what I’ve shared today comes from an economic outlook speech I gave a few weeks ago. If you would like to read the remarks in full, you can search for them on the Council’s website.2 I hope you will do it. But more than that, I hope these slides today have helped show that you and your students don’t need to wait for a speech from a Fed policymaker to get an update on the American economy. You can use FRED to access and analyze the data yourself. I hope reviewing these data sets was as fun for you as it was for me, or at least sparked some ideas for how you can use this tool in the classroom. THANKS.


1. The views expressed here are my own and are not necessarily those of my colleagues on the Federal Open Market Committee or the Federal Reserve Board. Return to text

2. See Christopher J. Waller (2023), “Something’s Got to Give,” speech at the Distinguished Speaker Seminar, European Economics and Financial Centre, London, United Kingdom, October 18. Return to text

Last updated: November 7, 2023

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