The central bank in the U.S., the Federal Reserve, is a data-heavy organization. Economists at the bank regularly crunch numbers to inform national decisions, such as setting target interest rates, which the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee does during scheduled meetings. Meanwhile, economists at the Federal Reserve’s district banks — there are 12 across the country — analyze local and regional data to provide research insights on specialized topics, such as economic inequality.
Much of the bank’s vast universe of data, compiled from more than 100 U.S. government and international sources, is available to the public and easily searchable. From gold prices to wood pulp prices, the bank offers more than 815,000 data series. In addition to being a reliable source of economic data, the bank publishes a semi-regular report journalists covering a range of beats — from business, to education, to city and county government — should know about: The Beige Book.
The Beige Book is an anecdotal counterpart to the bank’s suite of hard numbers. It offers a high-level glimpse of the current economic sentiment in each region, based on reports from Federal Reserve district directors and interviews and surveys with business owners large and small, community groups and economists. Individuals surveyed are called contacts. There’s no particular number of contacts needed to produce the Beige Book, but each release is based on insights from hundreds of contacts culled from surveys and wide-ranging conversations.
Formally known as the “Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions,” the Beige Book comes out eight times yearly. Each district summary includes write-ups on nationally important topics, like employment and wage conditions, prices, consumer spending and manufacturing….