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Economic Snapshot

Sunday, October 1, 2000

3rd Quarter 2000

Q4-99 Q1-00 Q2-00 Q3-01
Growth Rate—Real Gross Domestic Product 8.3% 4.8% 5.6% 2.7*
Inflation Rate—Consumer Price Index 2.9% 4.3% 3.7% 3.1%
Civilian Unemployment Rate 4.1% 4.1% 4.0% 4.0%

*Advance estimate

Table from National Economic Trends cover, October 2000.

How do oil prices today compare to those of the 1980s?

The real or constant-dollar price of crude oil—the spot crude oil price deflated by the consumer price index—was quite a bit higher in the past, peaking at more than $75 per barrel (in today's dollars) during the early 1980's, versus a current price of around $35 per barrel.

Is the recent rise in oil prices one of the highest ever?

The price of oil is determined in a volatile global market. One way economists examine the volatility is to analyze the magnitude of changes in prices. According to the chart, and "unusually high" oil price would be one that deviated beyond the bands—two standard deviations from the mean. Using this analysis, there were only two periods of very unusual real crude oil prices from 1988 to the present. During 1990-91, the Gulf War caused oil prices to spike, whereas in 1998 the Asian Crisis sent prices to very low levels. Current prices, by contrast, do not seem very unusual by this calculation. Thus, while the real price of oil has increased substantially from its significantly low level in 1998, much of the increase represents a return to historical trends in the average price of oil, which is around $23.50 from 1988 to present.

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