We are bombarded with economic numbers: unemployment, retail sales, inflation, GDP—the list goes on and on. Some analyst or another is constantly telling us about an obscure statistic that is the key to our future, or is apparently the indicator that the "Fed" will be using to key off its decisions. With economic numbers playing such a central role in the national and world dialogue on policy and markets, and spilling over into the political arena, a broad review of what they are all about is timely. This book reviews the critical US economic data, and how one may put the numbers into an intellectual structure that will depict evolving economic reality. The work is aimed at those who want and need to get some understanding about how the data contributes to a big picture of the economy and guides policy.
The objective is for the reader to grasp the overall logic of the data—how each piece of the puzzle contributes to our understanding of the overall economy. This is the way the Fed looks at the numbers.
There are other books that go through the economic numbers, but they do so in a "bottom-up" fashion, describing a series in some detail and adding something about how financial markets may respond to it. This book naturally has considerable discussion of series, but views them as part of the overall mosaic, not items of fundamental interest in themselves.
Table of Contents
List of Figures; List of Tables; Acknowledgments; Introduction; Chapter 1: GDP; Chapter 2: Consumer Spending; Chapter 3: Residential Investment; Chapter 4: Nonresidential Fixed Investment; Chapter 5: Inventory Investment and Farm Output; Chapter 6: Imports and Exports; Chapter 7: Government Spending, and Summarizing the Spending Side, Chapter 8: Income and Wealth Data; Chapter 9: Industry Output and Potential GDP; Chapter 10: Price Data; Chapter 11: Labor Market Data; Chapter 12: Wages and Other Measures of Labor Compensation; Chapter 13: Government Revenues; Chapter 14: Alternative Measures of Activity; Chapter 15: Broad Anticipatory Data; Chapter 16: State and Regional Data; Chapter 17: Conclusion; Index
Charles Steindel is Scholar in Residence at the Anisfield School of Business, Ramapo College of New Jersey, USA, and is also editor of Business Economics, the journal of the National Association for Business Economics. He was formerly Chief Economist of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury and earlier, Senior Vice President at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he long played a leading role in the analysis and forecasts of the US economy.
"Charles Steindel is a pro. He guided the Federal Reserve for decades on the interpretation of U.S. economic statistics. This important work provides a master class for those seeking to understand the economy and financial markets." — Janet Yellen, Distinguished Fellow in Residence, Brookings Institution and former Chair of the Federal Reserve Board
"Charles Steindel was one of the top forecasters in the Federal Reserve System for over thirty years, and there is no one that can provide a better understanding of economic indicators. This is a must read for anyone in the business of economic forecasting." — Frederic Mishkin, Alfred Lerner Professor of Banking and Financial Institutions, Columbia Business School, and former Governor of the Federal Reserve Board
"Steindel has produced the definitive guide to the nation’s economic statistics. By focusing on underlying concepts, he provides context and meaning to what otherwise would simply be dry numbers. Steindel combines technical depth in economic measurement and policy experience to guide readers to more meaningful interpretations of economic data." — David Stockton, Chief Economist, Monetary Policy Analytics and former Director of the Division of Research and Statistics of the Federal Reserve Board
"Dr. Steindel is uniquely qualified to write on the subject of economic indicators. His knowledge and extensive high-level real-world experience is codified so eloquently in this book that readers from practitioners, professors and market professionals to students and arm-chair economists can learn a great deal. This book is a necessary resource and valuable reference on how to define, understand, and analyze the workings of the U.S. economy. I wish I had this text available years ago, but fortunately Steindel has taken the time and attention to detail now to share his deep and broad knowledge of these important concepts." — Deborah Perelmuter, Former Senior Vice President, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
"Do you want to avoid being fooled by economic statistics? There is no better guide than Charles Steindel’s Economic Indicators for Professionals: Putting the Statistics into Perspective to understand these widely reported but often misunderstood numbers. Steindel lucidly explains the objectives, methods, and limitations of U.S. economic data series. In doing so, he provides invaluable information for those who desire a better understanding of how to interpret them. Only through his deep engagement with these data as a scholar, policy analyst, and government official has Steindel achieved the familiarity with the various data series that he displays here. Steindel’s clarity in organizing the material reflects his years of presenting briefings and classes to his colleagues within the Federal Reserve and other central banks. By presenting the objectives of the various series and asking what it is that they intend to measure, the reader is well grounded as Steindel presents the more detailed and analytic description of how the measurement is done. Further, Steindel enhances his descriptions of the data and its features with illuminating figures that aptly complement the written material. From my experience as a consumer of Steindel’s briefings and memos while we both worked at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, this book succeeds both in displaying Steindel’s great knowledge of economic data and in presenting the material in the same clear and comprehensive way as were his memos and briefings." — James McAndrews, Wharton Financial Institutions Center, Former Director of Research, Federal Reserve Bank of New York
"In an era when economic data have been called 'fake news,' Charles Steindel’s Economic Indicators for Professionals provides an essential guide to making sense of the plethora of available economic data. Steindel’s take is masterful and refreshing, reaching well beyond a mere description of how the numbers are constructed to deliver depth and perspective on why they matter and how they are used." — Daniel Sichel, Professor of Economics, Wellesley College
"Charles is one of the most knowledgeable analysts following the economic indicators, with a deep understanding of how they are constructed, what they mean, and how they fit into the bigger picture. He has poured his knowledge and insights in this book, which will become an essential addition to the library of analysts and economists interested in the value of economic statistics." — M. Cary Leahey, Senior Advisor, Decision Economics
"This book is a gift to the practicing economic forecaster. For more than two decades of economic discussions with Charles, I always paid very close attention to his explanations of economic indicators. Charles is a wealth of information on useful data. This book offers his tremendous knowledge and insights on the economic readings." — Stephen Gallagher, US Chief Economist, Societe Generale
"Charlie Steindel’s gift for clear, succinct and insightful explanations of the statistics we rely upon is displayed on every page. This is the single most useful book on U.S. economic data I have ever seen." — Peter R. Fisher, former Under Secretary of the Treasury for Domestic Finance, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth
"As the New Jersey Department of the Treasury’s first Chief Economist, Dr. Charles Steindel leveraged his experience and deep understanding of economic context to curate dry, frustratingly limited, and easily misinterpreted data series into important, practical insight for New Jersey’s policymakers dealing with everything from annual budget planning to Superstorm Sandy recovery." — Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff, Esq., former New Jersey State Treasurer
"Charles Steindel’s book is destined to become a fixture on the desk of every professional who uses aggregate economic data. Drawing on his deep knowledge of how economic statistics are measured as well as his decades of experience in analyzing and interpreting the latest economic data, Steindel has created an indispensable resource for consumers of economic data at all levels." — Valerie Ramey, Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego
"The distance between economics and reality can be very wide. In this essential book, Charles Steindel uses his deep understanding of data and uncanny explanatory ability to bridge that gap for readers, as he previously did for economic policymakers. That is much to the practitioner's gain." — Adam S. Posen, President, Peterson Institute for International Economics
"Whether you are an investor, a financial professional or just want to be an informed observer, understanding how to sort through the flow of data is important. With 40 years of experience on "the Street" and at the Fed, no one knows the numbers better than Charlie Steindel." — Ethan S. Harris, Author of "Ben Bernanke’s Fed: The Federal Reserve After Greenspan"
"Any user of macroeconomic statistics will learn something from Economic Indicators for Professionals, which truly does what its subtitle promises, putting the statistics in their proper perspective." - Diane Coyle is Bennett Professor of Public Policy at the University of Cambridge and a lead researcher in the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence.