Dr. Econ: What kinds of research and analysis do economists
at the Federal Reserve System do, what types of information
do they use, and what kinds of presentations do they make?
Now this is a good question: What do economists do? The
Federal Reserve System is a good place to ask since the Fed
is likely the largest single employer of economists in the
Let's start at the top, with the Board of Governors of the
Federal Reserve System. At the beginning of February 2006,
four of the five Fed governors (there were two open positions
at the time) had PhDs in economics and had worked either
as economists or as professors of economics, or both. Of
course, one of those individuals is the new Fed Chairman,
Ben Bernanke, a former professor of economics at Princeton
Among the twelve Federal Reserve Bank District presidents,
at press time all had advanced degrees in economics or business,
and seven had PhDs in economics. Most have worked as economists
many have academic experience as well.
You can check out the biographies
of the current Fed Governors and presidents on
the Board of Governors' website.
Economists at the Board of Governors
The Board employs over 200 economists and almost all have
doctorate degrees in economics. Let's look at some excerpts
from the Board's career
which describes the position:
Economists at the Board of Governors, located in Washington,
D.C., conduct economic research and policy analysis on domestic
and international issues.
The Work Environment
The Board has a strong, stable, and highly regarded professional
staff. The staff's reputation has been built on a solid record
of state-of-the-art research disseminated in Board publications
and outside journals and through careful analysis and forecasting
in support of policymaking.
The Focus of Activities
Basic economic research is an important activity of the divisions. Board economists
produce numerous working papers and also are among the leading contributors
of papers delivered at professional meetings or published in major journals.
An activity less publicly visible but crucial is the economic forecasting
and policy analysis that the research divisions produce for internal use
by the Board of Governors and the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).
Research subjects range from macro to micro issues and also
include economic modeling and the economics of regulation.
The Divisions of Research and Statistics and Monetary Affairs
maintain a number of major statistical programs, producing
data on the money stock, commercial banking, the flow of
funds accounts, and industrial production and capacity utilization
and from several microeconomic surveys. International Finance
is responsible for basic research, policy analysis, and reporting
in the areas of foreign economic and financial developments,
U.S. external trade and capital flows, and developments in
international financial markets.
Staff members aid the members of the Board in preparing
congressional testimony and other presentations. In addition,
the staff represents the Board in interagency activities
and at international meetings; it also provides technical
assistance and works in other ways with foreign central banks.
at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
Each of the twelve Federal Reserve Banks also has a staff
of economists to advise and support the Bank president's
monetary policy decisionmaking and contribute to their understanding
of the economy. Like the Board, today nearly all these economists
The Fed is an interesting and rewarding place to work
as an economist. Economists analyze and research a variety
of interesting economic issues, ranging from the growth
of the economy and employment to inflation. In order
understand the performance of the economy and monetary
policy, economists review a wide array of economic
models of economic behavior for the U.S. economy, or
study monetary policy issues. What are some of a Fed
types of assignments?
- Briefings for senior management. Economists
continually prepare briefings for senior management
and the board of
directors on national, financial, international,
and regional economic conditions. They use a wide
variety of economic and financial
survey results, and economic models understand
how the economy works, or in some cases, doesn't
- Preparing and analyzing economic forecasts. Some
economists prepare and analyze economic forecasts.
The San Francisco Fed regularly posts a current national
economic forecast, called FedViews,
on its website.
- Conducting research. Bank
economists conduct basic research on a variety of economic
topics. Economists might focus on areas like productivity
and innovation—their research might appear on the website
for the Center
for Study of Innovation and Productivity, or
international economic issues—their research
may be found on the Pacific
Basin Center website.
of the San Francisco Fed's economic research products
are available online. Results
of many of the research projects Fed economists
study are published in academic journals, in the working
- Informing the public. Economists
also support the Fed's key objective of informing the
public about monetary
policy by providing official testimony,
speeches, and information. In addition to public presentations,
a wealth of information about the Fed, the economy, and
monetary policy that is available to the public on Federal
Fed economists also contribute to economic education
materials, like "Ask Dr. Econ" and others posted
on the San Francisco Fed's
Educational Resources website.
Informing the Public Through a Variety of Presentations
to briefing management and directors on the economy, Bank
economists often speak at conferences
or to business, government, or college audiences. Economists
often are asked to speak about topics that they are researching
or about current issues affecting the economy.
by Janet Yellen, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve
Bank of San Francisco, as well as a prominent economist,
are posted on the San Francisco Fed's website.
Speeches by members of the Board of Governors can be
found on the Board of Governors' website.
These speeches are a great way to find out what monetary
are thinking about about monetary policy and the economy.
the San Francisco Fed, the most frequently requested
topic for presentations by Bank economists is a current
outlook for the national economy. The typical economic
outlook presentation might be a 30-60 minute slide
show and discussion of the economy that includes a review
current economic indicators and conditions, a comparison
of recent economic forecasts, comments on potential
risks to the forecast, and time for questions and answers.
in requesting a speaker? You may request a Fed speaker
online at many Federal Reserve Bank websites. If you
are located in one of the nine western states that make
Federal Reserve District (Alaska, Arizona,
California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada,
Oregon, Utah, and Washington),
make a request online.
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. 2006-2009. “Government
Performance and Results Act Strategic Planning Document,
2006-2009" See monetary policy goals.
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System website.
June 2006. Career Opportunities: Economist.
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System website.
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco website.