Measuring Real Activity Using a Weekly Economic Index

Abstract: This paper describes a weekly economic index (WEI) developed to track the rapid economic developments associated with the onset of and policy response to the novel coronavirus in the United States. The WEI is a weekly composite index of real economic activity, with eight of ten series available the Thursday after the end of the reference week. In addition to being a weekly real activity index, the WEI has strong predictive power for output measures and provided an accurate nowcast of current-quarter GDP growth in the first half of 2020. We document how the WEI responded to key events and data releases during the first six months of the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; measurement of economic activity; weekly economic index; high frequency;

JEL Classification: C51; E01; E66;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Part of Series: Staff Reports

Publication Date: 2020-04-01

Number: 920

Note: Revised September 2020. Previous title: “U.S. Economic Activity during the Early Weeks of the SARS-Cov-2 Outbreak”