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Happy Holidata from the St. Louis Fed

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

By Laura Taylor, Public Affairs Staff

Looking to impress the in-laws this holiday season? Headed to a trivia night with friends? Or maybe you just want to annoy that special someone with clever facts. Then this is the blog post for you: Astonish your friends and family with seasonal data from the St. Louis Fed.

FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data) is the St. Louis Fed’s signature economic database. And with over 600,000 data series to browse, you can be sure to find holiday data — er, holidata — for any occasion.

For those with a sweet tooth …

Thinking about the dessert table at your next holiday event? If so, consider this: by the pound, the retail price of chocolate chip cookies has more than doubled over the last 40 years, in nominal dollars.

Looking at the mostly top line (the lighter brown line just labeled "Cookies, Chocolate Chip, Per Lb. [453.6 Gm] in U.S. City Average"), in January 1980, the average price per pound of chocolate chip cookies in the U.S. was $1.49. As of November 2019, that price was about $3.60.

While consumers tend to think in nominal prices — what we see and pay currently — if we adjust for inflation, the price actually declined. That’s the bottom line.

Visions of sugarplums

Chocolate not your thing? The consumer price index (a measure of the average change over time in prices that urban consumers pay for goods and services) tells the story of candy and chewing gum over the past 22 years.

'Tis the season to be shopping

Do you and yours break out the board games each December? Your dollar is one of millions spent each month at hobby, toy and game retail stores in the U.S.

In October, $1.2 billion was spent on games and toys, and it should come as no surprise that sales peak each December. Check out the pattern in this FRED chart below:

Many holiday shoppers choose to spend their dollars from the comfort of their own home, shopping online. E-commerce sales have steadily increased over time from the first data collection period in 1999. As of the third quarter in 2019, online purchases have made up approximately 11.2% of all retail sales in the U.S. In 1999, that number was only 0.6%!

The joy of giving

The holiday season isn’t just about spending, but also about giving. According to the Internal Revenue Service, taxpayers claimed nearly $234 billion in charitable contributions in 2016. That’s up from $126 billion in 1999.

To sum it up:

We hope you found this stockingful of data a fun read. Looking for additional ways to ham it up for family and friends? Start with stats about snow equipment, beer and wine, and sugar and sweets.

Additional Resources

Laura Taylor 

Laura Taylor is a manager with the St. Louis Fed External Engagement and Corporate Communications Division.

Tagged laura taylorfreddataholidayprice indexconsumerspendinggiving