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A guide to tracking the U.S. economy


  • Kliesen, Kevin L.

    (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)


Analyzing and forecasting the performance and direction of a large, complex economy like that of the United States is a difficult task. The process involves parsing a great deal of data, understanding key economic relationships, and assessing which events or factors might cause monetary or fiscal policymakers to change policy. One purpose of this article is to reinforce several key principles that are useful for tracking the U.S. economy’s performance in real time. Two principles stand out: First, the economy is regularly hit by unexpected economic disturbances (shocks) that policymakers and forecasting models cannot predict. Second, most key data used to measure the economy and track its performance are often revised—and by substantial amounts.

Suggested Citation

  • Kliesen, Kevin L., 2014. "A guide to tracking the U.S. economy," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 96(1), pages 35-54.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:00016

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "Varieties of Crises and Their Dates," Introductory Chapters,in: This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly Princeton University Press.
    2. Kevin L. Kliesen & Michael W. McCracken & Linpeng Zheng, 2011. "Initial claims and employment growth: are we at the threshold?," Economic Synopses, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    3. Michele Boldrin, 2012. "Reconstructing the Great Recession," 2012 Meeting Papers 1038, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Reinhart, Karmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. ""This time is different": panorama of eight centuries of financial crises," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 1, pages 77-114, March.
    5. J. Steven Landefeld & Barbara M. Fraumeni, 2001. "Measuring the New Economy," BEA Papers 0011, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
    6. Bagehot, Walter, 1873. "Lombard Street: A Description of the Money Market," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number bagehot1873.
    7. Kliesen, Kevin L. & Owyang, Michael T. & Vermann, E. Katarina, 2012. "Disentangling diverse measures: a survey of financial stress indexes," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Sep, pages 369-398.
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    JEL classification:

    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • E66 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - General Outlook and Conditions


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