Using the FRED Excel Add-In

By Terry McCamish, Accountability Data Analyst, Office of Technical Education, Technical College System of Georgia

As institutional researchers, we get requests for external information. One of the IR person’s go-to resources is the U.S. government. The vast wealth of data coming out of the various federal government web sites is invaluable if you are trying to put together a report to justify a new program or to assess the economic impact of your school on the overall economy. Many of these websites provide tables that can be downloaded and loaded into Excel for manipulation. This Tech Tip covers a free Excel add-in to make pulling some of that external data much easier.

This tool is provided free of charge by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. The St. Louis Fed specializes in monetary policy research. They also have developed and maintained online and downloadable research tools. One of these tools is the FRED Excel add-in. The Load Data from Excel link is on the Data Tools page. The only thing they request in exchange for downloading the add-in is an email address. The installation instructions and the User’s Guide are easily accessible on the page. The supported versions of the add-in are for Excel 2010 and 2013.

Once you have downloaded and installed the add-in, a new menu tab will appear in Excel. Clicking it brings up the FRED ribbon options.  


The datasets are listed in the Find Data section. If you know the Series ID of the data, you can use the Data Search feature, which brings up a dialog box, to enter the number. The other data sets are listed in a series of expanding menus accessible by clicking the down arrow next to the Browse buttons. Categories for the popular U.S. data are:  

  • National Income and Expenditures
  • Population, Employment, and Labor Markets
  • Production and Business Activity
  • Prices
  • Money, Banking, and Finance

Under the International tab, there are datasets (mainly financial) for 11 countries and eight categories of popular datasets. The add-in also provides three sets of data tools, data manipulations, frequency aggregation, and graphing. The datasets are aggregated at the national level.

It is easy to use the FRED add-in. Let’s say you want to look at the changes in the price of education for the past several years. Under the Popular Data Releases button, you would choose Consumer Price Index and Education. This would put the Series ID in cell A1. To pull the entire table, click "Get FRED Data," the first option under Download Tools.

Cells A2, A3, and A4 contain the default options. Data manipulations are in A3. The default is Levels (No Transformation). Cell A4 is the frequency, which ranges from Daily to Annual. The last cell is the starting date of the table. If nothing is selected, the entire date range is returned.

 3FRED.JPG
 

Most of the time, of course, you will probably want to limit the date range to something more recent. There is no need to rerun the whole table. Change the date and use the Update Data button.

 FRED4.JPG

The same thing applies to adding extra datasets. Start in Cell B1 and pick another dataset. Use the "Get FRED Data" option and the data will be added to your worksheet. If you need to, adjust your data manipulations, frequencies, or time frames.
 

Graphing is also done with the click of a button. 

FRED5.JPG

You can select the Legend and Title Options when you create graphs. The full range of Excel Charting functions is available. 

FRED is a simple and quick tool for pulling data from external databases. I hope you are able to utilize this excellent add-in for your office.

 

 

 Comments

 
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Total Comments: 6
 
Jeanne posted on 5/15/2014 9:02 AM
Great information to have and share with others in my department.
Marlene posted on 5/15/2014 11:54 AM
Very interesting...thank you for sharing!
Nina posted on 5/15/2014 1:33 PM
What a great tip - can't wait to try this one! Will certainly be sharing it with my colleagues. Thanks.
Gary posted on 5/15/2014 1:37 PM
This is a very convenient source for economic/financial time series data! It was easy to install and set up, and the interface is well-designed. Thanks for the tip!
Shabnam posted on 5/15/2014 1:59 PM
Great information to know, thank you for sharing.
Lee posted on 5/15/2014 2:27 PM
Thanks Terry! This is an interesting and informative tip - I'll definitely be giving it a try.