If you’ve noticed that FRED searches don’t look quite the way that they used to, you’re very perceptive. If you haven’t, you should probably visit FRED more often.
While we always consider more data a good thing, FRED has been getting a little harder to navigate lately. Knowing this, we wanted to help the FRED users get to the data they were looking for more easily. We’ve changed a few things about the site and hope that (after a few minutes of orientation) you’ll find these new tools as indispensable as we do. So let’s navigate to a FRED series and see what kind of trouble we can get into.
To start off, locate the Search FRED box in the header here:
Enter ‘GDP’ into the Search FRED box –take a deep breath– and press return.
Before we dive in deeper, let’s go over some of the basics. We’ll break this area down into three sections:
1.) Let’s call this the Series Return Header.
2.) This area can be referred to as the Series Returns List.
3.) Finally, we’ll call this the Tags Interface.
The Series Return Header
In the Series Return Header you’ll find the bread-crumb trail and page index. This is also where you’ll find the Add to Data List and Add to New Graph buttons. Using these buttons in combination with the check boxes next to the data series, you can create a personal list of indicators, or quickly populate a graph for immediate viewing. Here, we’ll pay special attention to the drop-down selection to the right of the Add to New Graph button.
This Sort by: drop-down menu allows user to quickly sort the order of the series returns list. By default, the list is sorted by the popularity of each series. This works well to help quickly navigate to series but isn’t always exactly what we’re going for. For instance, what if we wanted to know which data series had the earliest observation? Using the Sort by: drop-down we could quickly select ‘Obs Start’ to find out.
Once we have selected Obs Start and sorted our list, it should look something like this:
The Series Return List
The Series Return List itself has undergone a little overhaul. Gone are the old columns and rows that were difficult to visually sort through. They have been replaced with larger fonts and titles enhanced with gray backgrounds to help your eye identify them more quickly. All of the pertinent series information is still available below the title, and if you scan down one more row you’ll encounter something entirely new to FRED, tags. If any of the tags that you see interest you, simply click on that tag to create a sub-set of the current Series Return List. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry. It’s easy and we’re going to walk you through it all the way to the end.
The Tags Interface
FRED tags themselves are essentially FRED series metadata that have been parsed out to their most finite terms. These metadata allow the user to sort through vast amounts of information very quickly. The tags displayed in the Tags Interface pertain only to the series that we have in our Series Return List. In our case, there are 696 series in FRED that are associated with GDP. Therefore, all of the tags available in the Tag Interface are tags that are associated with these 696 series. Let’s move through the interface and then work through an example of how tags can help us quickly sub-set data.
The first place to look is the Selected Tags area. As you add tags to refine your selection, they will populate here. If you wish to remove a tag from your list, simply click the [X] next to the tag. One thing to note is that if FRED knows that one of your original search terms is a tag, it will pre-assign that tag for you. So, as we searched for GDP, and FRED knew what GDP was, the tag has already been assigned. This area also indicates how many series match all of the tags that we have selected. If multiple tags are selected, a Clear All Tags link will show up allowing us to quickly reset our search.
Now, about the Tag Search Area. This area searches the tags available in your data sub-set. In our case this means that it will search only across the tags associated with our 696 GDP series. If we search for ‘commercial paper’ here, nothing will show up and we’ll get a message telling us that there are no related tags.
This makes sense because there aren’t any series in FRED that relate to both GDP and commercial paper. But if we search for ‘Bureau of Economic Analysis’ FRED will find a tag (bea) because this is one possible source of GDP data.
If we hit enter after typing in ‘Bureau of Economic Analysis’ or simply click on the ‘bea’ tag, the tag will be assigned and a smaller Series Return List will be displayed. This list will contain only data series that have to do with GDP that are produced by the BEA.
We can see that from our original list of 696 series, only 111 remain. Much more manageable, right?
As we were creating the Tag Interface, we realized two things. The first was that we had a lot of tags. The second was that quite a few of our tags fell into particular groupings. So, in order to reduce the visual clutter that arises from thousands of tags, and to increase the organization of the interface, we, err.., grouped them.
A similar drop down will be available for all of the other groups. Most of these you can figure out on your own, but one bears special mention. Geography Types allows the user to select what type of geographic region he or she wishes to define. Do we want county, state, MSA, or national level data? We can define that here.
Beneath all of the tag groupings, a user can find the All group. This is as obvious as it sounds. It is a group of all tags associated with the sub-set of data we have selected. If you’re in a browsing mood, this one’s for you.
And now, a quick tip. We had to keep tags short. That means that a lot of tags are abbreviations or acronyms. It’s not always completely obvious what these mean. Any idea what the tag bi stands for? We know that this could get really confusing, really fast. That’s why we’ve included a large amount of hover-overs with the tags. If we search for the tag ‘bi’ in the Search Tags box, we can hover over the tag itself without clicking and see that bi does indeed stand for the central bank of Italy, Banca d’Italia.
This is all great, you say. But what if I don’t want to search this one group of data? What if I want to start my search over from scratch? Continuing on from when we had the GDP and BEA tags selected earlier, let’s say we want to switch gears to unemployment instead of GDP. We can accomplish this in one of two ways. The first method is to return to searching in the Search FRED box as opposed to the Search Tags box. Any time we do this, we will completely reset our search.
The second option would be to use the ‘Clear All Tags’ link in the selected tags box.
Either one will completely reset the search and let you start from scratch.
But instead of starting from scratch, were going to forge ahead just to show you how efficient tags are at getting to the point. We’ll use the Concepts group to select the ‘real’ tag because we want our data inflation adjusted.
And finally, we’ll select our home state of Missouri in the Geographies group.
There you have it, instant Missouri real GDP!
We hope that you like the new layout and the new tools as much as we do. In a world that demands more and more of the time that we have less and less of, efficient tools are precious. If you have any feedback, drop us a line at: stlsFRED@stls.frb.org
The FRED team