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From Transactions Data to Economic Statistics: Constructing Real-time, High-frequency, Geographic Measures of Consumer Spending

Author

Listed:
  • Aditya Aladangady
  • Shifrah Aron-Dine
  • Wendy Dunn
  • Laura Feiveson
  • Paul Lengermann
  • Claudia Sahm

Abstract

Access to timely information on consumer spending is important to economic policymakers. The Census Bureau’s monthly retail trade survey is a primary source for monitoring consumer spending nationally, but it is not well suited to study localized or short-lived economic shocks. Moreover, lags in the publication of the Census estimates and subsequent, sometimes large, revisions diminish its usefulness for real-time analysis. Expanding the Census survey to include higher frequencies and subnational detail would be costly and would add substantially to respondent burden. We take an alternative approach to fill these information gaps. Using anonymized transactions data from a large electronic payments technology company, we create daily estimates of retail spending at detailed geographies. Our daily estimates are available only a few days after the transactions occur, and the historical time series are available from 2010 to the present. When aggregated to the national level, the pattern of monthly growth rates is similar to the official Census statistics. We discuss two applications of these new data for economic analysis: First, we describe how our monthly spending estimates are useful for real-time monitoring of aggregate spending, especially during the government shutdown in 2019, when Census data were delayed and concerns about the economy spiked. Second, we show how the geographic detail allowed us quantify in real time the spending effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017.

Suggested Citation

  • Aditya Aladangady & Shifrah Aron-Dine & Wendy Dunn & Laura Feiveson & Paul Lengermann & Claudia Sahm, 2019. "From Transactions Data to Economic Statistics: Constructing Real-time, High-frequency, Geographic Measures of Consumer Spending," NBER Working Papers 26253, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26253
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kimberly Bayard & Ryan Decker & Charles Gilbert, 2017. "Natural Disasters and the Measurement of Industrial Production : Hurricane Harvey, a Case Study," FEDS Notes 2017-10-11, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    2. repec:ris:iosjes:0011 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Aditya Aladangady & Shifrah Aron-Dine & Wendy E. Dunn & Laura Feiveson & Paul Lengermann & Claudia R. Sahm, 2016. "The Effect of Hurricane Matthew on Consumer Spending," FEDS Notes 2016-12-02, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Aditya Aladangady & Shifrah Aron-Dine & David B. Cashin & Wendy E. Dunn & Laura Feiveson & Paul Lengermann & Katherine Richard & Claudia R. Sahm, 2018. "High-frequency Spending Responses to the Earned Income Tax Credit," FEDS Notes 2018-06-21, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    5. repec:eee:intfor:v:34:y:2018:i:2:p:366-376 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Leamer, Edward E., 2014. "Workday, holiday and calendar adjustment: Monthly aggregates from daily diesel fuel purchases," Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, IOS Press, issue 1-2, pages 1-29.
    7. Aditya Aladangady & Shifrah Aron-Dine & Wendy E. Dunn & Laura Feiveson & Paul Lengermann & Claudia R. Sahm, 2017. "The Effect of Sales-Tax Holidays on Consumer Spending," FEDS Notes 2017-03-24, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    8. Tomaz Cajner & Leland Crane & Ryan Decker & Adrian Hamins-Puertolas & Christopher J. Kurz & Tyler Radler, 2018. "Using Payroll Processor Microdata to Measure Aggregate Labor Market Activity," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2018-005, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (US).
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C55 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric Modeling - - - Large Data Sets: Modeling and Analysis
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • E27 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Forecasting and Simulation: Models and Applications

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