By Chris Adams
The Federal Reserve is the nation’s central bank, best known for setting interest rates in an effort to steer the behemoth known as the U.S. economy.
But the Fed is much more than just monetary policy. That means it can be helpful for more than just business and finance reporters. In a session with National Press Foundation Paul Miller fellows, a group of Fed officials detailed the types of information the Fed collects and how reporters can access it.
“We have a ton of information on the website,” said Michelle Smith, director of the public relations office for the Federal Reserve. (A bit more about her and the Fed from a 2014 Washington Post profile.)
Added David Skidmore of the public affairs office: “In the last 10 years, since the financial crisis, it’s not just the specialized beat reporters writing stories for page two of the business section” who care about the Fed.
The Federal Reserve system includes the Board of Governors in Washington and 12 regional banks, based in major cities around the country. Each of those 12 banks have data resources of their own, including regional economic conditions and specific surveys they oversee.
Among the key documents reporters turn to is commonly known as the “Beige Book.” It is published eight times a year and distills information on business conditions, region by region. It helps give reporters a sense of what is happening around the country.
Another important ongoing resource is the Survey of Consumer Finances, which the Fed oversees every three years. It is the most comprehensive and authoritative assessment of the collective financial well-being of American households. From the survey, reporters and researchers can document Americans’ net worth as well as their ability to withstand financial shocks.
Data from the survey are available online, as well as analyses about the survey by Fed and other researchers.