Len Kiefer

Helping people understand the economy, housing and mortgage markets

Animated Labor Force Participation Chart

Here’s some R code for an animated chart of the U.S. prime working age (25-54) labor force participation rate. I tweeted it out last Friday: Labor force participation rate #dataviz made with #rstats #gganimate pic.twitter.com/uSICoLjbIf — Leonard Kiefer (@lenkiefer) February 1, 2019 We can go to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) webpage (https://www.bls.gov/) and get these data. For more details see my post Charting Jobs Friday with R.

Running Python from R with Reticulate

Because reasons I’ve been interested in picking up some Python. But I like the Rstudio IDE, so it sure would be nice if I could just run Python from R. Fortunately, that’s possible using the reticulate package. Let’s give it a try. Our strategy will be to use R to do the data wrangling and then pass the data to Python to make a plot. Is this a good idea?

Masters in Business

I went up to New York and spoke with Barry Ritholtz on his Masters in Business podcast. Some links: The podcast A transcript Bloomberg View: Every Graph Tells a Story I am really glad I got the chance to chat with Barry and share some of my story. Have a listen if you want to learn more about my work and background, the mortgage finance industry, and how I use data visualization.

Rstudioconf Poster

I really like R, but I love the R community. Since I’ve started using R intensively in the past couple of years, I’ve constantly been awed and inspired by all the amazing things that people are doing with R. The spirit of the open source community and people’s willingness to share their thoughts and code is fantastic. Many times in this space we’ve remixed different data visualizations with R, often relying on awesome new packages that others have developed.

Go Go Animate!

At the start of the year, the R package gganimate hit CRAN. See this announcement blog post with some examples. In this space, I’ve shared several posts on animation see tags. But I haven’t been using gganimate. Instead, I took a more direct approach building the animations via loops and trying to tween directly if I wanted a smooth animation. This level of control is nice, but frankly the defaults in gganimate work better than many of my attempts to hand craft it.

Forecasting is still hard

It’s the time of the year where everybody is dusting off their crystal balls and peering into the future. There’s even still time to send out your “Winter is Coming” newsletter. Let’s take a step back and look at how forecasts of U.S. macro variables have evolved. Is forecasting still hard? Last year we looked at historical forecasts of economic conditions in the post forecasting is hard. Let’s update it.

Vulnerable Housing

My recent economic and housing market talks see for example here have been titled: “Will the U.S. housing market get back on track in 2019?”. My general conclusion has been cautiously optimistic. There is enough strength in the broader economy and enough of a tailwind from demographic forces to push the U.S. housing market to modest growth next year. I still think that’s true, but as I have said in my talks, risks are weighted to the downside.

Housing Market Outlook

The year is winding down, and folks are starting to think about next year. With lots of folks reviewing strategic plans and whatnot, there’s increased demand for me to talk about my 2019 economic outlook. Over on LinkedIn I posted a summary of my most recent chartbook: Will the housing market get back on track in 2019?. Do check it out. Slidecraft For these slides I used a mixture of R and Excel.

Housing Starts Stall

U.S. housing markets have slowed down in 2018. Housing construction, which is still running well below both historical averages and what the U.S. currently needs to meet rising demand has stalled out this year. The current level of housing construction is close to the level we’ve seen in recession periods. And the historical comparison stretching back decades is comparing a nation with significantly fewer households. Total U.S. households for example, in 1970 were about 1/2 (63 million) of what they were in 2017 (126 million) FRED chart.

A Flatter Phillips Curve

Supply and demand, isoquants, indifference, the lists goes on. Economists love curves. One attracting extra attention these days is the Phillips curve. Last week I was in Boston for the annual meeting of the National Association for Business Economics (NABE). The overall conference was quite good, and certainly one of the highlights was a lunchtime speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. You can find the speech here (pdf).