Len Kiefer

Helping people understand the economy, housing and mortgage markets

The US economy in lockdown

The past week we started to get monthly economic data from March, after the U.S. economy shut down to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were sobering. We already knew the US labor market was in a tough spot. But last week we got data for housing starts and retail sales which showed the size of the economic contraction. Below are some charts I posted to Twitter last week.

Updated Favorite Data Visualizations

I’ve decided to create a post where I can regularly update some favorite data visualizations. Where I’ve previously discussed the data or shared code I will provide a link. Often I’ll update the charts and post them on Twitter soon after the data is released. I won’t be updating these that quickly, but I’ll do my best to keep up. As I update some more charts I may add to the list.

US Labor Market Update

Today the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly employment situation summary for March 2020. While many were expecting the U.S. labor market to show some weakness as the U.S. economy shuts down to battle COVID-19, the magnitude of the contraction surprised many. Because the reference week for the employment report was March 8th through March 14th, before the nationwide shutdown took full effect, many were expecting a relatively mild report.

30 sigma

Earlier today I tweeted out a chart of the U.S. Labor Department’s estimate of initial jobless claims Link to pdf report. weekly jobless claims, a 30σ event pic.twitter.com/LEO7s5TXsH — 📈 𝙻𝚎𝚗 𝙺𝚒𝚎𝚏𝚎𝚛 📊 (@lenkiefer) March 26, 2020 Below I share R code to generate a chart like the one above. We can get data from the St. Louis Fed’s Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED). Then it’s easy to make an animation.

Map of maps

On Friday a colleague showed me an interesting chart, a map of maps. I believe the original was made in Tableau, but I decided to spin one up in R. I tweeted out the picture: A map of maps, showing the correlation between state house price growth rates You see pretty strong spatial correlation, with some interesting exceptions. Florida correlated with AZ, NV pic.twitter.com/9hzwZLkb41 — 📈 𝙻𝚎𝚗 𝙺𝚒𝚎𝚏𝚎𝚛 📊 (@lenkiefer) March 6, 2020 In this post I will supply the R code to make one.

Location Quotient Map

I have been thinking about how the recent volatility could impact the economy. If travel and tourism contract due to fears of a pandemic, the impact will differ in markets around the United States. One way to think about this is to compute the Location Quotient, or the percentage of the employment in an area that is in the leisure and hospitality industry. Conside the graphic below: This map shows areas (states and core based statistical areas) color-coded by their location quotient.

Housing Response to a Consumer Sentiment Shock

I’ve been thinking about how different macroeconomic shocks might affect the U.S. housing market. Given recent volatility it is hard to know how to size risks. But it could be a useful exercise to think through how certain typical shocks might impact the housing market. Rather than take on a full structural approach, I just want to extend the reduced form VAR analysis we did in a post from last year.

Forecasting with logs

As an economist and all-around friend of strictly positive numbers I often use the log function. The natural logarithm of course, need I specify it? Apparently in certain spreadsheet software you do. In this note I just wanted to write down a couple of observations about how to generate mean or median forecasts of a variable \(y\) given the model is fit in \(log(y)\). Of course, I am going to borrow heavily from Rob Hyndman’s blog, where he coverse this.

Killing it while shilling it

Economist Play-in Round Bracket madness is about the descend on us. Before we get to March Madness we’ll have to suffer through a different kind of madness: the Neoliberal Shill Bracket. This year the Neoliberal project has succumbed to inflation and has expanded the field. This year features a play-in round. In this post we analyze the Economist Play-in: Economist Play-in (8) ---@mioana @imbernomics @stanveuger @jodiecongirl @cblatts @jonathaneyer @R_Thaler @florianederer pic.

Phoning it in with R

Recently I have been running R from my Android phone. There are some apps on the Google Play Store that seem to let you emulate R, or connect to a remote version. Instead of doing that, I have been running R directly off my phone using the terminal. Rocking now Writing, running #rstats scripts from the terminal with Emacs, pulling data from Fred, making chartz, All from my oh so very smart phone https://t.