Retailers across the country know it's the ringing of cash registers and not sleigh bells that make a successful holiday season. In fact, holiday shopping spurs so much seasonal employment and consumer spending, the unemployment rate usually rises by almost a whole percentage point in January, and GDP falls an average of 5.2 percent between the fourth and first quarters. In comparison, the worst recession since 1950 showed only a 4.1 percent drop.
"While extreme, these types of seasonal fluctuations are expected around the holidays," says St. Louis Fed economist Joseph A. Ritter. "In fact, similar seasonal fluctuations pervade most aspects of the economy, not just those that are closely tied to weather or Christmas retail sales." For example, residential and nonresidential investment, imports, exports and even government purchases all show strong seasonal fluctuations.
Are seasonal fluctuations bad for the economy? "Most economists don't think so," says Ritter. "Basically, they reflect the efficient response of a market economy to seasonal variations in demand and production opportunities." For more information call 314-444-8809 and request a copy of the January 1994 issue of National Economic Trends.
What do Michael Jordan, Hurricane Andrew and Paul Volcker have in common? They all appear in the Federal Reserve's new educational video, which explains the Federal Reserve System and the role it plays in the economy.
The video, part of the Fed's efforts to improve economic literacy, includes four titles on one videotape, a set of nine classroom posters and accompanying classroom materials. The package is free and ideal for economics, social studies and consumer education teachers.
"The instructional materials have been tested by teachers and were developed by economic education specialists at several Federal Reserve Banks and staff of the National Council for Economic Education and its regional centers," says Debra L. Bangert, economic education specialist for the St. Louis Fed. "First reactions from screenings with teachers across the country have been very positive."
For more information or to order a copy of the video, please call Debra Bangert at 314-444-8421.
It happens about every six weeks. You turn the TV on or open the newspaper up, and economists are speculating about the outcome of the next Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting. How many people vote at an FOMC meeting? Who are they?
The FOMC, the nation's monetary policy-setting body, comprises the seven members of the Federal Reserve Board, the president of the New York Fed, and four other Reserve Bank presidents who serve on a rotating basis. For 1994 the voting Reserve Bank presidents are J. Alfred Broaddus Jr., Richmond; Robert P. Forrestal, Atlanta; Jerry L. Jordan, Cleveland; Robert T. Parry, San Francisco; and William J. McDonough, New York. All 12 Reserve Bank presidents participate in the FOMC's policy deliberations.
Proposed 1994 meeting dates:
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Fed in Print: An index of the economic research conducted by the Fed.