Monday, September 20, 2010

Stuff to talk about in class. Week of Sept 21st edition.

Two things to discuss in class:

NBER announces that July 2009 was the "trough" of the Great Recession:
The Press Release is here

Core CPI does not change in August. Is not news good news?
The Press release is here

Stuff to know (short version):

From the WSJ:

From EconSpeak:

As AP reports the National Bureau of Economic Research has deemed that the Great Recession ended in June 2009. While it is true that real GDP has inched upwards over the past 4 quarters, real GDP as of 2010QII was only $13,191.5 billion per year as compared to $13,363.5 billion as of 2007QIV. With 2007 witnessing a growth rate that was less than 2 percent and with negative cumulative growth since then – we are far below full employment today. AP also reports that the President isn’t exactly celebrating this NBER announcement:


How is the CPI market basket determined?

The CPI market basket is developed from detailed expenditure information provided by families and individuals on what they actually bought. For the current CPI, this information was collected from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys for 2007 and 2008. In each of those years, about 7,000 families from around the country provided information each quarter on their spending habits in the interview survey. To collect information on frequently purchased items, such as food and personal care products, another 7,000 families in each of these years kept diaries listing everything they bought during a 2-week period.

Over the 2 year period, then, expenditure information came from approximately 28,000 weekly diaries and 60,000 quarterly interviews used to determine the importance, or weight, of the more than 200 item categories in the CPI index structure.

How are CPI prices collected and reviewed?

Each month, BLS data collectors called economic assistants visit or call thousands of retail stores, service establishments, rental units, and doctors' offices, all over the United States, to obtain information on the prices of the thousands of items used to track and measure price changes in the CPI. These economic assistants record the prices of about 80,000 items each month, representing a scientifically selected sample of the prices paid by consumers for goods and services purchased.

What is an index?

An index is a tool that simplifies the measurement of movements in a numerical series. Most of the specific CPI indexes have a 1982-84 reference base. That is, BLS sets the average index level (representing the average price level)-for the 36-month period covering the years 1982, 1983, and 1984-equal to 100. BLS then measures changes in relation to that figure. An index of 110, for example, means there has been a 10-percent increase in price since the reference period; similarly, an index of 90 means a 10-percent decrease. Movements of the index from one date to another can be expressed as changes in index points (simply, the difference between index levels), but it is more useful to express the movements as percent changes. This is because index points are affected by the level of the index in relation to its reference period, while percent changes are not.

Here is the full FAQ answer to "what is an index?" from the BLS

This is mostly so I remember to print it out tomorrow morning:

Relative weights of the components of the CPI

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