Does a central bank have more information about the economy than the
government? If so, what type of information might the Fed have available
that other government agencies do not?
Yes, but not for long, and no. That's my short answer to your question
about what additional information the Fed has about the economy that is
not available to others.
Information Generated by the Federal Reserve
The Federal Reserve System generates some unique information about the
economy in the form of important economic statistics and key surveys of
economic conditions. However, the Fed quickly publishes these indicators
and survey results so that others also may use them to evaluate the economy's
In addition, Federal Reserve operations and structure provide the System
with some unique insights into the health of the financial system and
the economy. The Fed's central banking responsibilities include supervising
and regulating financial institutions
and participating in the payments system,
two activities in which most government agencies are not directly involved.
These responsibilities provide the Central Bank with firsthand knowledge
of the conditions of financial institutions, as well as of the financial
and payments systems.
The Fed's structure-with its Board of Governors in Washington, D.C.,
and the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks around the country-also provides
a broad perspective on the condition of the economy, both nationally and
regionally. The Board of Governors and each of the regional reserve banks
have economic research staffs that conduct research and analysis on current
regional, national, international, and financial system conditions and
publish reports on their findings. The members of the Board of Governors
and the Reserve Bank presidents-the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC)-may
use these materials in their monetary policy decision-making process.
Other Sources of Economic Information
However, the Fed is only one of several entities that generates information
on the performance of the national and regional economies. Important statistical
series are prepared by a number of government agencies, including the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (employment statistics), the Bureau of Economic
Analysis (personal income), and the Census Bureau (housing). Private firms,
including The Conference Board (Leading Economic Indicators), and academic
centers, such as the University of Michigan (Consumer Sentiment), produce
and publish popular economic indicators. Like the Fed, once these entities
have collected and updated these series, they quickly release them to
the public, where the Fed and others may use them to evaluate the condition
of the economy.
Federal Reserve Statistics and Surveys
One important source of current information about the Fed's monetary
policy actions is the FOMC Statement. It is published shortly after each
of the FOMC's eight annual meetings.
Below is a partial list of some of the important economic indicator and
statistical series generated and published by the Federal Reserve. Website
addresses (as of February 2002) are included.
Finally, this list represents only a portion of the statistical releases
and surveys that are prepared by the Federal Reserve and published for
use by government agencies, businesses, academics, and the public. For
additional information, please review the Board
of Governors' website.