In April 2020, the Federal Reserve Economic Database (FRED) added a measure that will be followed closely during the Covid-19 economic devastation and recovery. It’s designed to cure the problem of having only slow data for tracking the important measure of GDP.
But let’s start with the Excel perspective.
The Excel Perspective
I’ve always had trouble charting weekly data, because I never could label the X axis properly. So finally, when I created this chart, I decided to work out a way to do it.
I created two staging tables. In the Days Table, I listed the dates for which data is available. And then in the Weeks Table, I used the dates in the Days Table to create a four-week month.
That is, I divided the number of days in each month by 4, and then found the average data values found within each quarter of the month. Usually, the formulas averaged just one value in most of the quarter-months in the Weeks Table. (I found it less confusing to think of the Table as one with redefined weeks rather than as one with Quarter-Months.)
This design solved my X-axis problem because, with a fixed number of four “weeks” within each month, I could set the label interval to any value I wanted.
The Management Perspective
The gray shading shows a recession. Many managers, I think, would like to plot their company’s revenues in the context recessions and other events that affect the business environment.
This is because internal data tells us what happened. But external data—like the shaded area in this chart—can help to tell us why it happened and what might happen next.
The Economic Perspective
The Weekly Economic Index (WEI)—which is updated on Tuesdays and Thursdays—is an index of the previous week’s real economic activity. It represents the statistical combination of ten different daily and weekly series covering consumer attitudes and behavior, the labor market, freight, and production.
In their web page about the index, the authors explain that they scaled their “baseline index to four-quarter GDP growth, such that a reading of 2 percent in a given week means that if the week’s conditions persisted for an entire quarter, we would expect, on average, 2 percent growth relative to a year previous.”