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Monitoring Real Activity in Real Time: The Weekly Economic Index
Economists are well-practiced at assessing real activity based on familiar aggregate time series, like the unemployment rate, industrial production, or GDP growth. However, these series represent monthly or quarterly averages of economic conditions, and are only available at a considerable lag, after the month or quarter ends. When the economy hits sudden headwinds, like the COVID-19 pandemic, conditions can evolve rapidly. How can we monitor the high-frequency evolution of the economy in “real time”?
Tracking the COVID-19 Economy with the Weekly Economic Index (WEI)
At the end of March, we launched the Weekly Economic Index (WEI) as a tool to monitor changes in real activity during the pandemic. The rapid deterioration in economic conditions made it important to assess developments as soon as possible, rather than waiting for monthly and quarterly data to be released. In this post, we describe how the WEI has measured the effects of COVID-19. So far in 2020, the WEI has synthesized daily and weekly data to measure GDP growth remarkably well. We document this performance, and we offer some guidance on evaluating the WEI’s forecasting abilities based on ...