Unemployment Data from FRED



Getting the Data

Getting data official economic data from in R is a breeze. FRED (the St Louis Federal Reserve) has provided a handy API for getting data like unemployment.

Making this process even easier is the R package fredr which provides convenient wrappers for pulling data.

In order to get this data, you have to first get an API key from FRED. I have stored mine in the .Renviron file so I don’t accidentally share it when I publish my notebooks. Once you have set it up in your environment, you can use Sys.getenv() to set it locally and use it to pull data.

fred_key <- Sys.getenv('FRED_API_KEY')


Once you have set up your API key, you can use purrr::map_dfr to easily pull mutliple different series by their FRED code.

Here we have pulled four series:

  • UNRATE: overall unemployment rate
  • UNEMPLOY: overall unemployment level
  • FLUR: Florida unemployment rate
  • BOST625URN: Boston metro area unemployment rate
unemployment_data <- map_dfr(c("UNRATE","UNEMPLOY","FLUR","BOST625URN"),fredr::fredr)


Now that we have the data, we can visualize.

unemployment_data %>% 
  # filer data 
  filter(series_id %in% c("UNRATE","FLUR","BOST625URN")) %>% 
  filter(date > as.Date("2007-01-01")) %>% 
  # recode and arrange the different series variables
  mutate(series_id = recode(series_id, "BOST625URN" = "Boston",
                            "FLUR" = "Florida",
                            "UNRATE" = "USA")) %>% 
  mutate(series_id = factor(series_id, levels = c("Boston","Florida","USA"))) %>%
  # plot the data
  ggplot(aes(x = date, y = value, 
             color = series_id)) +
  geom_line(alpha = 0.7, size = 1.4) +
  scale_color_manual(values = c("#00C5CD", "#43CD80", "#EE4000")) +
  ggthemes::theme_fivethirtyeight() +
  labs(color = "", title = "Unemployment Rate") +
  # add shaded region for great recession
           xmin = as.Date("2007-12-01"), 
           xmax = as.Date("2009-06-01"), 
           ymin = 0, 
           ymax = 16,
           alpha = .2)

Kyle Thomas
Kyle Thomas
AVP, Quantitative Analyst

I am a quantitative analyst focusing on consumer valuation and marketing.