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Philadelphia Fed Releases Real-Time Data Set for U.S. Employment

For release: August 5, 2002
Contact: Kathy Woodbury, (215) 574-4119

PHILADELPHIA - The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's Research Department recently added U.S. nonfarm payroll employment data to its real-time data set, which includes data as they were initially reported and their subsequent revisions. The new data provide employment figures available to monetary policymakers at certain points in time.

The new real-time employment data set shows the official data that were available every month from December 1964 to the present. In addition to employment, the Philadelphia Fed's real-time data set tracks many other monthly and quarterly variables used to gauge the economy.

The data show that recent revisions to the employment data are unusual. In each of the last nine months prior to June, the level of payroll employment was revised down from the initial estimate. One theory about the nature of revisions to recent payroll data is that data may be harder to measure near the end of recessions. But even when compared with revisions at the end of previous recessions, the recent revisions stand out, as analysis by the Philadelphia Fed shows. First revisions to employment for January 2002 and the following five months have almost all been negative, averaging negative 35,000 jobs. In months following the end of the past five recessions, first revisions to these data averaged negative 1,000 jobs.

Because the real-time data set contains data as they were available to policymakers at specific times, it can be used to shed light on past monetary policy decisions. It also is useful for testing forecasting models and conducting financial and macroeconomic research. Further information on the entire real-time data set can be found at www.philadelphiafed.org/econ/forecast/reaindex.html.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia serves depository institutions in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware. The Bank supplies cash to these banks and thrifts, supervises them, collects and processes about 5 million checks daily, wires money and securities nationwide, as well as participates in the broader objective of setting monetary policy.

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